One of the most celebrated fighters in boxing history, Teofimo Lopez has a tragic story to tell. He fell into an air support box and was left fighting for his life before finally being saved by doctors who were able to remove the fatal amount of trapped oxygen from his lungs.
Teofimo Lopez is lucky he’s not dead after a doctor found that the boxer had fought with air in his chest. The doctor said that if Teofimo had continued to fight, he would have died.
10:50 a.m. Eastern
ESPN’s Mark Kriegel
When Teofimo Lopez lost his four lightweight titles to George Kambosos last week at Madison Square Garden, he was putting his life in danger and should have been in the hospital instead of the ring, according to a doctor who examined him and studied his medical records.
Dr. Linda Dahl, an otolaryngologist (ENT) with surgical privileges at three Manhattan hospitals, told ESPN, “He might have died, for sure.” “I can’t even begin to describe how he breathed.” It’s as if someone had shackled a 300-pound set of weights to his chest… as if his neck and chest were encased in a vice.
“That was his fighting style.”
Dr. Peter Constantino, executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute, told ESPN, “He’s fortunate he’s not dead.” “I mean, I’m incredibly fortunate.”
Lopez, 24, was diagnosed with “pneumomediastinum” with “extensive air in the retropharyngeal area” by emergency department physicians during his postfight visit to Bellevue Hospital, according to his medical records.
“The air was encircling his chest wall, his heart, and his neck — areas where air shouldn’t be,” Dahl, a ringside physician with the New York State Athletic Commission, said. “He may have gotten a pneumothorax [collapsed lung] if he was struck in the neck or chest in a certain manner and in a specific location. He would have collapsed, unable to breathe, and required a chest tube very immediately.”
“He’s fortunate he’s still alive. I mean, you’ve been really fortunate.” The executive director of the New York Head & Neck Institute, Dr. Peter Constantino
According to Dahl and records of doctors who evaluated Lopez later at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a minor rip in his esophagus was the probable source of the air. Lopez started suffering shortness of breath and swelling in the neck region on Friday, right before the weigh-in, complicating his diagnosis due to his long-standing asthma and a bout of COVID he had in June.
When questioned why he didn’t tell his management or the athletic commission about his problems during his prefight physical on Friday, Lopez told ESPN, “I assumed it was just my asthma.” “I’ve previously battled asthma. They would have canceled the battle if I had warned everyone. But, due to the amount of stress I was under, I decided not to. ‘Oh, another delay,’ I didn’t want to hear people remark.”
Lopez-Kambosos was a star-crossed promotion from the start, with at least eight dates dating back to May. It was mandated as an obligatory defense by the IBF. Furthermore, Kambosos was not seen as a deadly foe. Lopez was a 10-1 favorite on DraftKings after his victory against Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020, which put him on the pound-for-pound rankings.
Lopez’s ailment would not have been obvious in the normal prefight checkup done just before last Friday’s weigh-in, according to Dahl, who worked for the NYSAC between 2004 and 2008.
“His lungs sounded good if you listen with your stethoscope, like I did on Monday,” she added. “Without knowing how bad his symptoms were, an X-ray, and a CAT scan, there’s no way anybody could have detected this.”
Lopez and his staff proceeded to Carmine’s restaurant to rehydrate and replenish after the weigh-in, missing his usual nutritionists, Perfecting Athletes. That’s when his symptoms deteriorated dramatically.
Lopez said, “It didn’t become awful until I began rehydrating.”
His throat and neck swelled up. His chest tightened, and he had to work harder to breathe. He said it once again, “I assumed it was simply my asthma that was bothering me. Since I was six years old, I’ve had asthma.”
According to Constantino, who is aware with both Dahl and the basic facts of the case, the most likely explanation is that Lopez “fast-stretched his esophagus till he suffered a rip or anything like that.”
Lopez’s parents, notably his vocal father-trainer Teofimo Sr., speculated that he was suffering from acid reflux or dehydration as a result of the weight loss.
Lopez recounted, “I grabbed a seat towards the rear of the restaurant, near the kitchen.” “Everyone is trying to burp and calm me. They can see how puffy my neck is. My tone of speech shifted. Everyone is a bit apprehensive at this stage. I believe my father advised me to go to the hospital, but I declined since the fight would most likely be canceled.”
When they got back to the hotel, they tried Gatorade, hot tea, club soda, Pepcid, Tums, and hot towels as potential treatments. Nothing seemed to work.
Lopez said on Saturday morning: “My neck hurts. My chest hurts. My throat is inflamed. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘I suppose I’ll just have to fight like this.’” In the first round, Kambosos knocked him out.
Lopez, a unanimous candidate for Fighter of the Year in 2020, was placed on the canvas for the first time in his five-year pro career.
Lopez said, “That was not me in there Saturday night.”
Despite Lopez’s knockdown in the tenth round and his postfight accusations that the judges had robbed him, Kambosos was universally regarded as the obvious winner. Judge Don Trella’s scorecard, which showed Lopez winning 114-113, was the only one that raised questions in boxing circles.
Lopez was given oxygen after the fight and taken to Bellevue by an athletic commission doctor, where he got nine stitches for a gash above his left eye. A CT scan at 4:37 a.m. revealed “significant air” in his neck cavity, according to his records.
Lopez checked himself out against the physicians’ instructions on Monday morning, alleging that he wasn’t getting enough care in the crowded Bellevue ER. Dave McWater, his frightened manager, contacted Ron Rizzo, his firm’s second-in-command. Dahl, who Rizzo knew from his days at the sports commission, reached out to Rizzo.
Dahl went to Lopez’s hotel to meet him. The now-dethroned champion was on his way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, excited to catch a trip to Las Vegas to visit his kid, who was born just a few weeks earlier on Nov. 16.
“When I saw him Monday morning, I glanced at the scan,” Dahl said. “I immediately said, ‘Thank God you’re alive,’” said the speaker.
Teofimo Lopez’s health deteriorated after the weigh-in as he began to rehydrate, although he claimed the problem was due to his asthma. Icon Sportswire/Rich Graessle
She informed him he couldn’t travel and ordered him to get to New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center right away. The pneumomediastinum diagnosis was confirmed by doctors there. He was released from the hospital on Thursday morning and told not to travel for at least two weeks.
Dahl stated, “I don’t know how he survived 12 rounds without being able to breathe.” “However, he has air where it isn’t meant to be, and getting on a flight is perilous for him.”
Despite the fact that Lopez was set to earn about $3.2 million for his Kambosos fight, the build-up was a torturous era in his young life. He split up with his two-year-old wife in August. In October, he stated he had “thought about killing himself” at least three times in the previous year. That same month, his family, whom he supports and with whom he has had several disagreements, moved in with the young warrior. On Nov. 20, only four days after his son was born, he flew to New York. Lopez said that by fight week, he barely had roughly $20,000 left in his bank account.
Team Lopez lost go of his nutritionists and assistant trainer, Joey Gamache, both of whom were there throughout his championship triumphs against Richard Commey and Lomachenko, for a variety of reasons.
Perfecting Athletes, who are among the most well-respected nutritionists in combat sports, usually immerse themselves with the fighter, essentially living with Lopez over the previous two camps. This camp was similar until Lopez tested positive for COVID, delaying a bout set for June 19 indefinitely.
“I didn’t want to keep paying them for nine months without having a certain date,” Lopez said. “It became too pricey.”
Lopez claims he was familiar with the Commey and Lomachenko camps’ hydration and dietary practices. Despite the fact that Lopez is a large man in the 135-pound weight class, there was no certified dietician on site to help him with his weight loss. Perfecting Athletes would have constantly monitored his weight loss and rehydration times in normal conditions.
The company’s executive director, Paulina Indara, refused to comment, citing client confidentiality.
Lopez said that he did not take Kambosos lightly, but that his physique had outgrown the category. His next bout will be at 140 pounds, according to him.
While he recognizes his good fortune in surviving this loss, he is looking forward to the new year.
Lopez remarked, “I’ve been trying to be optimistic.” “However, I’ve been losing for the whole year.”
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