- Teofimo Lopez lost his four lightweight title belts to heavy underdog George Kambosos last weekend at Madison Square Garden.
- Lopez was suffering from pneumomediastinum–air in his chest area–and should have been in a hospital, not a boxing ring.
- Dr. Peter Constantino of the New York Head and Neck Institute said ‘he’s lucky he’s not dead. I mean really lucky.’
A scary story coming out of last weekend’s lightweight championship fight between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos. The fight at Madison Square Garden produced a huge upset as -1000 favorite Lopez lost his four lightweight title belts to unheralded mandatory challenger George Kambosos by split decision. The fact that he managed to go the distance and even take a scorecard from judge Don Trella is a testament to Lopez’s heart and toughness. It has since been discovered that Lopez was in no shape to fight and–according to one doctor–is ‘lucky he’s not dead. I mean really lucky.’
Emergency room doctors during his post-fight visit to Bellvue Hospital discovered he was suffering from ‘pneumomediastinum’ with ‘extensive air in the retropharyngeal space’. Dr. Linda Dahl-one of the doctors treating Lopez following his release from the hospital–explains what that means and why it is extremely dangerous:
“The air was surrounding his chest wall and his heart and his neck — places where air is not supposed to be. If he was hit in the neck or the chest — a certain way, in a certain place — he could have developed a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). … He would have instantly been down and unable to breathe and needing a chest tube.”
According to Dahl and the doctors that worked with Lopez subsequently, the likely cause of the air was a small tear in his esophagus. Lopez began experiencing shortness of breath and swelling in the neck area on Friday right before the weigh in. Complicating the diagnosis–Lopez has suffered from asthma all his life and came down with COVID-19 in June. He said that he didn’t think the shortness of breath was a sign of something serious:
“I thought it was just my asthma. I fought through asthma before. If I told everybody, they would’ve cancelled the fight. But I chose not to, because of the amount of pressure I was under. I didn’t want to hear people say, ‘Oh, another postponement.'”
Lest you think that boxers just aren’t wired differently than normal human beings let the words ‘I’ve fought through asthma before’ marinate a bit.
So how did such a serious condition go unnoticed in Lopez’s pre-fight medicals? Dr. Dahl explains:
“If you listen with your stethoscope — as I did on Monday — his lungs sounded fine. There’s no way anybody could have diagnosed this without knowing how severe his symptoms were, then an X-ray and a cat-scan.”
The working theory from several doctors is that Lopez ‘fast stretched his esophagus’ during the weight cut until he suffered a tear’. Lopez’s team started to notice that he wasn’t doing well at the post weigh-in dinner at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant. Despite their concern, he downplayed the severity of his issues:
“I took a seat in the back of the restaurant, by the kitchen. Everybody’s trying to burp me and relax me. They see my neck is swollen. My voice changed. At this point, everybody’s a little concerned. I think my dad told me I should go the hospital and I said ‘No’ because they’re going to end up probably cancelling the fight.”
He wasn’t any better on Saturday morning:
“My neck is sore. My chest is sore. My throat is hurting. And I’m like, ‘I guess I’m just going to have to fight like this.'”
Kambosos scored a knockdown in the first round–the first of Lopez’s career. Showing an inhuman level of fortitude, Lopez rallied and would put Kambosos down in the 10th round. That notwithstanding, the fight was a one sided victory for Kambosos. The judges’ cards appear to have given Lopez the benefit of the doubt in a few rounds: Glenn Feldman scored it 112-115 Kambosos, Frank Lombardi saw it 111-115 Kambosos while Don Trella gave it to Lopez by a 114-113 score. Trella was clearly feeling *very* charitable though this card shouldn’t take away from the fact that Lopez went the distance in his condition. Lopez summed it up:
“That was not me in there Saturday night.”
Anyone that had ever seen Lopez fight before already knew that. Dr. Dahl explains the severity of Lopez’s situation:
“He could have died, for sure. How he breathed, I can’t even explain to you. It’s like somebody tied a 300-pound set of weights around his chest … like his neck and chest were in a vise.”
Dr. Peter Constantino, executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute, added:
“He’s lucky he’s not dead. I mean, really lucky.”
“I’ve been trying to stay positive. But I’ve been losing this whole year.”
He’s hoping that 2022 brings with it better fortune. If it does, it’ll be at a heavier weight class. Lopez has accepted the fact that his body has physically outgrown the 135 weight class and he’ll continue his career at 140 pounds.