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Doctor says Teofimo Lopez ‘lucky to be alive’ after fighting George Kambosos Jr. with air in his chest

Teofimo Lopez v George Kambosos Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Teofimo Lopez may have lost his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and The Ring lightweight titles to George Kambosos Jr. last weekend in a Fight of the Year candidate, but things could have been much worse for the 24-year-old fighter from New York.

Per a recent report by ESPN, Lopez fought Kambosos with air trapped in his chest. Lopez was originally cleared to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission, but after visiting the emergency room following his title fight loss doctors diagnosed him with “pneumomediastinum” with “extensive air in the retropharyngeal space.”

“He could have died, for sure,” said Dr. Linda Dahl, a prominent Manhattan otolaryngologist (ENT). “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. That’s how he fought.”

Lopez started experiencing shortness of breath prior to weigh ins on Friday before the fight. However, the former champion believed it was just his asthma acting up and didn’t think to alert medical officials. Lopez was also coming off a bout with COVID-19 back in June so his diagnosis was even harder to pinpoint.

“I thought it was just my asthma,” said Lopez when asked why he didn’t inform the commission of his issues. “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.’”

Luckily, Lopez was able to compete 12 hard rounds and didn’t suffer any serious injuries during the fight. He did lose a close split decision to Kambosos, but at least he walked away in relatively good shape. Things could have ended up a lot different for the young boxer.

“The air was surrounding his chest wall and his heart and his neck — places where air is not supposed to be,” said Dahl, who believes the issue happened due to a small tear in Lopez’s esophagus. “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.”

After the fight Lopez protested the decision and made it known that he thought he beat Kambosos fair and square. We now know that Lopez was fighting with a serious ailment and his performance may have been compromised. Either way, the former lightweight champion is looking forward to a new year and a new move to the super lightweight division (140 lbs.).

“I’ve been trying to stay positive,” said Lopez. “But I’ve been losing this whole year.”

Lopez also took to social media on Saturday to post the below message to the combat world:

“(ONLY ATHLETES) Understand the amount of pressure we deal with on a daily basis. My health isn’t an excuse but a FACT! I almost died for people who could care less about us but only money.”

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