New York: Teofimo Lopez says it’s a takeover and Vasiliy Lomachencko is a “Diva.” Lomachenko, considered the best pound-for-pound fighter does not listen to the talk and said he will take care of business tomorrow night in Las Vegas.
Yet this is the anticipated fight of the year for the unified lightweight titles and all four belts for the first time in the division are up for grabs. That says a lot considering the late Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr. defended the title in this weight class.
A fight at the MGM Grand “Bubble” and both under the banner of Top Rank and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. And a fight of this magnitude, a year in the making, is a bonus for boxing fans with the ESPN network platforms.
Yes, it’s free, with an outstanding undercard of implications for fighters which also makes this a good view. And because this is not a fight that goes under the pay-per-view category, and could have been, both fighters took a significant punch to their purses. Regardless, Bob Arum wanted to get this done and do the right thing for fans during a pandemic.
Lomachencko and Lopez wanted to settle the score during a global pandemic and it’s the biggest boxing match of the year. Both weighed in at 135 Friday. They bypassed protocols with an intense staredown.
Also bypass the animosity that is documented and most of the tensions stems from Lopez’s dad. He called out Lomachencko in a New York hotel lobby last year adjacent to Madison Square Garden. They wanted this fight in New York for the Brooklyn born Lopez, but a pandemic closed doors at the Mecca.
So the fight finally landed in Las Vegas and in the MGM Grand Conference room bubble where about 250 fans will attend. Family members, close friends and first responders will be socially distanced with face coverings in the bubble.
But these fighters do not need a crowd to throw a punch or get a knockdown. It will be the adrenaline and who will dominate to become the unified lightweight champion in a sport that does not see many fights of this magnitude.
Lopez, though, will need to take this fight to Lomachencko. That may be difficult, because Lomachenko will take the fight to Lopez. Yes, there will be intense punches thrown early. Lopez is promising a stoppage and win.
The normal for Lomachenko is to let others do the talking. He will do the punching and take care of business in the ring. He has said the fight won’t go the distance and end early. Perhaps, not early, but the biggest test for Lopez who has never had an opponent of this magnitude.
This is not Hagler-Hearns or Leonard-Duran, different eras that had plenty of world wide attention. And this fight hasn’t drawn mainstream attention similar to Pacquiao-Mayweather, Mayweather-McGregor, or Wilder-Fury that all resulted in high pay-per-view numbers.
Instead, this is a championship fight with all the implications to unify a title. It has drawn attention for the fight fan at a time when the pandemic and a hot contested presidential election have drawn more attention.
So who prevails Saturday night? Most fight people have different opinions and are not surprised there is a split. Some give it to Lomachencko, 32-years old, 15 pro fights who throws early and hard punches. His quick rise up the ladder for a fighter to gain a major title after a successful amateur and Olympic career. Lopez, 23-years old, never faced a fighter that will throw punches from all angles.
And there are many who believe that Teofimo will prevail and get the knockout by the eighth round or get a decision by being more aggressive. Remember, Lomachencko is a southpaw and for Lopez that means making the adjustments.
Thing is, you can’t be too aggressive against Lomachencko. He knows how to come right back and throw a meaner punch to the body or find the right opening to get one.
This may not be in that category of styles make fights. And if Lopez can withstand punches, this could be a barnburner fight of the year. That remains to be determined because the animosity between two champions will sometimes make a fight that much better.
Again, to not diminish the skills of Lopez, he got the fight deserved. But there has to be a realization here. Lomachencko, with a limited number of fights, has more championship experience stopping Jorge Linares (WBA title), defending and defeating Jose Pedraza (WBO title), the K0 over a tough Anthony Crolla and defending the WBA and WBO titles.
And, Lomachencko, as Lopez says, by all standards is not a diva. Perhaps Lopez is over his head. But he should be confident because this is the fight he asked for and this won’t be over early.
Boxing historian and writer the late Bert Sugar, my mentor, sat with me at ringside for many of those Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, and Duran fights at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
He was always asked, “Bert who wins the fight?” His response was always, “Who cares, Just enjoy the fight.” He provided a brief analysis. Was he always right, yes most of the time.
This one has the experts going either way. And this fight can go either way and depending on those first few rounds. Then again, to the judges scorecard and who knows?
But the pick here is Lomachencko with the stoppage by TKO in round 8. Enjoy!
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