Matt Christie breaks down the fascinating Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez clash
AGE AND PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT
LOMA: Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko is 32 years old and if he’s already not past his peak, there can’t be long left of it. He’s made no secret of his desire to walk away from the sport after a fighting for many years as man and boy; such declarations of yearning for retirement are often a red flag. Arguably better suited to super-featherweight, the 5ft 7ins Lomachenko has long since abandoned plans to go any higher.
LOPEZ: At 23, Brooklyn’s Teofimo Lopez is significantly younger and fresher than his opponent. Another contrast to Lomachenko is his natural size. Whereas Vasiliy has reached his ceiling at lightweight, this might well be Lopez’s last fight in the division. Last year, the muscled youngster told BN of his plans to rise through the weights – such talk early in a career often speaks of a struggle to make weight.
EDGE: Younger by nine years, taller by an inch and with a reach superior by three (68 inches to 65), Lopez has to get the nod here.
LOMA: Arguably the most decorated fighter in history if you take his amateur accomplishments into consideration and with Lomachenko – three World championships, two Olympic golds, unbeaten in the WSB – you simply must. As a professional Loma, 14-1 (10), has won various world sanctioning body titles in three weight classes, and dominated plenty of elite company. Throw in his lifetime in the sport and you have a true master of his trade.
LOPEZ: Though very good at amateur level (where his reported record was 150-20) his accomplishments fall well short of his opponent’s. After failing to prove he was the best in America, he represented Honduras in the 2016 Olympics and went out in the first round. As a professional, 15-0 (12), he has moved quickly and he’s largely thrived as he’s stepped up in class. His ascent was underlined with a 2019 two-round stoppage over the hard as nails Richard Commey.
EDGE: Lomachenko, no question whatsoever.
LOMA: At super-featherweight, Lomachenko thrashed Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux, two showings that bookended four consecutive bouts where the Ukrainian’s demoralised opponents quit on their stool. At featherweight, in just his third professional fight, he outscored Gary Russell Jnr. But for better analysis here, Lomachenko the lightweight beat Jorge Linares, destroyed Anthony Crolla and comfortably outpointed an excellent Luke Campbell.
LOPEZ: It’s true that Lopez looked sensational when he knocked out Commey last year to win the IBF strap at 135lbs but when one compares the African to the best names on Lomachenko’s record, it adds some much needed context. However, we shouldn’t downplay that performance either. Commey had only lost twice (via split decision at world level) and was fresh off a victory over Raymundo Beltran when he was hit by a supreme, short Lopez right that robbed him of his senses.
EDGE: Again, one cannot look past Lomachenko.
LOMA: Because it was his only loss, the 12-round points defeat to the crafty and grizzled Orlando Salido. It should of course be remembered that this was Lomachenko’s second pro fight and Salido came in over the division limit. More recently, evidence is mounting that Lomachenko is not quite the force of old. Jose Pedraza and Campbell gave him tougher than expected outings in two of his last three.
LOPEZ: Always hard to pinpoint a ‘worst performance’ from a fledging career that has had things all its own way. However, we should reference the first time he went the distance here: Against Masayoshi Nakatini last summer, though Lopez won via wide scorecards, he struggled at times with a taller opponent, didn’t always look comfortable against a fighter who wouldn’t be stopped and was tagged regularly by the right hand.
EDGE: Lopez because he’s not lost as a pro.
LOMA: His ring intelligence is awe-inspiring. Southpaw Lomachenko throws five and six punch combinations, moving as he does so, controlling the range at all times. He is fit and elusive, despite always being in position to attack; he does this with artful feet, feints and an inside game that is almost impossibly good. He doesn’t waste punches, either. Though it’s often presumed his work-rate is the key, the truth is he picks the opportune moment to throw his fast and accurate blows after working out his rival.
LOPEZ: Lopez uses his long reach to good effect and has the perfect shots – a quality left hook and big right hand – to enjoy success against a southpaw. He is adept at pressure-fighting, can spot an opening on the inside and he boxes well going backwards. Perhaps his biggest strength in this fight is his punching power and strength. Though Lomachenko is hard to hit, he’s no peak Willie Pep. The youngster has every chance of hitting and hurting the Ukrainian.
EDGE: In this category, Lomachenko would have the edge over anyone.
LOMA: Though we know Lomachenko can pretty much do it all, we do not know what happens when he’s caught with a truly hellacious shot. How to land that punch has so far been an insolvable conundrum, however. But no fighter is unbeatable. From all the evidence we have, for Loma to lose, he will have to be forced into a dogfight, not allowed to move side-to-side, pushed backwards and held in close. His defence is his offence; take that out of the equation – as Salido, Linares and Campbell did at times – and Lopez has a chance.
LOPEZ: Lopez’s biggest weakness in this bout is his inexperience. We must welcome this bout with open arms, but in terms of their respective levels of education and accomplishment, Lopez is miles behind. He also has a habit of leaning back after he’s thrown punches which is something that Lomachenko’s swarming attacks can expose. He was dropped in his pro debut and, though this should be no cause for concern, we still don’t really know how well Lopez copes when things are not going his way.
EDGE: Another factor in Lomachanko’s favour.
There is always every chance that an older fighter will lose to a younger, hungrier fighter and Lomachenko – like Roy Jones against Antonio Tarver – could be caught hard and early. There is always every chance, too, that the older fighter will know too much, and be too good for their younger opponent, ala Floyd Mayweather vs Canelo Alvarez.
Those betting on Lopez are also betting on deterioration in Lomachenko. And though we can suspect Loma is slipping, we do not know for sure.
Loma has had one or two below par showings in his entire career but this is not Muhammad Ali fighting six times between 1976 and 1977 and displaying obvious erosion with each passing outing. With Lomachenko, as always, we’re clutching at straws.
To pick Lopez on the strength of a hunch is brave but not foolhardy. Besides age, Lopez is the superior puncher, arguably stronger and is clever with it. For that reason, he will already have Lomachenko’s respect. The Ukrainian, alongside his team, will be taking this bout exceptionally seriously and, just like they always do, carrying out extensive homework on the task at hand.
Expect Lopez to have his moments in the early going, maybe even score a flash knockdown. But the feeling here is that we’ll see Lomachenko in something approaching his finest form as he weathers the storm without ever looking like losing. Loma can bide his time, put his foot down in the middle rounds and pull away down the stretch.
We don’t know enough about Lopez’s heart and durability to predict an inside-schedule defeat, but we know enough about Lomachenko to pick a convincing victory on the cards.