We look ahead to Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez for almost all the gold at lightweight and so much more
It’s for most of the major 135lb championship belts that matter, but Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez, set for October 17 at ‘The Bubble’ in Las Vegas, means a great deal more than titles.
For Lopez it represents a huge opportunity to catapult himself from exciting beltholder to elite operator at just 23 years old. It was only December when, in his 15th pro fight, Teo destroyed and dethroned the usually durable Richard Commey for the IBF strap, taking just two rounds in a star-making performance. It would have been easy, perhaps even advisable, for Lopez to rest on his laurels, make an easy defence or two before looking towards a megafight, especially with Lomachenko talking about moving down in weight. Lopez, however, has been calling for a showdown with the immensely gifted Ukranian for some time and is supremely confident he can defeat him. Technically sound, fast, big and powerful, Lopez is a live underdog at 5/2 - according to sportsbettingdime.com - the major concern being his lack of experience; is this a step too far, too soon?
Lomachenko (2/7) is a fixture in most observers’ pound-for-pound top three but the little magician (32) has never been a natural lightweight. Having captured world titles at 126 and 130lbs, the former two-time Olympic gold medallist admirably moved up to seek further challenges. In recent times, with few top lightweights looking likely to face him beyond Lopez, Vasiliy has considered dropping back down. Blessed with fast hands and feet, superb shot selection and a boxing IQ honed over almost 400 amateur bouts and 15 as a professional. He has had the same number of paid contests as Lopez but, importantly, at a much higher level. Indeed, nine of his opponents were former, current or future world champions when Loma met them. Lomachenko’s only defeat came in his second fight against rugged Orlando Salido, who roughed him up and outmuscled him. Lopez, who looks huge when not in camp and all muscle, appears to be the largest opponent Vasiliy will have faced. Add that to Teo’s not inconsiderable skill-set and this could prove a bridge too far for the petite, albeit strong Lomachenko.
Lomachenko latterly built a reputation as a boxer who made tough opponents quit, doing so in four consecutive fights between 2016-17. The odds on this happening here are hugely attractive at a whopping 35/1, but it is very difficult to envisage a young man with the supreme ambition of Lopez, even if he proves outclassed, allowing his corner to retire him. I cannot see Lopez, or anyone else around this weight, outboxing Lomachenko for long periods, but he can surely hurt the smaller man if he lands cleanly, and the KO/stoppage for the American is. Most likely is a Lomachenko points win at, but for once, him coming out on top is far from a foregone conclusion.