Lopez deserves all the credit in the world. Where does he go from here? How about Lomachenko?
By John J. Raspanti
Teofimo Lopez told us for almost two years he’d do it. Most of us scoffed, this writer included. His father didn’t just tell us, he yelled it, over and over.
We rolled our eyes.
You’re too young Teofimo. Too inexperienced. You’ll be nervous, maybe a bit tentative. Sure you’ll enter the biggest fight of your life with some advantages. But the “Mozart” of boxing, Vasiliy Lomachenko, will dissect and defeat you. He’ll drive you crazy with angles. Make you miss. Beat you to the punch.
The storyline was set.
Until it wasn’t.
The script flipped. Lomachenko was tentative. At least for six rounds. He circled and feinted, but didn’t do the most important thing when you fight.
Why? He said a few days before the bout, that his plan was to take Lopez deep into the fight, and then attack. OK, but for half the fight all he showed was he’d easily win a dance contest. There were no counters. He waited. And waited.
Until he had no choice. The calmness of his corner was also interesting. They needed the late Angelo Dundee screaming at Lomachenko, “You’re blowing kid.” Instead they were calm, which is good, mind you, but the lack of urgency had pundits scratching their heads.
On the other hand, Lopez was consistent. He had a plan as well, conceived by his trainer-father, and former champion, Joey Gamache, which he didn’t divulge before the bout.
Lopez executed it perfectly. What did he do? He got off first. Sounds simple, but hardly is. Especially against the great Lomachenko. Lopez fired the first and last punches of the bout. He made a statement seconds after the first bell rung. He popped a jab and went to the body. He kept that up. Rarely deviated. Gave Lomachenko something else to think about.
And Lomachenko was thinking. He knew going in that Lopez can punch, but the young man’s quickness perhaps surprised him. It’s easy to say it shouldn’t have. But it appeared as if it did. The size and reach differences were also a big problem. He’d have to take chances. By doing his he’d be leaving himself open for counters. For the first half the fight he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do it.
Then he did, and the complexion of the fight changed for a few minutes. He started to land, but Lopez fought back hard, as if saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Lomachenko tried to win the fight in the last three rounds, but Lopez took the 12th round big. Wouldn’t have mattered on the scorecards, as his lead was so large, Lomachenko would have had to knock him out. Didn’t come close to happening. Actually, it was Lopez who appeared to buzz a pooped out Lomachenko.
Three-to-one underdog Teofimo Lopez won the fight. AND, he did win it. No controversy as far as I’m concerned.
So what’s next for both? Lopez, who basically killed himself making the 135-pound limit, talked of moving up five pounds to face the winner of the Josh Taylor - Jose Ramirez unification fight. Perhaps one defense at 135. He mentioned fighting the talented Devin Haney. A move up to the welterweight division could also be in his future.
Why not? Right now, the boxing world is his oyster.
Lomachenko? I would think he’s done fighting in the 135-pound division. He’ll likely say he’d love a rematch with Lopez, but I can’t see it happening. His ego and legacy may be a bit tarnished, but I personally don’t think this should have a major impact. He had the guts to fight the best over the last few years. He wanted it. He just ran into a hungry and talented fighter last Saturday night, who had the will, and skill, to beat him.
It happens. Let’s see how he rebounds.
Lopez fighting Josh Taylor should have people excited.
I know I am.