Breaking down the showdown
By Bill Tibbs
Time will tell if it’s the best fight of 2020, but it has to be considered the most highly anticipated.
For as long as anyone can remember, before, during and after he turned professional, Teofimo Lopez’s Pop has been telling anyone who will listen, (and those who won’t), that his son, Teofimo, is the best fighter in boxing. Well, on October 17th he’ll get a chance to prove it.
One thing is for sure, every in-ring test that has been put to Teofimo, he has passed with flying colors. However, after signing to face P4P star Vasiliy Lomachenko on October 17th in Las Vegas, Teofimo is indeed looking at the toughest test of his current, and perhaps entire, career.
Lomachenko is one of the most decorated fighters in boxing in both the amateur and professional ranks; a multiple Olympian and multiple professional champion, And, while Lopez doesn’t have the amateur or professional pedigree of Lomachenko, he was still a very good amateur, was a world champion by his 15th fight and he has looked very, very impressive every time he has stepped into the ring. Teofimo has referred to himself, and his career trajectory, as ‘The Takeover’ since the day he turned pro, and from what he has shown in the ring there aren’t a lot of people arguing with him. This is an exceptionally talented young man going up against an exceptionally slightly older man.
In short, this, in my opinion, is the most anticipated fight of 2020. Period.
Let’s take a look.
Career: Lomachenko - 6 Years, 14-1, 10 KO’s.
Trainer: Father - Anatoly Lomachenko
Strength(s) against Lopez: Big fight experience, outstanding ring IQ, movement, defense, fast combinations.
Drawback against Lopez: Size and strength - Lopez is just naturally bigger.
Manager: Igis Klimas
Promoter: Top Rank Boxing
Hardware: WBA, WBC, WBO world lightweight titles
Impressive: Many great nights. Won a world title in his 3rd outing against Gary Russell, completely dismantled fellow amateur legend Guillermo Rigondeaux in a title defence in 2017 and scored a highlight reel KO against Roman Martinez in 2016. If you are not fast, aggressive and elite, he will toy with you. Has put on dazzling boxing displays in many title defences.
Not his best night: Lost a SD against rugged world champion Orlando Salido in his 2nd pro fight. Roughed up in a way he wasn’t used to coming off a long amateur career.
Personality (out of the ring): Appears somewhat quieter than Lopez but is quick with a laugh and a smile. Warm and friendly if you are in his tight circle.
Personality (in the ring): Very technical in his approach and preparation for a fight. Laser focused and serious in a fight. Will loosen up and showboat if he is in cruise mode or if his opponent tries it with him.
The Press Conference: Igis and father Anatoly will take a measured, professional approach. Loma will get a kick out of Teofimo, and his father, with their bold predictions; he will take it all with a smile and a shrug. He has heard it all before and he won’t be phased. He will exude a quiet confidence. He returns fire with the odd comeback, if goaded by an opponent, but he doesn’t usually initiate it.
Personal Goal: Loma is all about history. Yes, he wants to earn top dollar(s), and this is what he does for a living, but he wants his name in the history books first and foremost. A victory over a younger, (physically) bigger talent like Lopez is a huge win for him.
Career: 3 years, 15-0, 12 KO’s.
Trainer: Father - Teofimo Lopez, Joey Gamache
Strength(s) against Lomachenko: Strength, size, power,
Drawback against Lomachenko: Loma will be hard to catch clean or goad into a slugfest.
Manager: David McWater
Promoter: Top Rank Boxing
From: Brooklyn/Las Vegas/Florida
Hardware: IBF world lightweight title
Impressive: Many ‘Plays of the Week’ style stoppages against the likes of experienced Mason Menard in 2018, world title challenger Diego Magdaleno in 2019 and world champion Richard Commey, also in 2019.
Not his best night: Can’t really say there has been a night one would describe as an ‘off night’. Has impressed pretty much every time out. But, keeping it real, he has impressed against competition not on the Loma level.
Personality (out of the ring): Brash and confident in the ring - a showman who knows what sells. As polite and friendly a young man as you could hope to meet outside of the ring.
Personality (in the ring): Less technical in his style in the ring, fights off of instincts (somewhat) more but is very strong in all areas of his game. *Note - doesn’t just fight off of emotion and instincts though, he is also technically very sound.
The Press Conference: Teofimo’s dad is a walking, talking quote machine and if the pandemic restrictions still allow for a presser, he will be declaring loud and proud that this will be the final step in the coming out party for his offspring as boxing’s very best. He’s already said it doesn’t go past 3 rounds. Jr. will be somewhat more restrained, but he’ll be in full agreement with his dad that this is just the next step in ‘The Takeover’. I’d say that Teofimo (Sr. and Jr.) would say that this is the passing of the torch, but they already feel they are the better fighter.
Personal Goal: I think Teofimo already thinks he’s the best fighter of his era, so he’s already made his mark, he’s just dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s with his wins. In all seriousness, Teofimo is looking to be the biggest star of his era and he knows a Lomachenko win plays a big part in that. A victory over a fighter like Lomachenko, in only his 16th fight, would be very impressive to say the least. His confidence might write the fight off as ‘just my next win’ but he knows this is a big one and will do a lot to cement his claim as being boxing’s best. With a victory in this fight, he brings a serious resume to the negotiating table next time out.
So, how does it play out?
In terms of skill it is hard to imagine that anyone can match Vasiliy Lomachenko in that department. And, while many would agree with that, he will be facing a young lion who is no slouch in the skills department himself and who has a considerable size advantage over him.
I see Lomachenko as the best fighter in the world, but I would have to add, that is at 126 or 130 pounds. 135? That may be another story. It is not a question of talent, it is a question of can that exceptional talent be translated at 135 pounds? Lomachenko will give Lopez angles and moves he hasn’t dealt with before and he will make it very hard for Lopez to use that size on him as he will be very hard to catch with clean shots. Lopez will also have to be wary of catching return fire from Loma when he commits to shots.
What on earth does a kid like Lopez bring to a fight, after only 16 bouts, against a huge talent like Loma? Well, he brings a wealth of exceptional boxing talent and he brings a huge size advantage. Loma works hard to maintain his strength at 135 pounds while Lopez had to enlist the help of nutritionists to stay at lightweight; he is always in a terrible struggle to get down to the 135-pound limit. Lopez will be a lightweight for about 30 minutes the day of the weigh-in. As soon as he makes weight he will rehydrate and transform into a big, strong welterweight/junior middleweight by fight time. He is a big strong guy who can punch, is fast and has great instincts for a relatively inexperienced fighter (keep in mind he has only been in the ring 15 times as a pro).
Once again, I am dealing with splinters from sitting on the fence. I am having trouble committing to a clear winner here. I think the fight goes the distance. I feel, as is the case in most fights, it is the guy who can impose his will and control the pace and style of the fight that will have success. If Lomachenko can keep moving, avoid a slug fest, be careful not to walk into something and prove an elusive and crafty foe, he can be a long night for Lopez; he might be able to pile up the points and win a decision. If Lopez can cut off the ring and impose his size and strength on Loma, and keep it a close-range dog fight, then he is a good spot to bang up, and perhaps stop, the smaller Loma.
If I’m training Lopez?
Get in Loma’s grill, keep it in tight and don’t let him breathe. Be on him like a bad rash and don’t back up. I know Lopez is a slickster who looks to land the highlight reel counter but staying on the outside plays to Loma’s strengths in my opinion. Use the Orlando Salido textbook and keep it in close and ugly.
If I’m training Lomachenko?
Play to your strengths. The one thing Lopez has on you is size so don’t let him use it. As long as you can see everything then you are in a good spot to slip it and counter. You don’t have to hit him as hard, just more often. Keep the fight in a distance you are comfortable with and where you can dictate the pace. No need to slug with the bigger man – box, box, box. Give him angles, make him miss, counter him and frustrate him.
Tough call. Great fight. Can’t wait!!!