Fight could happen in empty arena
By John J. Raspanti
They were tentatively set to fight this month.
Boxing fans were excited.
Now the talk is a possible date in September.
“We wanted to stall for time, until we were able to do the fight with a live audience,” promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com a few days ago. “But it’s clear that each of them wanna go right into that fight, so that’s what we’re gonna be planning for September, with or without an audience.”
A tune-up fight was mentioned, but neither fighter is interested.
Vasyl Lomachenko, the master of angles and footwork, former two-time gold medalist, and winner of world titles in three-different weight classes in 15 professional fights, was set to fight a kid of 22 who had been calling him out for months.
The kid is undefeated Teofimo Lopez, loaded with power and moxie, and coming off the biggest victory of his young career.
Then the coronavirus virus hit, killing thousands and turning the world upside down. All that was once a given, was gone. The fight between Lomachenko and Lopez was postponed. Defeating the virus is the top priority.
Lomachenko didn’t let the postponement bother him for long.
“Of course I was disappointed a little bit, but everything that’s happening (wih self-quarantines) is happening for the better, Lomachenko told Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher yesterday. “The most important thing is for all the people on this plant to get back and get healthy and everything will go back to normal.”
Lomachenko is arguably the best fighter in the world. He won a world title in his third professional fight. He picked up his second championship belt thirty four months ago by scoring a highlight-reel knockout over Roman Martinez.
When Lomachenko fought “The Ax Man” Nicholas Walters in 2016, some thought the hotshot from Ukraine would get starched. Walters is the only fighter to stop Nonito Donaire, but against Lomachenko, he had no answers. His axe was dulled in seven one-sided rounds. He hasn’t fought since.
A year later, Lomachenko toyed with fellow gold medalist, Guillermo Rigondeaux, of Cuba. Rigondeaux had dominated all 17 of his opponents. Lomachenko took over in the opening round. The win over Rigondeaux marked the fourth time in a row a fighter has quit against Lomachenko.
Lomachenko fought lightweight champion Jorge Linares in 2018. In round six, Lomachenko found himself on the canvas, courtesy of a lighting quick Lianres right. Up quickly, he rebounded to stop Linares with a bodyshot in round 10. After the fight, it was reported that Lomachenko had suffered a torn labrum.
Back in the ring after shoulder surgery, Lomachenko looked sluggish at times, but still knocked down bigger WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedrazo twice-en route to unifying the titles. He looked like his old self last April, dominating overmatched Anthony Crolla. The fight ended brutally in round four. Seven months ago, he dominated fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell over 12 rounds.
Does he feel that Lopez is ready to fight him?
“I really think he’s a good boxer,” said Lomachenko. “He’s a top fighter. He’s young, he’s hungry, he has big power, and I want this fight. He’s a world champion, and he holds my belt. (IBF title)
Nobody doubts the talent of Lopez. He captured the IBF title last December by explosively knocking out Richard Commey in less than four minutes.
Lopez used his jab in the opening stanza. He fired solid left hooks. A check hook in round two hurt Commey. Lopez landed a check hook that hurt Commey.
Seconds later Lopez dipped and ripped a right hand. The blow landed flush on Commey’s chin. The soon to be ex lightweight champion crumbled to the mat. Commey got up on rubbery legs. Lopez fired punch after punch until the referee waved the fight off.
Lopez had struggled in his previous fight, ultimately winning a wide decision. Lopez dealt with distractions before that bout. The result was a sluggish performance. Many criticized him. Some said he had been exposed. I don’t see it that way. He proved it against Commey.
Does Lomachenko see the Lopez fight ending in a knockout?
“Nobody knows,” Lomachenko,32, said. “It’s very unpredictable."
Teofimo Lopez Sr. doesn’t agree. "We are focused with Lomachenko," he said. "That’s all we want is Lomachenko."
If victorious against Lopez, Lomachenko is looking forward to one particular moment.
“The interesting thing for me,” said Lomachenko. “Will be to look into his eyes and his father’s eyes (Lopez Sr. has been saying he’ll knock Lomachenko out) and see their reaction after the fight.”