Praise for both fighters for putting it on the line
By Bill Tibbs
On the night of October 17th, in front of millions of fans on the ESPN network, undefeated red-hot lightweight star Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) picked up the biggest win of his career when he captured a one-sided decision over former P4P king, and then-lightweight champion, Vasyl Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s). The winner of this fight was to be considered the very best lightweight in the world, and the unified champion, and Lopez left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is indeed that man.
Naturally, fans and media took to the social sites to comment on the fight which certainly saw more action in the 2nd half than the 1st (a boxing lesson/shut out for Lopez). While the praise has been unanimous for Lopez, some critics are now questioning Lomachenko’s past glories as perhaps a bit over-rated or that Lopez “exposed” the former 2 -time Olympian. Any critics of Lopez, few in numbers if any, are saying he got to achieve his crowning glory on a smaller fighter who, in reality, isn’t a 135-pounder.
Conversely, there has been unanimous for praise for Lopez for stepping up to fight a vastly talented fighter like Lomachenko at the young age of 23 and having had only 15 fights as a pro. As well, Lomachenko has been lauded for his willingness to test himself against a young, hungry fighter who had age, size and power on him, in pursuit of greatness in the division.
There are no excuses. Lopez knew his age and experience before the bout and if he had lost, that wouldn’t have been an excuse. Lomachenko knew his physical condition, his age and size before the bout, and they are not an excuse now. There was indeed a clear winner in the fight, who should be praised for an outstanding performance. But, in my opinion there were no losers in that bout. Both fighters, for very different reasons, had lots of excuses to avoid that bout at this time – but they didn’t. They are fighters who are looking to leave their mark on the sport, leave their stamp on the historical timeline of boxing and to do that they needed to fight, and they did. That, without a doubt is the mark of a fighter, the mark of a boxer pursing greatness - not just a title or a win, but greatness. And, for that, both fighters should earn immense respect.
In my opinion, the greatness showed by both fighters happened the minute they signed the contract to fight. Especially in this Covid era, either fighter could have found a number of excuses to get out of the fight, or at least delay it, to look for a better angle to strengthen their position before meeting in the ring. But, that is not what fighters do; they fight. And, it isn’t what fighters who are daring to be great do; they get in the ring and fight for the glory they so desperately crave as they look to carve out their place in the history of the sport.
Great fighters don’t look to the boardroom before the boxing ring. They don’t look for a way to get out of fighting the very best while their opponent is at their peak, they look for a way to fight him or her, at any and all costs. And, on October 17th that is what Lomachenko and Lopez did, they dared to be great and for that reason they are both winners.
This is in no way meant to take away from the fighter who had his hand raised at the end of the fight; this in no way lessens his achievement. Lopez put in a masterful performance, against a masterful boxer, and for that he deserves all the credit and adulation he is receiving. In short, Lopez was simply outstanding on this night and I think it’s safe to say that we are going to see many more outstanding nights from this young man.
In today’s day and age, too often the politics of boxing, be it promotional entitles or money, have stood in the way of great fighters meeting up at a time when they are at their best. A few weeks back, Top Rank Boxing, put two of its best fighters in the ring and gave boxing fans something to get very excited about. And, both fighters welcomed the challenge and brought everything they had on that night. Boxing could indeed use more fighters and fights like this.
What is next?
Some people, some of whom I have great respect for their judgement and opinion, had it a draw – I didn’t see it that way. I had Lopez as a clear winner. Lomachenko had some strong moments, especially later in the bout, but he didn’t win in my opinion.
Like the champion that he is, Lomachenko would like to heal up from his shoulder surgery and then pursue a rematch. All indications are that Lopez is looking to move on.
I don’t see anybody touching Lopez at lightweight and he will probably look to move 5 pounds north soon where he will also challenge the division’s best – this looks to indeed be, “The Take Over”, and boxing has a new superstar.
Lomachenko will be back. He is an outstanding fighter who will recover from his shoulder surgery, regroup and return. I would suggest he move to 130-pounds where I think he will be at a more comfortable weight and would indeed be challenging the division’s champions right away.
Lomachenko had lots of reasons to avoid a bigger, stronger lion like Lopez. And, Teofimo had many reasons to avoid a much more experienced, P4P great like Lomacheko. Lopez had a perfect record, why risk losing the ‘0’?
Lomachenko already had one loss to a fighter he was supposed to be able to handle, and he gave away a lot of weight in that fight, why go down that weighty road again?
There were valid reasons to swerve this one for both of them – but that isn’t what great fighters do.
On Saturday, October 17th, in a small ballroom in Las Vegas, Lopez and Lomachenko took us back to a time in boxing when the best fighters in a division wanted to challenge themselves against the other best fighter(s) in the division. Lopez and Lomachenko had some good, and frankly understandable, reasons to avoid the other. But to those kinds of fighters, it is all about greatness. There is always a winner in those fights, but for many reasons, there are no losers.