Kudos to ESPN for serving up this tantalizing, intriguing and elite matchup for all four major alphabet lightweight titles free of charge to the fans. The corrupt and self-serving sanctioning bodies might be a joke standing on their own but when all four of their belts are at stake, it actually amounts to something. In this case, it is the crowning of an undisputed 135-pound champion.
The dynamics of Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) versus Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) run much deeper than your average youth-versus-experience encounter. Size, age, mileage and the yet-to-be-revealed disparities in skill set, power and punch resistance also factor into the equation. Conventional wisdom also tells us that in boxing, with all things being equal, the good big man typically prevails over the good little man. In this case, though, we have a good big man versus an excellent little man.
Here we have an absurdly-talented albeit undersized southpaw up against a larger-framed, stronger and younger albeit less-experienced right-handed fighter. Lomachenko, 32, is an open book; we’ve seen what he can do against a multitude of high-quality opponents like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Gary Russell, Jr., Jorge Linares and Nicholas Walters. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-division world titlist, he has encountered and defeated every style conceivable in the sport, orthodox and southpaw.
Lopez, 23, on the other hand, is still very much an unknown entity. Except for Richard Comey, he has cut his teeth on a parade decent but rather garden variety opponents handpicked for him to beat. And his fight with Comey ended too early for it to be a sufficient mettle detector.
The Linares link
It might be a strained comparison but Lomachenko-Linares, perhaps, represents the closest indicator of how Lomachenko-Lopez might unfold.
Like Lopez, the well-educated and naturally-gifted Linares was touted as a potential superstar early in his career until he was exposed repeatedly as a fighter who crumpled every time he was hit with a good shot. Nevertheless, the solidly muscled Linares had a significant edge in size and strength against Lomachenko. And most importantly, he provided Lomachenko his sternest test to date.
Consider Lopez a newer and much improved version of Linares.
Although less experienced, Lopez is fresher, faster, cockier and more explosive than Linares. His punch resistance has yet to be tested but it should be safe to assume that his jawbone and ribcage are made of sturdier stuff than the crystal chandeliers from which Linares’ are constructed. And while Linares is mostly a cerebral fighter, Lopez fights with equal amounts of intellect and instinct.
Lomachenko outboxed and outfoxed Linares for most of their fight but Linares certainly had his moments in every round, most notably in the seventh when he dropped Lomachenko for with a perfectly-timed right. It was a flash knockdown from which Lomachenko bounced up and effortlessly shook off, but it showed that his defense is not impenetrable. Make no mistake about it, at some point in the fight Lopez will test the Ukrainian’s chin with a direct hit.
Against Linares, it became abundantly clear that Lomachenko left much of his one-punch knockout power at the lower divisions. Aside from the fight-ending left to the body, Linares seemed to handle Lomachenko’s punches with relative ease and aplomb. Once again, we’re talking about a fighter who has struggled his entire career to maintain a D-minus average in punch resistance on his report card.
The question marks
Will Lopez be able to effortlessly absorb Lomachenko’s rat-tat-tat combinations and impose his size and strength on the smaller man? What happens when Lomachenko gets caught flush by one of Lopez’s bombs? Lopez’s chin and heart have yet to be tested in his 15 pro fights and Lomachenko will certainly take him to task on both accounts; how will that unfold? If Lopez deploys that cross-armed, shoulder-roll stance that he’s experimented with in previous fights, will it be a liability or asset against an experienced and savvy guy who has seen it all? Will the nine-year age gap be a factor? Will it boil down to who makes the better adaptions and adjustments as the fight progresses?
In this young man’s sport, youth, more often than not, trumps experience, But old wise men the likes of Archie Moore, Mohammed Ali, Roberto Duran, Bernard Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao have taken younger, stronger brutes to school, proving that brain can also prevail over brawn. And if boxing were physics, Lomachenko has the IQ of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking combined.
Read prediction for Lomachenko vs. Lopez at: https://peterliminator.blogspot.com/2020/10/vasyl-lomachencko-vs-teofimo-lopez.html