I’ve come to a decision.
Or, to be more accurate, I’ve confirmed a decision I’d already considered.
Vasyl Lomachenko is the best boxer in the world.
And to those contrarian masses on social media who’d suggest such a notion is either beholden to a promoter or network or simply not as enlightened as theirs, I have an equally simple response.
Though I am an ESPN subscriber and confess to not knowing proclivities of each and every sub-Saharan bantamweight, it’s not as if my opinions are entirely without merit.
After all, I’ve been an active fan of the sport since the ’70s, been paid to cover it since the ’90s and – thanks to the trinity of God, the Internet and Boxing Acquisition Inc. (in no particular order) – have parked my byline in this site’s space most Tuesdays since 2008.
As a result, I’ve interviewed all of today’s top stars, seen the vast majority of them from ringside at least a few times and enlisted a network of informed acquaintances to smack sense into me whenever my keyboard writes a check that my knowledge can’t cash.
With this one, though, there’s zero concern of an overdraft.
Over 36 or fewer minutes against Teofimo Lopez – who’s surely overmatched but has proven himself a world-class entity – Lomachenko will display the sort of comprehensive ring mastery practiced only by those worthy of the head of the P4P table.
Don’t believe it? Just watch.
He’ll control the tempo, geography and tenor of the fight, make it look effortless while doing so and incrementally ebb the wherewithal of a foe who’s earned title claimant status as much on tenacity as technique. As I watched it, in fact, I may actually began to pity Lopez, who’ll look as helpless as a blind man flailing for cash in one of those promotional money chambers – but with the added ignominy of the printed presidents pummeling him as they float tantalizingly in and then just out of reach.
For let’s say 10 rounds of that trouble, Lopez figures to wind up a crimson-faced punching bag with an eye swollen to golf ball size and a headache that’ll take a truckload of Tylenol to ease. And if not for a benevolent trainer or referee stepping in, a loss from consciousness won’t be far off.
Meanwhile, for Lomachenko, suggesting the sky’s the limit even seems a shade confining.
He’s already ascended, in the space of just 15 pro fights, to top-spot legitimacy from 126 to 135 pounds, not to mention a No. 2 pedestal on Ring Magazine’s best-of-the-best list prior to the weekend.
And while the name above him on said roll call – Canelo Alvarez – is certainly worthy of such acclaim, the view from here is that he’s not so simultaneously superior to the rank and file as Lomachenko.
Alvarez has indeed earned 53 wins, 36 KOs and two draws in 56 fights, but he’s coming off a slugfest victory and three intermittently disputed decisions in his last five bouts – ignoring a joke fight for a joke belt against Rocky Fielding – and may have finally (after 15 years and multiple weight class moves) reached a level of competition at which his separation is not so vast.
That leaves Lomachenko, born 29 months earlier, to carry the torch forward.
He faces an intriguing path at 135 and toward 140, where talented suitors named Haney, Davis, Taylor, Prograis and perhaps even Pacquiao lay in wait to snuff momentum while employing their size and might to offset his footwork and acumen.
It won’t come easy, though, for any of them.
Truth told, picking between Canelo and “High-Tech” means splitting hairs of the highest quality.
Alvarez could be deemed more “rugged” while Lomachenko leans nearer to “artistic,” but each carries such a variety of tools that neither adjective would be wholly inaccurate if labels were switched.
The tiebreaking contention here is the smaller man is simply a bit more other-worldly, and while Canelo seems sure to be a frequent contender for Fighter of the Year, the Ukrainian’s trajectory should follow an arc that leaves a trail still visible for generations.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/WBA/WBO lightweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Teofimo Lopez (IBF champ/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Vasyl Lomachenko (WBA, WBO champ/No. 1 IWBR)
Lopez (15-0, 12 KO): First title defense; Has gone past seven rounds in one fight (1-0, 0 KO)
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KO): Fourth WBA title defense; Held titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds
Fitzbitz says: There is no fight that’ll occur in 2020 that I’ve looked forward to more than this one. And as good as I think Lopez might be, Lomachenko is even better. He’ll show it. Lomachenko in 10 (95/5)
Last week’s picks: 1-1 (WIN: Navarrete; LOSS: Boesel)
2020 picks record: 25-4 (86.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,142-369 (75.6 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.