Teofimo Lopez Jr. knows he has a tall task in front of him as he prepares for his tussle against Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs), the IBF lightweight champion, has long been calling for the WBO, WBA and WBC franchise titlist Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), and his desire will soon become a reality when they square off Oct. 17 on ESPN.
“This is great for the sport. It’s huge. I’m about to make history and become undisputed [champion]. I’m very excited. I have all of the opportunities right here in my hands and I’m not going to let that go,” Lopez Jr. told ESPN’s First Take in an interview with Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith.
Both fighters will be fighting in their 16th professional contest, but the 32-year-old Lomachenko’s experience and amateur pedigree is prodigious and well documented as a two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist who amassed a record of 396-1.
The Brooklyn-based Honduran Lopez Jr. is also a 2016 Olympian, but he never reached medal status.
The 23-year-old, however, is unperturbed by Lomachenko’s vast amount of experience.
“He’s a great fighter and has all of the accolades and achievements, and everything that he’s done. This is for all or nothing,” he said. “He’s very talented, and so am I. A lot of these fighters respect this man too much. I’m in the fight game. I respect no man once I am in that ring. That’s what we’re going to do. I get the job done against every fighter that I face.
Lomachenko has been adamant in recent years that his size is better suited to fight as a junior lightweight, but he’s still taken on all comers in higher weight classes. He looked human in wins at 135 against Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell. Against Linares, Lomachenko even suffered a flash knockdown.
Lomachenko has also dispatched the likes of Anthony Crolla and Jose Pedraza as a lightweight, but Lopez Jr. is an upgrade from the aforementioned quartet.
Lopez Jr. will look to prove that size matters once they square off.
“A lot of people talk down on me … Style-wise, I’m the kind of fighter to bring the fight to you. I look for the fight. Not only that, but I’m a big lightweight. He’s been off at 126, 130, and I’m going to make sure come Oct. 17 I’m going to bring him back down to 130.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.