2020 will go down as one of the most frustrating years in recent memory if not in history. Not just for the sports world, but for life in general. The source of that frustration of course stems largely from the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic that has significantly changed daily life as well as imposed severe impacts that may not be fully understood and known for some time. For the Boxing world, the impact has been felt in several ways, most notably the lack of spectators being able to attend events due to the epidemic, which has had and will continue to have severe economic consequences for the sport as well as several notable fighters and potential fights that could be made being sidelined both for financial reasons as well as due to the risk of potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Two fighters however, have taken a significant step in attempting to return the sport to something resembling what fans are accustomed to when Boxing is in its normal active state as one of the most anticipated fights that could be made in the entire sport will still take place, despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This observer is of course referring to the highly anticipated Lightweight unification battle that will take place on October 17that the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, NV between world champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez with the Undisputed Lightweight world championship at stake
The 135lb. Lightweight division has historically been known as one of the most competitive divisions and has provided many memorable battles throughout Boxing history. This fight could well go down in that lineage as such an encounter. One of the key components in any fight being anticipated as potentially memorable is the element of the unknown. The fight between Lomachenko and Lopez not only has that element, but it is an encounter that could go a variety of ways in terms of how it is fought.
Both fighters have the ability to box and both have punching power capable of ending a fight should the opportunity arise. By now the story of Vasyl Lomachenko is well known to most Boxing fans. A man who won three hundred ninety-six fights as an amateur in what was an illustrious amateur career where he only lost once and won two Olympic Gold medals as a Featherweight and Lightweight in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Since turning pro in October 2013, Lomachenko has exclusively competed in world championship fights with the only loss as a professional coming in a controversial split decision to Orlando Salido in March 2014.
Lomachenko will enter this unification bout against Lopez with a record of 14-1, with 10 Knockouts having won world titles in the 126lb. Featherweight and 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division prior to winning the Lightweight world championship he currently holds and has partially unified holding the WBC, WBA, and WBO Lightweight world championships. Although many feel he deserved the decision in his fight against Salido, the controversial loss has done nothing to diminish his standing or his skill set that has bedeviled nearly every opponent Lomachenko has faced. Lomachenko has registered a career knockout percentage of nearly 67% thus far as a professional. While Lomachenko is basically a complete package in terms of a fighter’s skill set, he is known as an extremely skilled boxer who can out box his opponents. There have been times where Lomachenko’s arsenal has frustrated opponents into quitting most notably in his fights with Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
What makes Lomachenko such a frustrating puzzle that one could argue no one has been able to solve? In simple terms, he can do a little of everything in a Boxing ring and does it extremely well. Perhaps one element of Lomachenko’s skill set that serves as a major source of frustration for his opponents is his immaculate footwork and lateral movement that allows him to attack from various angles as well as change levels and vary his attack. Some may recall the story of Lomachenko as a young boy being taught the sport beginning at age four by his father and trainer Anatoly before stopping his Boxing training for several years at the insistence of his father as a pre-teen to train in traditional Ukrainian dance in his native Ukraine. While some may overlook this, learning the fundamentals of the sport as a young child before focusing several years on dance allowed Lomachenko to develop an element of his skill set that many top fighters throughout the entire sport do not have. This along with well-rounded offense and being defensively sound has made Lomachenko a difficult fighter to combat.
The argument of some however, is that by Lomachenko being so dominant, questions regarding his ability to take a punch as well as how he would respond to adversity and to be more specific, what happens if Lomachenko is hurt in a fight remain. Some of those questions can and are likely to be asked of his opponent in this fight. Teofimo Lopez.
In some ways, Lopez has had a similar rise in terms of his professional career in becoming a world champion in just fifteen professional fights, but this is where the slight comparison between himself and Lomachenko end. Overall, the IBF world champion does not have the amount of combined experience amateur and professional compared to Lomachenko, but in fairness, few fighters have the discipline to embark on an amateur career where they end up having just shy of four hundred bouts as most fighters look to a professional career after competing as an amateur for the greener pastures that Professional Boxing has to offer.
Lopez did however, have a respectable amateur career where he had a record of 150-20 where he was a national Golden Gloves champion and did represent Honduras in the 2016 Summer Olympics. As a professional, the unbeaten Lopez has registered a career knockout percentage of 80% having knocked out twelve of his fifteen career opponents.
Although like Lomachenko Lopez has Boxing ability, Lopez has shown that he has explosive punching power as evidenced in his last fight where he won the IBF Lightweight world championship with a brutal second round knockout of Richard Commey in December of last year and his first round knockout over highly touted prospect Mason Maynard in December of 2018. A fight that Lopez ended in just forty-four seconds.
Lopez ability to end a fight with either hand should make him a threat at any point in this fight. The IBF world champion will also enter this fight having scored knockouts in six of his last eight bouts so it is arguable that like Lomachenko, he has significant momentum going into this fight.
What this encounter comes down to in my eyes is a scenario of experience versus youth. Although the two fighters have comparable records as professionals in terms of the amount of fights each has competed in, Lomachenko is nine years the elder of Lopez at thirty-two years old and also has spent more time in the professional ring having boxed a total of 131 rounds in his pro career compared to 60 total rounds for Lopez. It should also not be overlooked that many of the rounds boxed for Lomachenko have occurred in world championship fights and some may point to this as an edge for him as Lopez only recently fought and won a world championship. Something that should also not be overlooked is that much like the vast majority of bouts that have taken place since the sport began trying to resume in due in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, this fight will take place behind closed doors with no crowd in attendance.
The circumstances in which this fight will take place throws an obvious wrinkle into what most associate with the term “Big Fight Atmosphere.” This will nevertheless be the biggest fight in Lopez’ career and it will be interesting to see how he will respond to a fight of this magnitude.
As for what we might see on fight night when the two fighters square off, I believe it is crucial that Lopez attempt to cut the ring off from Lomachenko early in the fight, a task that has proven to be easier said than done for previous Lomachenko opponents. Lopez must find a way to limit Lomachenko’s movement and make him a stationary target where it might be more to his advantage. For Lomachenko, it is logical to assume as he has done throughout his career will look to implement a tactical approach to his strategy. This could mean looking to extend Lopez into the middle and late rounds into what some would consider the deep waters of the fight, something that Lopez has not really experienced to date in his career.
Although anything can happen, it would not be surprising to see Lomachenko look to set traps with the angles he gives his opponents and look to counter Lopez as he comes forward. The question will be whether or not Lomachenko will be able to avoid Lopez’ power for all twelve rounds. While Lopez also can box, it is also logical to think that if this fight does go the distance, that it might be in Lomachenko’s favor.
An illustration of this is reflected in the current odds courtesy of Sports Betting Dime “Lomachenko has a 72.0% chance to win the fight (-257 odds), while Lopez is at 23.8% (+320 odds) and a draw 4.2% (+2280 odds).
The method-of-victory props indicate that Loma is more likely to win by decision (45.0% chance, +122 odds) than stoppage (27.0%, +270 odds), whereas Lopez has a better chance to earn a stoppage win (13.5%, +640 true odds) than a decision victory (10.3%, +870 odds).”
While the odds going into a fight may not always prove to be accurate once the fighters are engaged in battle, the current odds going into Lomachenko-Lopez very much reflect the classic scenario of a boxer versus a puncher and more often than not when two fighters with contrasting styles clash, it provides a memorable night of Boxing. In terms of what may be ahead for the winner of this fight, it is important to keep in mind that unlike many marquee bouts over the years, this encounter has no rematch clause stipulated in the contract.
Of course, this does not rule out that there could be a rematch between the two especially if the fight turns into the Fight of the Year candidate that many believe it will be. What the no rematch stipulation does illustrate however, is two world champions are putting everything on the line to determine the Undisputed Lightweight championship of the world. All the ingredients for a classic encounter are there, a multi-division world champion looking to cement his legacy further by becoming an undisputed world champion against a young, unbeaten, and determined world champion looking to prove he can also be an all-time great fighter. For Boxing fans both the hardcore enthusiast as well as the casual observer, this is the type of fight most demand to see, but due to various aspects of the business of the sport rarely get to see it without waiting a significant period of time for it to come to fruition.
This is a rare instance where in part due to the circumstances of what is going on globally with an ongoing epidemic, the Boxing fan will not have to wait a lengthy period to see two fighters they want to see square off do battle, Something the sport of Boxing frankly needs more of. There simply is nothing more to say than we will see what happens on fight night, Saturday, October 17th.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Lomachenko vs Lopez takes place on Saturday, October 17th at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, NV. In the United States, the fight as well as its full undercard can be seen on ESPN across cable, satellite, and Live TV streaming platforms as well as through the ESPN app featuring ESPN’s digital subscription streaming network ESPN+ on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs beginning at 7.30PM ET/4:30PM PT. For more information about ESPN please visit: www.ESPN.com.
In the United Kingdom, Ireland, and many countries internationally, the card can be seen on combat sports digital streaming network FITE TV on a pay-per-view basis for £9.99. To check for availability in your area and start time internationally, list of compatible streaming devices/ platforms/Smart TVs, and to order please visit:www.FITE.TV.
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