By: Hans Themistode
When Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez was first announced, there were only two possible outcomes that could occur for their highly anticipated matchup. Either the Ukrainian native would box circles around his younger opponent for 12 full rounds, or the younger and more explosive Lopez would turn off Lomachenko’s lights.
Yet, when the two matched up this past weekend with all of the lightweight marbles on the line, none of those perceived notions came true.
Lopez, 23, easily outboxed his man during the first half of their contest, winning the first six rounds on most viewers scorecards. The Brooklyn native also finished strong, although Lomachenko held the clear edge during the second half.
It was puzzling to watch who many suspect was the best boxer of his generation in Lomachenko, fight so passively early on. His connect rate of four punches per round through the first half was a far cry from the normally active and accurate fighter many had grown accustomed to seeing.
Amongst those who were baffled by what they were witnessing was trainer, Abel Sanchez. As the rounds ticked by and the deficit grew for Lomachenko, Sanchez simply couldn’t believe what he was watching.
“I didn’t think that Lopez was going to a decision because of the experience on Loma’s side but he gave away too many rounds during the first part of the fight,” said Sanchez to Fight Hub TV. ”You can’t give anybody half of the fight. It wasn’t necessary for him to do that.”
Lomachenko’s boxing IQ has often been described as a supercomputer, downloading information quickly before using all his newfound data to destroy his opponents. With that being said, the Ukrainian product simply wasn’t able to process what was standing in front of him fast enough. Many, including team Lopez, believe the power kept Lomachenko both honest and worried. To Sanchez however, if you took time to watch Lopez’s highlight reel, the power was obvious, but not his other attribute.
“I don’t think the power was the issue. The power Loma can deal with because he has great defense. I think Loma was surprised by the speed. I don’t think they wanted to give away six rounds, maybe part of it. But again, I think the speed was something Loma wasn’t expecting. He wasn’t able to counter as well as he usually does because of the speed of Lopez.”
Watching Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) over the years has impressed Sanchez. The way he saunters into a room and makes brazen and aggressive predictions has caught his attention as well. But as he witnessed the 23 year old outbox Lomachenko this past weekend, a light bulb has gone off in his head in terms of a suitable comparison.
“I think that Teofimo Lopez is the closet that we’ve come in the last 30-35 years to Roberto Duran. He has that meanness, he has that bravado, he has that skill but he still has a lot to learn and a long way to go to be compared to Roberto Duran. But he’s as close as we’ve seen in a long, long time.”