By: Rich Lopez
One of the most anticipated fights of the year takes place this weekend. Lightweight supremacy is on the line when Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez square off on Saturday night, live on ESPN at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Not only are all the belts (WBC, IBF, WBA, and IBF) on the line but the winner will be king of the lightweights. The fight has all the ingredients to be explosive and entertaining.
Vasiliy “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KO’s) of Ukraine, is a gifted fighter. He has accomplished a lot as a professional in only seven years. He is recognized as one of the best amateur fighters of all time with an incredible record of 396-1. Also, add to the fact, he is a two time Olympic gold medalist. There was a lot of hype on Lomachenko once he signed up with Top Rank back in 2013 to start his pro career. The goal was for him to win a world title at featherweight in his second pro bout but he came up short in a split decision loss to seasoned veteran Orlando Salido. There was no shame in the loss as he was competitive with his man on the night.
Since then, Lomachenko would just get better. In his third pro fight, he won the vacant WBO World Featherweight title by majority decision over Gary Russell Jr. After three successful title defenses, he moved up to the super featherweight division. Lomachenko would have his most impressive run there and one that would build him as an unstoppable force. He stopped Roman Martinez with a fifth round knockout to win the WBO World Super Featherweight title. After that, he made four title defenses by making all his opponents quit. Those opponents were: Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga, and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Nicknames like the “Matrix” and “Nomaschenko” were being said to describe him.
Lomachenko kept the momentum going and moved up to the lightweight division. He won the WBA World Lightweight title by stopping Jorge Linares in the tenth round. He then defeated Jose Pedraza by unanimous decision for the WBO strap, knocked out Anthony Crolla in the fourth round for the Ring Magazine title and defeated Luke Campbell by unanimous decision for the WBC title. With only fifteen fights to his name, Lomachenko has won titles in three different weight classes and is considered one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound.
While Lomachenko was securing his legacy, Teofimo Lopez was both quietly and quickly rising in the lightweight rankings.
Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KO’s) from Brooklyn, New York, was an outstanding amateur fighter racking up a record of 150-20. His success in the unpaid ranks led to a 2016 Olympic birth as well. His run to the gold ended in the opening round via controversial decision to Sofiane Oumiha of France. Soon after the games, his talents were noticed and he was immediately signed to a contract with Top Rank in the same year.
Lopez kept a busy schedule and went from a top rising prospect to top contender and now, thanks to a deleterious right hand, a world champion.
With each step up in competition, the Brooklyn native has delivered. Lopez produced one of the knockouts of the year in 2018 when he blasted out Mason Menard in the first round. Last year, Lopez made a remarkable statement. In February, Lopez stopped Diego Magdaleno in seven rounds. With only a two month break, Lopez came back and stopped Edis Tatli in five rounds in April. In July, Lopez won a 12 round unanimous decision over Masayoshi Nakatani, although he did struggle with his unheralded opponent.
Finally, at the end of last year, laced his shoulders with gold as he defeated then title holder Richard Commey by blasting him out in the second round. Many observers felt Commey’s power and experience would test Lopez, but Lopez proved he was for real.
Now the question is: Who will win this battle?
The experts favor Lomachenko to win the fight by decision. This is expected as Lomachenko is currently the lightweight king and has the experience in big fights. Also, Lomachenko has a good ring IQ mixed with speed and great footwork. Lomachenko’s style is difficult to beat. Most people feel it’s too early for Lopez and needs more seasoning. However, an upset can happen and if it does, I won’t be surprised.
Lopez is the bigger fighter and a very big lightweight. On top of that, he’s a hard puncher and explosive. Also, I think he is quick enough where he can catch Lomachenko with big punches. We have to remember, even though Lomachenko has been successful at lightweight thus far, he has not been as dominant as in past fights and has been hit a little more now. Lomachenko has been dominant at featherweight and super featherweight but not so much at lightweight.
This is a 50/50 fight in my eyes which makes it the most anticipated of the year. Lomachenko said at the final press conference, that this fight will be a “chess match”. If it is and it goes the distance, I expect Lomachenko to win a decision. If there is a knockout in the fight, I see Lopez stopping Lomachenko within eight rounds.
So finally, will Lopez pull off the upset, or will Lomachenko remind everyone why he is one of the best fighters pound for pound?