By: Sean Crose
“Who dares wins.”
The above is the motto of the British Special Forces’ SAS, about as elite a fighting unit as one is apt to come across. It also could be the motto of one Teofimo Lopez as he prepares to slip in between the ropes on Saturday evening to face the phenomenal Vasyl Lomachenko for lightweight glory. Their battle, which goes down in the bubble at Vegas’ MGM Grand, will be for numerous titles and is perhaps the most anticipated fight of the year (that certainly seems to be the case with serious fight fans). There’s little doubt that Lopez stands to make a considerable amount of money, as well as receive a great deal of exposure, as the fight will be aired live on ESPN.
There’s more to this than just a major matchup, however. You know it. I know it. And the rest of boxing’s knowledgeable fan base knows it. This is the story of a young man whose willing to buck the sport’s contemporary safety first mindset and – wait for it – actually challenge himself with an opponent who may well beat him handily. Make no mistake about it – Lomachenko is a master at mind games. One simply doesn’t make top boxers retire on their stools repeatedly without possessing a serious psychological edge.
This isn’t to say Lopez doesn’t have some menacing gifts of his own. He has them in abundance. First off, there’s the power – that explosive, out of nowhere power. Some fighters’ punches are like cannon shots. A Teofimo Lopez blow can seem like a drone strike. One second, an opponent is planning his next move, the next, he’s floating around aimlessly in the stratosphere somewhere. But there’s more to the man than just power. Lopez has something that other hard hitters don’t – the ability to regularly hit effectively. You won’t see Lopez going wild in the ring. What you will see is a man who maximizes his ability to effectively turn out the lights. Lots of guys can hit hard. Lopez knows how make the punches count.
Yet Lomachenko is the master of shutting down an offense, not through brilliant defensive tactics, but through a blistering offense of his won. Oh, the man can avoid a shot better than anyone, but “Loma” is at his best moving in through a series of puzzling angles while throwing punches of varying power rapidly, a tactic which can completely overwhelm and break even the most hardened of fighters.
The opponent with a strong enough mind to withstand such pressure might well be the one to break Lomachenko. Credit Lopez for being willing to step up to the challenge at the age of 23.