Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time, quickly made his bet as one of the best P4P fighters in the paid ranks. It claimed the featherweight and super featherweight belts and is now on its way to standardizing the lightweight division. Standing in his way is one of the brightest horizons of boxing, 23-year-old Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) who claimed the IBF title with Richard Comey destroying his last fight.
Lomachenko became a professional after taking a second Olympic gold medal at the London Olympics. He fought for the title only in his second fight, lost to Orlando Salido, and won a belt in his third against Gary Russell Jr. This linked Saensak Muangsurin’s record for the shortest championship distance in history. Then Lomachenko dominated all the way to the lighter weight and snapped up some gorgeous scalps along the way, notably Nicholas Walters, Guillermo Rigondo, and Jorge Linares.
Lopez was also an Olympic player, representing Honduras at the Rio Olympics where he lost to silver medalist Sofiane Umea. He became a professional after the games and quickly emerged as one of the best prospects for the 2016 Olympic category – arguably the best prospect in the boxing period.
Lomachenko is a defensive genius, who masterfully combines footwork with head movement and an excellent goalkeeper to become almost untouchable in the ring. His defense is used to make precise combinations of body and head or pivot to his right and take an outward angle on orthodox opponents. Lomachenko’s ability to have his defense flow so smoothly into the attack associated with his defensive manipulation makes him a nightmare to fight, as evidenced by four of his opponents who retired from the chair.
Lopez is a devastating punch with extremely fast hands. It uses a shoulder defense to mount the counters, is mainly an excellent top right hand and is very fond of the right hand pull counter. The straight right and the top line are usually followed by a destructive left hook. Once his opponent got a rebound several times and tasted their strength, he showed a tendency to try to coerce the KO a little bit but that was against the opponent who was not too risky and I’m going back to wanting to please the crowd and I think Teofimo is smart enough not to try to force the problem against elite competition.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Lopez wins a decision without badly hurting Blumachenko at some point, but I don’t think there is anyone who is lightweight who has a better chance of managing that. He’s already announced a future move of 140 pounds and he’s going to be bigger than a Ukrainian, hitting hard, and he could be a little faster. He can not rely only on meters for this, and the key for him will be the body. Lomachenko’s multi-layered defense makes it extremely difficult to hit him cleanly on the head, but his body is a relatively easier target that Lopez must be able to find with his straight right. The early rounds will likely be extremely frustrating for Lopez, but he should use them to deplete Luma’s energy as much as possible and increase his chances of catching up with him with something big later in the fight and making his strength a factor.
With all that being said while there is a way to win for Lopez which is his best at lightweight or less, Lomachenko is a favorite of -400 for a reason. I hope Lopez can push Lomachenko and there is every reason to believe that he can, but at the end of the day I expect the great Ukrainian player to overtake him and raise his hand again on Saturday.
Whether Lomachenko continues his dominance and adds another belt to his group or Lopez scores a huge hit, this is an excellent match in which it puts the best fighter boxing in front of its next brightest and no one is even interested in it from a distance. You must miss the sweet flag.