Lomachenko Finally Gets A Rival, Lomachenko vs. Lopez, Tonight, on ESPN

Even after Vasiliy Lomachenko’s two-loss in his career between the amateurs and pros, in which Lomachenko went 396-1 in the amateurs, and 14-1 as a pro, rarely has the standout fighter been in a fight in which he seemed to show disdain for his opponent. Even after avenging his loss to Albert Selimov, twice, Lomachenko has been a boxer who treated the sport which masquerades as a business, as strictly a sport.

Enter Teofimo Lopez, the leader of the new-school currently, as Lopez has stepped up to face the famed Lomachenko in only his sixteenth professional fight. Lopez is challenging the past era, as Lomachenko, at 32-years-old, is in the most compelling bout of his career, against a fighter who could care less about all that he has accomplished. Lopez to put it bluntly wants Lomachenko to prove it to him, rather than be told how great Lomachenko is. 

Lomachenko, one of the smartest fighters ever, to ever enter the ring, has seen most of his pro bouts fail to reach the level of excitement based on his foe. When he won the WBO featherweight world title in his third fight against Gary Russell Jr, it was on a PBC card that had in the fight as the co-main event, Russell’s inactivity versus the newness of a professional in Lomachenko, as Lomachenko coming off a loss, gave a mild vibe. Lomachenko’s loss to Orlando Salido, who came in overweight might I add, served as a rude awakening for all, and Lomachenko’s wins over Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux were so one-sided against guys, who didn’t move the needle in media markets, they got remembered for the outcome alone, despite especially Rigondeaux’s technical brilliance and Walters coming off a brutal KO of Nonito Donaire.

The closest we have seen Lomachenko in a fight that captured the boxing world’s imagination was when he fought Jorge Linares, and even then most of the boxing public still favored Lomachenko. I guess, things haven’t changed that much, as most still favor Lomachenko in this bout tonight, but a lot of people are hesitant to let their opinion be known prior, the tell-tell sign of a great fight.

The spiritual opposite, Teofimo Lopez, a man whose persona is the exact opposite of Lomachenko. Lopez is loud, brash, and unabrasive. Lopez will gladly boast what he will do, while Lomachenko will look give a brief answer, but his stare will be menacing. These two are nothing alike.

Body language experts tried to read into the press conference, but the simple fact is, there is nothing to read into it. Lopez and Lomachenko are completely different people. 

The weigh-in provided a bit more insight as Lopez went under the barrier for COVID protocol, and invited Lomachenko over as well. Without hesitation, Lomachenko took him up on his offer, one of the first times we have seen Lomachenko the competitor come out prior to the bout.

Lomachenko gave up money for this bout to happen as some of his purse went to Teofimo Lopez and it seems as though Lomachenko understands this fight could define his legacy to many, as despite his two Olympic gold medals, historic world title win, and holding world titles in three weight division, the natural featherweight, who moved up to lightweight and stopped Jorge Linares, Anthony Crolla, and dismantled Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell, has a point to prove.

Lopez has brought out the monster in Lomachenko. One that Lomachenko has concealed for so long, but the general public has always wanted to see.

Sometimes transcendent stars like Lomachenko, who have done something so great, it is hard to process, never get their respect until they get a true foil. – Whether Lomachenko wins or loses, he has a fight that has stopped the world of boxing, which up until this point he hasn’t had despite his obviously elite traits in the sport. 

The bout feels like a legendary UFC bout, say an Anderson Silva versus Chael Sonnen, a blood feud, in which no matter the outcome, both will become beloved to a certain per group. Unless someone loses in a humiliating fashion.

In the lead-up to this bout, we have learned more about Lomachenko than ever. Lomachenko loves a certain style of designer clothes, his answers are brief, despite everyone wanting to say the fight is personal, Lomachenko gives you nothing to go on. One thing is clear – Lomachenko is a competitive alpha male who doesn’t want to give Lopez any form of an advantage. 

It is now the fight morning, you might be ordering a pizza, or drinking a cup of coffee, or even at work, but if you’re reading this you love the sport of boxing, and you’re excited. We can sit and make predictions, but that is boring. The bout is almost here,

Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez battle for all four belts in the lightweight division, Lomachenko’s WBA, WBO, and WBC “franchise” championship as well as Lopez’s IBF, at 7 PM PST on ESPN.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle