It’s been rough for boxing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has for other sports, but that ends tonight with Lomachenko vs. Lopez.
Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Teofimo Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs) hate each other and, sometimes, that’s all you need when you have two supremely talented fighters.
Boxing, though, has more theatrics than I would like, but I understand its place – they are building the fight. The promoters and fighters need to do whatever they need to do to draw eyeballs and sell tickets (not so much the latter these days).
The theatrics, more times than not, result in a good guy vs. bad guy dynamic and it’s contrived and forced.
For this fight that animosity isn’t manufactured. They despise each other.
How Lopez can win
Lopez has the reach advantage, but he’s not much of a jabber. His main focus needs to be pressure. It’s his strength, and he needs to force the action. Lopez needs to step forward and throw, but he cannot be a head hunter (that would end poorly for him). He needs to work the body, step around, and land upstairs.
Jorge Linares showed the world that Lomachenko could be caught coming in. Lopez has devastating one-punch knockout power on top of his ability to pounce on a hurt opponent (ask Richard Commey, who Lopez utterly destroyed in two rounds last December).
Lopez’s overriding number one key is to force the action in a controlled manner because if he’s at all wild, Lomachenko would have a field day and end it before Lomachenko can properly adjust. Lopez has to hurt him early. He has to throw his power-laden right hand regularly and move.
If Lopez can touch up Lomachenko in the first couple of rounds and force Lomachenko off his game, something we only saw in his first professional fight against Orlando Salido and very briefly when Linares knocked him down in the sixth round of their bout in May of 2018. The size advantage must also be used to Lopez’s advantage as he is the more natural lightweight.
How Lomachenko can win
Lomachenko has one of, if not the, most impressive amateur career in boxing history. He concluded his amateur career, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and a record of 396-1.
The point in mentioning that is he has seen every style you can throw at him. He always overcomes. Most of the time, he can recognize his opponents game plan before they’re able to implement it fully. This disorients his opponents.
If Lomachenko can avoid uncharacteristically jumping into Lopez’s power, he should be able to control the ring with his unmatched footwork. His overall reaction time may be a tick slower than when he was blowing through the 130 lbs division; it’s still nothing that Lopez has seen before.
This will be, by far, Lopez’s biggest fight. He has not been in the ring with anyone remotely resembling Lomachenko.
Only once have I ever seen a fighter with the footwork on both offense and defense that was so starkly superior to his opponents, and that was a prime Floyd Mayweather Jr when he was completely trashing the super featherweight division.
Lomachenko is too smart and too motivated. I like him to win via wide UD.