Vasyl Lomachenko v Teofimo Lopez: Lightweight champions ready to settle rivalry in Vegas bubble

By Sports Desk October 16, 2020

Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez have the chance to prove who is the number one lightweight on Saturday, as two fighters at contrasting stages of their careers clash in Las Vegas.

The much-anticipated unification contest takes place inside Top Rank's MGM Grand's Bubble, a mouthwatering main event in which the two leading protagonists both have a point to prove.

Lomachenko has the pedigree, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

Yet the Ukrainian – considered not just the best at the weight but also a leading contender to be recognised as the pound-for-pound king – is putting more than just the WBA and WBO belts on the line. 

His reputation is at stake against a fighter – and a father – who have not been shy in making clear their intentions for a while, long before Lopez Jr became a champion himself by brutally taking the IBF title from Richard Commey inside two rounds last December. 

Teofimo Lopez Sr has long been convinced his son has the power and precision to expose the lauded Lomachenko – and did not mind telling him as much when they were in the same hotel lobby in December 2018. 

That meeting sparked a rivalry that has simmered ever since. On Saturday, though, the heat will be turned up to boiling point. The trash talk has riled Lomachenko, now Lopez has to back it up.

The undefeated 23-year-old has age on his side and is the more comfortable at the limit, a heavy handed hitter who has – so far – backed up both his and his father's confidence with 15 straight wins. 

Still, this is different – this is Lomachenko, a supremely skilled boxer who has needed to move through the divisions to find bigger challenges in every sense. He has normally passed those tests with flying colours, too.

Is this a step too far, though? Can, as his dad has always believed, Lopez be the one to solve 'The Matrix' inside the ring? Thankfully, boxing fans do not have to wait too much longer to find out. 

RECENT HISTORY

As already mentioned, Lopez was ruthless against Commey to claim the IBF strap, handing the dethroned champion the first stoppage loss of his professional career.

That followed on from wins inside the distance over Diego Magdaleno and Edis Tatli earlier in the year, though Masayoshi Nakatani went 12 rounds in July 2019 before being beaten comfortably on the scorecards.

In contrast to his next opponent, Lomachenko's previous outing saw him require the scorecards to triumph against Luke Campbell in August 2019. A knockdown in the 11th helped lead to a comfortable points win, though the final margins did not do justice to the Englishman's brave efforts.

Campbell's compatriot Anthony Crolla had been crushed four months earlier, while the impressive Lomachenko CV includes victories over Jose Pedraza and Jorge Linares at lightweight.

TALE OF THE TAPE

VASYL LOMACHENKO

Age: 32
Height: 5ft 7ins (170cm)
Weight: 9st 6lbs (135 pounds)
Reach: 65.5ins 
Professional record: 14-1 (10 KOs)
Major career titles: WBO featherweight, WBO super-featherweight, WBA, WBC & WBO lightweight

TEOFIMO LOPEZ

Age: 23
Height: 5ft 8ins (173cm)
Weight: 9st 6lbs (135 pounds)
Reach: 68.5ins 
Professional record: 15-0 (12 KOs)
Major career titles: IBF lightweight

THE UNDERCARD

Alex Saucedo, whose only loss came against Maurice Hooker in 2018, and the undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr go up against each other in a super-lightweight clash that should help whet the appetite for what is to follow on the menu.

In the same division, Josue Vargas takes on Kendo Castaneda, while unbeaten super-middleweight Edgar Berlanga is up against Lanell Bellows in an eight-rounder. However, the main course is all that really matters this weekend.

WHAT THE FIGHTERS HAVE TO SAY..

Lopez Jr to Stats Perform News: "I expect him to get hurt, badly, with the explosiveness I bring to the table. I knew I was the underdog coming into this. Listen, it doesn't motivate me any different, it doesn't change anything, you know what I mean? That is really what it comes to. I knew I was going to be the underdog coming into this fight."

Lomachenko on his opponent's pre-fight talk: "For me, it's just words. On Saturday, we will see."

Promoter Bob Arum on Lomachenko: "He doesn't want an easy fight or to win a decision, he wants to win by destroying his opponent. Floyd Mayweather was a great defensive fighter. But unlike Mayweather, Loma is always looking for a way to destroy his opponents. That's what makes him a fan-friendly fighter."

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    Lopez dethroned Lomachenko by unanimous decision to add the WBA, WBO and WBC 'franchise' titles to his IBF belt in Las Vegas Saturday.

    The 23-year-old emerged victorious over 12 rounds at MGM Grand, where he became the youngest four-belt champion since the WBO was founded in 1988.

    After snapping Lomachenko's 13-fight winning streak, Lopez (16-0) turned to 'regular' WBC champion and American rival Haney (24-0).

    "Man, take me to 140," Lopez said after judges scored the fight 116-112, 119-109 and 117-113 in his favour.

    "Or I could fight the two-time email world champion Devin Haney if they want that."

    Haney replied via Twitter, writing: "Lopez vs Haney 2021 Let's do it! AllTheBelts".

    Lomachenko had the pedigree heading into the bout, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

    But the Ukrainian star was also coming off a 14-month layoff as Lopez controlled the early rounds before withstanding a late rally.

    "Just tried to keep pressuring him," Lopez said. "Just don't give him the jab, don't let him set up. Every time he did want to throw, I had something ready for him to stop the momentum.

    "He was on a 14-month lay-off, and I knew it was going to take time for him to catch up." 

    Despite Lopez's early superiority, Lomachenko insisted: "I think the first half of the fight he got more rounds than I did, but in the second half of the fight I took over.

     I definitely don't agree with the scorecards. At the moment, I thought I won. But the results are the results."

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    All eyes were on the MGM Grand, where Lomachenko put his WBA, WBO and WBC belts on the line in the blockbuster unification bout against IBF holder Lopez.

    Lopez (16-0) emerged victorious over 12 rounds on Saturday, the 23-year-old completing an upset against pound-for-pound Ukrainian star as he unified the lightweight division inside the Las Vegas bubble.

    The judges scored the fight 116-112, 119-109 and 117-113 in favour of unbeaten American Lopez, who snapped Lomachenko's (14-2) 13-fight winning streak after withstanding a late flurry to become the youngest four-belt champion since the WBO was founded in 1988.

    "I'm a fighter," said Lopez afterwards. "I gotta dig in deep. I knew he was coming. I didn't know if they had him up on the scorecards or not, and I love to fight.

    "I can bang, too. I don't care, man. I'll take one to give one. That's what a true champion does. I find a way to win."

    It was a clash to decide the number one lightweight and a showdown between two fighters at contrasting stages of their careers.

    Lomachenko had the pedigree heading into the bout, stemming back to a glittering amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals, through to winning world titles in three different divisions in the paid ranks. 

    Lopez, meanwhile, had long been talked about as boxing's next big star, long before brutally taking the IBF title from Richard Commey inside two rounds last December.

    Lomachenko was slow out of the blocks as Lopez took control of the first half of the fight, outworking the 32-year-old with his speed and pinpoint accuracy.

    Out of sorts, Lomachenko – back in action following a 14-month layoff – eventually came into the fight in the eighth round but by that time, the damage had already been done.

    Sensing he was behind, Lomachenko ramped up the pressure with a late rally in the championship rounds, however, Lopez landed significant shots to halt his opponent and become the new lightweight king.

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    "December 12 is the date and once again the heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK," said Joshua, as per Sky Sports. 

    "The O2 is the original lion's den, I have a lot of history with the arena, but without the fans something huge is missing. I am really hoping that, safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see. I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation." 

    Pulev, 39, has lost just one of his 29 professional bouts - a knockout at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. 

    "For a small country of Bulgaria to stand up for the heavyweight titles is a great accomplishment," said Pulev. 

    "This fight is for my late father and all Bulgarians around the world. I'm coming to London to seize the heavyweight championship of the world." 

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    "After a challenging year for everyone, to end with the unified world heavyweight championship is very special," he said. 

    "Over a year after regaining his crown, Anthony Joshua takes on yet another dangerous opponent in mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. AJ's resume is unrivalled, and this is the final hurdle until we challenge for the undisputed crown next year."

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