Vasyl Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez preview, prediction: Ukrainian veteran to dismantle American upstart in boxing masterclass

The fight dubbed ‘Winner Takes All’ may have a majority of belts in the lightweight division up for grabs, but what’s really at stake between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez is something far more personal: each others' championship.

Deven Kanal October 17, 2020 17:01:21 IST
Vasyl Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez preview, prediction: Ukrainian veteran to dismantle American upstart in boxing masterclass

Vasyl Lomachenko (L) takes on Teofimo Lopez for the lightweight title match. AP

On Sunday, Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1) will take on Teófimo López (15-0) in a truly mouth-watering match-up. It would not be a stretch to say that with the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder rematch seemingly evaporating into the ether, the bout between the brilliant boxing wizard Lomachenko (32) and the young and brash upstart Lopez (23) is the most anticipated clash of 2020.

Indeed, the fight dubbed ‘Winner Takes All’ may have a majority of belts in the lightweight division up for grabs, but what’s really at stake is something far more personal between the combatants: the championship of each other.

Lomachenko is the man. Lopez wants to be the man.

Lomachenko is the aging lion. Lopez is the young lion.

It’s a storyline as old as the sport itself and just as intriguing.

One would be hard-pressed to find a starker contrast, professionally or personally, on either side of the ring. Let’s start with the Ukrainian.

Lomachenko: The master matador

Vasyl Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez preview prediction Ukrainian veteran to dismantle American upstart in boxing masterclass

Vasyl Lomachenko holds a 14-1-0 record going into the bout against Teofimo Lopez. AP

Boxing has a problem.

The best, and some who claim to be the The Best Ever, often refuse to fight the best.

Lomachenko, arguably the most decorated amateur in boxing’s storied history and the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the eyes of many, has no such problem.

Lomachenko has, time after time, proven that he is a class above his peers.

The man who reportedly amassed a 396-1 record in the amateur ranks wasted no time jumping into the deep end in the professional ranks.

In 2014, Lomachenko took on the cagey veteran (read: dirty fighter) Orlando Salido for a world championship in the featherweight division. It was only his second pro fight.

While it was an ill-advised move in the extreme which ended up with Lomachenko losing the bout courtesy dirty tactics and roughhousing by Salido (who outweighed Lomachenko considerably) and questionable refereeing, the Ukrainian emerged a much more complete fighter.

Over the past six years, Lomachenko has done what is expected of great fighters by stepping up weight classes to junior lightweight and lightweight while fighting and dispatching a slew of top names, including Gary Russel Jr, Nicolas Walters, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell.

It is with good reason that he is called ‘Hi-tech’ and often compared to Neo from The Matrix movies. When time is called on his career, he may well be regarded in the pantheon of the sport’s most elite.

But that time has not yet come.

And on Sunday, Lomachenko will be facing a man nine years younger, far bigger (and perhaps stronger) and most importantly, an opponent with the capacity to turn the lights out with a single blow.

Lopez: The young bull

Vasyl Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez preview prediction Ukrainian veteran to dismantle American upstart in boxing masterclass

Teofimo Lopez is unbeaten with a 15-0-0 record going into the bout. AP

Lopez, in his still budding professional career, has what promoters and fans seek most: A string of highlight reel knockouts coupled with an outlandish personality.

Lopez, with his wicked left hook and thunderous straight right, has looked spectacular in his young career while subsisting on the usual young fighter diet of has-beens, never-weres and never will-bes.

The one notable exception came in July 2019, when Lopez seemed to struggle with Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani, a far taller opponent.

In December 2019, Lopez more than made amends for that passable performance, smashing Ghanian Richard Commey in the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden inside two rounds and setting up the clash with Lomachenko, one he’s been wanting for years.

What further adds spice to the bout is that these two men genuinely don’t like each other.  Lopez’s boasts about taking over boxing and his father’s continued disrespect of Lomachenko haven’t sat well with the Ukrainian, who has vowed to “cause him pain.”

How they match-up

To put it simply? Age and experience versus the arrogance and confidence of youth. Flair and finesse against brute force.

What complicates matters is that Lomachenko is not a natural lightweight. He’s arguably fighting a division or perhaps two above his ‘natural’ weight.

Evidence of this has been seen in Lomachenko’s past fights, with the Ukrainian tasting the mat in the Linares bout and Campbell halting Lomachenko, albeit temporarily, in his tracks.

But what he lacks in size and punching power, Lomachenko more than makes up for his unorthodox footwork, unmatched ring IQ, and frankly, his creative genius at putting together combinations.

Lopez, by contrast, is in the full flush of youth and a big lightweight (he’s already speaking openly of moving up a weight division).

His best attributes, his much-vaunted power and size, combined with an underrated boxing nous makes him an extremely dangerous opponent for any fighter.

But the Ukrainian has made a career of fighting men who are bigger, stronger and making them feel “useless” in the ring.

He earned the nickname ‘No Mas Chenko’ by getting a string of big names to do the unthinkable: quit in the ring.

Lomachenko doesn't just takes fighters’ hearts. He is the eater of souls.

The trouble is Lomachenko is either at his peak, or has already began sliding past it. And we won’t know it until the fighters step into the ring and the bell sounds.

So how does one envisage the bout playing out?

The prediction: Lomachenko by decision

The Ukrainian likes to start slow. Lomachenko usually gives the first couple of rounds away as that unparalleled boxing brain of his sets to work at figuring out his opponent.

Expect no different on Sunday.

Lopez, meanwhile, will be more than happy playing the bull to Lomachenko’s matador. Trying to walk his opponent down, establishing his dominance and confidence by hurting the older, smaller fighter.

Indeed, it is the earliest rounds (from 1 to 4) in which Lopez will taste the most success and perhaps even drop the veteran with his dynamite right.

After that, expect one-way traffic: Lomachenko takes Lopez’s best weapons away, lays traps for him and throws counters to the head mixed with bodywork. As ever, Lomachenko will pay heed to the ancient boxing maxim: hit the body enough and the head will follow.

By the late rounds, Lopez will be throwing far less than he was in the early going and without the conviction or confidence behind it. Lomachenko will be content to ply his trade at his favoured mid-range, pick his shots and slowly pick Lopez apart.

On Sunday, Lopez will earn his Master’s Degree from the Lomachenko University of Boxing. And be a far better fighter for it.

Lomachenko takes the bout by decision.

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