SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 17, 2020 – Boxing purists got everything they hoped to see in Saturday’s lightweight championship fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr., but nothing they expected.
Lopez Jr. (16-0, 12 KOs) won without delivering the power-punching beatdown of his previous fights. Instead, the 23-year-old from Brooklyn took a page from the master’s playbook, producing a patient, crafty performance against pound for pound great Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) to become the younger ever unified champion by unanimous decision. Scores were 119-109, 117-111, and 116-112.
Lopez Jr. demonstrated boxing skills and ring IQ most people hadn’t ever given him credit for. It didn’t require a knockout or even a single knockdown for him to dominate a fighter who had made former champions quit in frustration. Lopez Jr. made a believer of any doubters left.
With all four belts around his shoulders, an emotional Lopez Jr. said after the fight, “I gotta thank God …I had to dig deep man. I’m thankful I’m grateful, Each and every day I take that in. I thank God first. I couldn’t do it without him. I walk by faith for a reason. Now it feels good.”
As expected, Lopez Jr. was the busier fighter in the early rounds. Lomachenko was in no hurry to show his cards, content to flick a counterpunch occasionally and move around the younger man.
Lopez Jr. began to follow up his jabs finding the target with a right hand to the body. He gave Lomachenko a lot to think about. Lopez Jr. showed good speed along with the power. Most impressive and counterintuitive, Lopez Jr. was patient. He won rounds without putting himself in danger mostly by being the busier man in the ring.
But Lopez Jr. had to know when Lomachenko is still, he is as dangerous as a rattlesnake. Lomachenko began to dip and move, giving Lppez Jr. some new things to look at. Lopez Jr. tagged Lomachenko to the body. Lomachenko delivered a few headshots, but it was another early-round for the American.
Lomachenko used foot movement to try and locate a way to close distance without too much risk. Against Lopez Jr. it meant risking getting ripped to the body. After five rounds, Lopez Jr. had thrown 170 punches; Lomachenko only 40.
Patience pays off for Lopez Jr.
Lopez Jr. stayed composed, remaining patient, and efficient. He didn’t swarm Lomachenko, but he never stopped applying pressure. Round after round, the hole grew deeper for the Ukrainian champion.
With half the fight behind them, it was hard to see how Lomachenko could craft a new strategy. By the eighth round, Lomachenko finally seemed to feel some urgency and turn on the aggression. He surprised and stunned Lopez Jr. with accurate combinations, pushing the younger man onto the back foot. Lopez Jr. was too thrown off to answer, but it was playing with fire. It was the Lomachenko who should have showed up in round four, and the first round he won on any judge’s scorecard.
Lopez Jr. looked as if he could end the fight with a punch, but he didn’t need to. His boxing skills were so disciplined and on point he could control the action without much risk. It was Lomachenko who needed to take a risk and stop Lopez Jr. from picking him apart. Defensive caution can’t win a fight. He exchanged with Lopez Jr., and the surprise was seeing Lopez Jr. be smart and fight intelligently, not recklessly. Lomachenko could not score either the knockdowns or stoppage he needed to pull out the victory.
“I‘m a fighter, I got to dig in deep. I know he was coming,” said Lopez Jr. “I can’t give him that chance. I don’t know if they got him up on the cards or not.
‘He’s his Kryptonite’
Lopez Jr. explained how he was able to win when so many others had fallen short. “Honestly, you just gotta keep pressuring him, keep putting the gas on him. All you got to do is keep sticking the jab, and don’t give him the opportunity set up. Every time he did want to throw, I had something ready for him to stop his momentum.”
Lopez Jr. also felt his opponent’s 14-month layoff hurt him. “I knew it was going to take a long time for him to catch up.”
The former champion was understandably disappointed in assessing the fight. “I think in the first half of the fight, he got more rounds than I did,” he admitted. “In the second half of the fight, I took it over and did much better. I have to go home and look at the fight. I don’t agree with the judges’ scorecards. At the moment, I think I fought and was winning the fight. But the results is the results, I’m not going to argue now.”
“My son was the better man today. He did something no one thought he could do. He outboxed him,” said trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr. “He gave him a clinic. I really didn’t see him winning any rounds. He took those shots really good, I have to give it to him … he’s never fought a guy like my son. He’s his Kryptonite.”
Lightweight division looming next for Lopez Jr.
Lopez Sr. said he didn’t see any reason for his son to stay at 135 pounds. “He’s been suffering at this weight for seven years already,” and would move to the 140-pound division to take on the champions there such as Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor.
Lopez Jr. is all for it. “Take me to 140, I can go and get, fight the two-time world champion Devin Haney, if they want that. I love messing with everybody. It’s the takeover man, it’s time for the new generation to come up, I’m leading the way. Shakur Stevenson, Edgar Berlanga, Jose Ramirez. So many cats are ready to take over the world.”
Would Lopez Jr. entertain a rematch? “For what? For what? They didn’t give me a rematch clause for a reason,” said Lopez Jr. “He’s got to suck it up now. Out with the old, in with the new.
Lomachenko said he would now go home to Ukraine and talk with his promoter and manager to make a decision about what comes next. It would not be a surprise to see Lomachenko drop into a smaller weight class more suited to him at 130 pounds or even 126 pounds, and rebuild upon the foundation of what has been an impressive career, Saturday’s loss takes nothing from his legacy.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalism covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News based in San Diego, California. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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