One Last Look at Lomachenko v Lopez
“I'm gonna expose Lomachenko, im gonna kill this guy, we’re going to war” - Lopez
“Maybe in his neck of the woods they didn't teach you to watch your tongue, I think if you say things you must answer for them” - Lomachenko.
As Loma stared and Lopez taunted at this week's press conference the boxing world realised just how gargantuan the boxing match taking place this weekend really is. Not only do we have a pound for pound star taking on a vicious challenger, we have genuine bad blood.
First we have the Ukrainian wizard Vasyl Lomachenko. Reigning Ring Magazine, WBA, WBC (Franchise) and WBO world lightweight Champion, he is considered by many to be the best fighter on the planet.
King of creative footwork, exploiter of angles, master of ambidextrous attacks, we have come to know the mastery of the man they call the Matrix.
Like a spider entageling it’s prey we have seen him ensnare great fighter after great fighter in his mesmorings web. Rigondeaux, Russell, Linares, Pedraza, Crolla, Campbell, many have tried, all have failed.
Teófimo López however believes he will be able to achieve what the others have not. He says he is fitter, stronger and hungrier than Lomachenko, the uncrowned prince of boxing just waiting to seize the throne.
Only 23 years old Lopez has torn through 15 opponents without incident, showing a diverse set of skills and as well as thunderous punching power.
Several factors will define this bout, several key dichotomies in these two disparate figures.
Their first key difference is experience, on the surface both have exactly 15 professional bouts and a vast amatuer background but this isn't the whole story. Lopez may have a 150-20 record at golden gloves and even appeared at the olympics, but his rival is one of the best amatuer boxers of all time.
Two olympic gold medals, two Val Baker trophies for best boxer at the Olympics, Two world championships gold medals, a world junior gold and a European gold. A record that makes Teofimo’s one golden gloves win seem a meager achievement.
In the professional side of the game, the gulf in achievement and opposition glares once again. Teofimo Lopez has fought one world champion in one world title fight. Lomachenko has fought nine world champions in fourteen world championship fights.
Experience, however, comes with age, and this is the intangible upon which Teofimo Lopez is banking. Lopez is wagering that all those fights, all those gruelling hours in the gym, the years of physical punishment in tough eastern block boxing academies has taken a physical toll on Lomachenko.
He believes his youth, his energy, his zeal will be able to overwhelm the man almost ten years his junior, against all the odds, his own David and Goliath story.
Contrary to the story of David and Goliath, it is skill not size that gives Lomachenko his stature and ironically it is the underdog who carries the far larger frame. Lopez has talked openly of campaigning as high as 160lbs and is huge for the weight.
Lomachenko on the other hand is far smaller, a natural featherweight, whose skills have carried him up to lightweight. Although Lopez is sure to be bigger, questions have been raised as to whether this is a double edged sword, depending on how he makes the weight. If Lopez relies on overtraining and dehydration to weigh 135lbs, he is sure to squander his size advantage.
The final, and most crucial element is psychological. As long as there has been fighting there has been mind games, and this fight has brimmed with them even before the ink was dry on the contacts.
Team Lopez has gone on the offensive, both senior (Lopez’s father and coach) and Junior have openly attacked Lomachenko, his style, skills and opponents. Although I feel this is more a demonstration of the Dunning–Kruger effect, it has seemed to solidify Teofimo’s confidence and incense Lomachenko.
The incensed Lomachenko is something new. We have only ever seen cheerful stoicism from the Ukrainian, smiling and brushing off insults. This time though, we have seen a new side of the champion. Intently staring at Lopez, forcing eye contact, talking about retribution and vengeance, many now fear Lopez has awoken a sleeping dragon.
There are a thousand metaphors you can see this fight through, many of which I've used, but there's one that sticks in my mind;
In my mind I see Lopez like a well built ship, sturdy, powerful. The peak of human ingenuity, strong bows of oak. carved exquisitely. Manned by a well trained crew, determined to cross the sea at any cost, but hubristic, naive of the dangers of the ocean.
Lomachenko is the ocean. Mysterious, complex, unpredictable and impossibly poweful, barely of this world at all. Vast and unconquerable, full of leviathans, monsters in the murky depths. Some rounds he can be smooth and passive learning your ways, but when you show weaknesses he conjures a storm, dragging you under and keeping you there forever.
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee - Rembrandt
Ewan Breeze for SimBoxx