The second has lastly arrived. By way of years of conflict and antagonization, particular person paths to titles and at last a worldwide pandemic, on Saturday, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. will step between the ropes to battle for light-weight world titles from all 4 main sanctioning our bodies on the MGM Grand Conference Middle in Las Vegas (ESPN and ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET).
It is onerous to overstate what this combat may imply, each to the fighters and the game on the whole. Lomachenko, the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer on the earth, towards one of many fastest-rising fighters within the sport in Lopez, with stakes that could not be any larger.
With all due respect to Devin Haney, the winner of this combat shall be seen because the unified light-weight champion of the world.
That does not imply the stakes for every boxer is identical, as every fighter takes this combat at dramatically completely different factors of their respective careers, regardless of it being the sixteenth professional combat for each Lomachenko and Lopez.
For Lomachenko, a win would additional solidify his declare as the perfect fighter on the planet. Whereas there are a number of different boxers who can even rightfully make that declare — Canelo Alvarez, Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford amongst them — a win of this magnitude would additional set Lomachenko aside. A victory over a gifted younger foe who’s 10 years his junior can be a major assertion, as he would add one other well-known identify to his resume on the age of 32.
In the case of Lopez, a victory would show that he is not only a gifted fighter with super upside, however one thing past that — a star. What number of different boxers, at simply 23 years outdated, may declare to be the unified champion of division, and achieve it by toppling an elite boxer within the course of?
In an age wherein many fighters are guided fastidiously to world titles and cling to them with second-rate fights for too lengthy, Lopez has taken the street much less traveled. If he will get to his vacation spot, the “Takeover,” as he calls it, shall be full.
Can Teofimo Lopez again up his father’s predictions?
Teofimo Lopez Jr. is one in every of boxing’s greatest rising stars, nevertheless it would not come with out an unlimited quantity of assist from his coach, his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr.
Whereas Lopez and Lomachenko face off in one of many greatest title unification bouts in current reminiscence, the person who is perhaps on the spot most may not be both of the boxers entering into the ring.
That mantle belongs to the person who in some ways spoke this combat into existence as he boldly proclaimed that his son — whereas he was nonetheless only a prospect — would topple somebody who is taken into account the perfect boxer on the earth.
Again when Lopez was simply reducing his tooth on High Rank undercards — a few of these reveals had been headlined by Lomachenko — Teofimo Lopez Sr., within the eyes of many observers, dedicated the cardinal sin of not solely failing to bow all the way down to Lomachenko’s greatness however being downright disdainful.
He had the temerity to inform anybody who would pay attention that his son would defeat Lomachenko sooner moderately than later.
Now, because the day of reckoning approaches, does the daddy really feel any additional apprehension?
“Under no circumstances. I do not see something I ought to be nervous about,” he instructed ESPN. My son may be very ready for this combat. I’ve by no means seen him as hungry as he’s proper now.”
Lopez Sr. has described this combat camp, which was as soon as once more held in acquainted territory for the Lopez clan — in Flemington, New Jersey — as ”phenomenal.” He has not backed away from his statements with regard to this combat and the way it performs out.
“We’ll make this simpler than the [Richard] Commey combat,” he mentioned. “I really feel unhealthy for Loma, however a brand new lion’s gotta are available and take over this division.”
For Lopez Sr. — who really wears a cap that claims “Nostradamus” — this imaginative and prescient started lengthy earlier than his son stopped the usually sturdy Commey in simply two rounds to win the IBF belt again in December. He has been calling out Lomachenko for 3 years.
“I already predicted the combat’s not going six rounds, and that is simply the best way it may go,” the elder Lopez mentioned. “We have been proper all these occasions and we’ll be proper on this combat, too. There is not any approach a 126-pounder goes to beat my son. It is simply not possible.”
Lopez Sr. is an element Danny Garcia, half Freddie Blassie, with a little bit of Bundini Brown and George Benton combined in. However it’s a must to give him credit score — he has trained his gifted son from the very starting — and guided him to a world title in simply 15 fights. That is one thing he forecast originally of his son’s profession in 2016. Then he boldly predicted that his sixteenth bout would come towards Lomachenko.
However you surprise, is his son totally onboard with all this? At simply 23, in an period when most boxers are judiciously dealt with and evaded such stern challenges, Lopez was placed on the very quickest of tracks by the daddy.
“I instructed him, ‘Hey pay attention, I am all-in — if it comes, it comes,'” mentioned the youthful Lopez. “That is how I take a look at life — if it comes, it comes. No matter it’s, no matter comes my approach, we’ll make issues work out. Now, it is right here.”
The youthful Lopez makes it clear, although, that whereas some observers will look upon Saturday night time as a referendum on his father, that is about him and his profession.
“I really like my father,” Lopez mentioned, “nevertheless it is not about proving his prophecy. He talks no matter he desires to speak. He made this greater than it wanted to be — I believe everybody must congratulate him on that half. However actually what it’s, it is simply that he is aware of what I am all about. He talks what he talks; he is very assured about it as a result of he sees in me what nobody else sees in me, but.”
The daddy has an endless confidence within the son. Not solely will he let you know that his son would be the greatest fighter on the earth pound-for-pound within the close to future, he would not hesitate to observe up by saying that Teofimo would be the biggest of all time. Yeah, as in GOAT. As you take heed to him communicate these phrases, you get the sense he is really very critical.
However earlier than they begin engraving Lopez’s plaque within the Boxing Corridor of Fame, he faces a removed from easy job on Saturday — he has to beat probably the greatest boxers of this technology. Even with all the speaking, the elder Lopez would not really feel like he has added any strain or given Lomachenko an excessive amount of “bulletin-board” materials
“No, I actually do not care about that as a result of what I consider, it at all times occurs,” Lopez Sr. mentioned. “I’ve no doubts. My son has no strain in anyway. As soon as he is in that ring, he is a special animal. That is why I do know my son is prepared for this combat. There’s no one else that we’ve got to combat; that is the combat we’ve got to combat to get all of the belts, to be acknowledged as probably the greatest fighters on the earth.
“That is why I’ve acquired no doubts about this combat. Come Oct. 17, the entire world goes to know who my son is, if they do not know already … This man Lomachenko, he’ll make us look good, and I can not wait. I instructed everyone the higher the fighter is, the better the combat it may be for us.”
Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. had been every raised very in another way by their fathers.
Key stats from ESPN Stats & Data
23 years, 85 days: Teofimo Lopez Jr. would turn out to be the second-youngest boxer in historical past to carry at the very least three world titles in a division — behind solely Mike Tyson (21 years, 37 days)
30: Mixed variety of skilled fights between Lopez and Lomachenko, the fewest ever in a unification bout within the four-belt period (since 1988).
13: Both Lomachenko or Lopez will turn out to be simply the thirteenth fighter to carry world titles from all 4 main sanctioning our bodies on the identical time since 1988.
Betting odds for Lomachenko-Lopez
As of Wednesday morning, courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Lomachenko by resolution/technical resolution: -120
Lomachenko by KO/TKO/DQ: +225
Lopez by resolution/technical resolution: +800
Lopez by KO/TKO/DQ: +500
7.5 rounds: O: -500 / U: +333
8.5 rounds: O: -400 / U: +275
9.5 rounds: O: -275 / U: +200
10.5 rounds: O: -200 / U: +150
Will the combat go the space? Sure: -163 / No: +120
Have a look again at Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s greatest wins as he fearlessly climbed the ranks and gained the IBF light-weight championship.
I have been a believer in Lopez from the time he turned professional. It isn’t simply the abilities, but additionally his extremely underrated ring IQ and self-belief. There’s this misperception that he is only a bruising, heavy-handed puncher, however he has the flexibility to put traps and counter reflexively. There is no such thing as a doubting the greatness of Lomachenko, however he’s not a pure light-weight, and whereas he is nonetheless very a lot an elite fighter, after a protracted, storied newbie profession, there are some indicators of slight bodily slippage.
Many consider this would be the modern-day model of Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy. However Lopez has many extra sides to his recreation than a typical “underdog” going right into a combat towards Lomachenko. Lopez will discover methods to the touch and damage Lomachenko, and in the end he’ll cease Lomachenko within the late rounds.
What to observe for on the undercard
⬛ There’s a pivotal junior welterweight contest that serves because the co-main occasion on Saturday contained in the High Rank bubble, as former world title challenger Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) faces the undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr. (24-0, 10 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round contest.
It figures to be a fan-friendly battle. Saucedo, who has notched two victories since shedding to Maurice Hooker in a combat for the vacant WBO 140-pound title in 2018, is a hard-nosed, aggressive grinder, whereas Barboza himself is not one to again away from a combat himself. Neither man should work onerous to seek out each other inside that ring.
Just like the memorable battle that was waged by Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk a few weeks in the past, Saucedo and Barboza are combating for positioning within the junior welterweight division, which by the spring of 2021 may have a bunch of vacated belts after Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez unify the division (and subsequently make an anticipated transfer as much as welterweight.)
⬛ Thus far, it has been 14 up, 14 down within the first spherical for tremendous middleweight hopeful Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs). High Rank matchmakers have accomplished their greatest to seek out foes who will at the very least get Berlanga into the center rounds and to get him some worthwhile expertise. This weekend he’s paired with veteran Lanell Bellows (20-5-3, 13 KOs), who on the very least is sturdy. In 28 skilled outings, he has by no means been stopped. Along with his devastating punching prowess, Berlanga has turn out to be must-see TV.
At a sure level, we’ll see Berlanga combating in Spherical 2. Will it’s on Saturday night time?