Lomachenko vs. Lopez Jr.: A Year in the Making

Vasyl Lomachenko and Ukrainian boxers
Vasyl Lomachenko (second from right) among other Ukrainian Olympic boxers. PHOTO CREDIT: KuRaG//Wikimedia Commons

After months of anticipation and a coronavirus postponement, we will finally see Vasyl Lomachenko defend his championship belts against Teofimo Lopez Jr. on Saturday, October 17. The two will fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, and there will be around 250 fans in the audience. Tickets aren’t being sold, but rather given to a group of Nevada coronavirus first responders as a thank you for their efforts throughout this pandemic. 

The main card broadcast will begin on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET. This broadcast will also feature a 10-round bout between Alex Saucedo and Arnold Barboza Jr. That will precede the Lomachenko vs. Lopez contest. 

But, I’m not here to talk about Saucedo or Barboza. And I’m not even really here to talk about Lopez. Instead, I’m here to heap praise on my man, Vasyl Lomachenko. 

I’m here to talk about Hi-Tech: ESPN’s #1 pound-for-pound fighter, the unified WBO and WBA belt-holder and the WBC franchise champion. I’m here to talk about Ukraine’s own 2-time consecutive Olympic gold medalist in boxing

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That’s right, I’m here to talk about the greatest southpaw on the scene since Manny Pacquiao. With all due respect to Pac-Man, Loma might be even better than the Filipino Phenom was in his prime. 

Did you know that when Lomachenko was a child, his father and trainer, Anatoly, enrolled him in traditional Ukrainian dance classes? Spending years in a dance studio learning the Hopak developed Lomachenko’s lightning-quick footwork. It would become a hallmark of his boxing style.

It’s as if the man is everywhere at once. Don’t believe me? Watch this highlight video. 

After a flurry of punches from directly in front of his opponent, he can slide to his right to create a new angle and throw a left uppercut. He can bait an opponent to take a step in and then glide past them. Lomachenko can whirl around to catch the other boxer with a combination as they try to find him. This all means that Loma doesn’t just hit hard —  he’s incredibly hard to hit. 

It’s one the main reasons Lomachenko is so exciting to watch, and why he is 14-1 in his professional career, with 10 knockouts. In my opinion, he should really be 15-0. A questionable split-decision went against Lomachenko in his second-ever professional fight, where he narrowly lost to Orlando Salido. Even though that was only Loma’s second-ever professional fight, it was a title fight. He won a title in his next bout, beating Gary Russell Jr. with a majority decision. 

The 32-year-old Lomachenko will face a tough opponent in IBF world title holder Lopez Jr. The 23-year-old Lopez is 15-0 in his professional career with 12 knockouts. He’s a fighter with heavy hands and has been calling for this unification bout against Lomachenko since last December. 

Although Lomachenko told Max Kellerman that he is more comfortable fighting at 130 pounds, he shouldn’t have any trouble in this 135-pound bout against the larger Lopez. 

My prediction: Lomachenko rolls on next Saturday. He’ll knock Lopez out, and unify the IBF, WBO and WBA belts. 

Writer, filmmaker, long-suffering New York Jets fan. Yes, I was watching when the butt-fumble happened. No, I don’t want to talk about it. Big chicken salad sandwiches guy– come to think of it, big all kinds of sandwiches guy. Reporting on the intersection of politics and sports, and international baseball leagues. Journalism master’s from the University of Oregon (Sco’ Ducks), undergrad at Binghamton University. Learned critical thinking by reading the racing form, won my first ever bet at the age of 7 on a 36-1 wire-to-wire winner. Post-pandemic you can catch me at the fronton throwing bread down on jai alai.

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