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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: LOMACHENKO-LOPEZ, THE POSTMORTEM

By Paul Magno | October 19, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: LOMACHENKO-LOPEZ, THE POSTMORTEM

Saturday night against Teofimo Lopez, Vasiliy Lomachenko experienced a bit of what Guillermo Rigondeaux must've felt against him back in 2017. Faced with a bigger, stronger, fresher opponent, there wasn't much he could do.

Lomachenko, however, did try to employ a strategy against the nine-years-younger Lopez to counter a physical disadvantage-- especially after tasting a good, attention-getting shot in the first round. He would move and stay defensive for nearly  the first three-quarters of the fight, keep the scores close, and then let his hands go to steal the last few rounds and take a decision. 

It was a solid strategy, except he didn't really do enough to keep the fight all that close and he didn't account for his mind-numbing inaction to lull the judges into an "everything goes to Lopez" mode after he decided to finally start fighting. 

And it was too bad for the now former WBA, WBO, WBC Franchise lightweight champ because, when he did let his hands go, Lopez had no answer for his hand speed. It was just that, physically, Lomachenko simply couldn't hang with Lopez over the full twelve and would probably have been worn down before he could do any real damage to his opponent. For all his much-acknowledged skill and guile, he couldn't devise a winning strategy to get past this kind of obstacle. Again, just like Rigondeaux three years ago. 

Still...the judges. What the fuck was Julie Lederman watching? 119-109? The only thing I can imagine is that maybe her mask rode up too high on her face and blocked her vision. Personally, I had the fight a draw, but could easily be talked into 115-113 or 116-112 for Lopez. I had Lopez winning five of the first seven rounds and then Lomachenko winning three of the last five. But, admittedly, I was very generous to Lomachenko in a couple of those early rounds. 

As for Lopez? 

I hate that it sounds like his win was more of a Lomachenko loss. The fact was that Lomachenko couldn't do what he does because Lopez is who he is. 

The Brooklyn native was more patient, skilled, and mature than given credit for. Much like Errol Spence in his fight against Mikey Garcia, Lopez was bigger and stronger than his opponent, and not giving the smaller fighter any real weaknesses or mistakes to exploit. He put Lomachenko in a spot where pretty much the only choice was to risk going out on his shield or hold tight and try to steal a points win.

It certainly didn't help Lomachenko's cause that he and his team have been drinking their own bath water, buying into their own press clippings, and thought they COULD get every benefit of every doubt and steal a points win. 

At the end of the day, Saturday proved that Lomachenko is not as boxing-clever as credited and that Lopez is not as one-dimensional as labeled. 

So, what's next?

There was no rematch clause and Lopez has no interest in revisiting this pairing. Plus, Lopez is already bursting at the seams at 135, outgrowing the division with each passing hour. It seems logical and fairly obvious that Teo may be headed for junior welterweight and, specifically, the winner of the all- Top Rank 140 lb. unification between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez. The only thing that could possibly keep him at lightweight is a big-money bout with Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, or Devin Haney-- and all of those unlikely pairings would be blocked by business obstacles and take forever to even try and put together. 

At 23, time is definitely on Lopez's side and, although Saturday's fight was hardly electrifying and not the type of a win that will grab the attention of casuals, it was a huge first step on the road to next-level stardom. And kudos to him and his team for going straight to the top, first, rather than wasting years in baiting and switching, beating around bushes, and padding bank accounts until they could catch a past-prime Lomachenko for a cash-out fight. Teo is executing his career like someone who is actually serious about putting together a fighting legacy-- and that's something rare as hell in this day and age.

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Business-wise, we'll see how many fans this event brought to the table. Lomachenko-Lopez was a big deal among hardcore fans, but may have been all but invisible to mainstream sports fans. 

It'll be interesting to see the TV ratings for a free, easy to access event on main stage ESPN where the hardcore set is energized and motivated to tune in. It'll also let us know just how many of us die-hards are actually left.

In a best case scenario, a couple million will have presented themselves and will have brought along some of their boxing-curious friends. The fight, itself, was hardly a fan generator, though. So, yeah, there's a pretty big storm cloud around a potential silver lining. 

In a worst case scenario, only the same 800K hardcore fans who tune into everything, no matter what, showed up for Saturday's fight...and nobody else. And that makes the case for another generation of big fights to not ever see the light of day on free TV. 

But, no matter what happens ratings-wise, having a young, charismatic, pathologically unafraid, and legitimately ambitious fighter as unified champ in a hotbed weight range full of talent is a plus, plus for the sport.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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