Saturday night kicks off a stretch of fights scheduled for the Fall that should definitely make up for all the action fans have missed due to the coronavirus.
Boxing couldn’t find a better match to get the party started, as this showdown is easily the most anticipated bout of the year. There’s a lot at stake when Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1, 10KO’s) takes on Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12KO’s), as there is no prize in the sport more coveted than the distinction of being an undisputed Champion.
As we prepare for this showdown, we take a look at keys to victory, a few critical game-changers to look out for, and a final prediction:
KEYS TO VICTORY – VASYL LOMACHENKO
Lomachenko’s keys to victory all center around how he starts. When faced with a bully, you have to grab the bull by the horns! Lomachenko will need to start fast and remember to use lots of lateral movement. Punchers don’t like that because it’s hard to land on a moving target.
Going backward may only result in problems, as Lopez is more comfortable operating as a hunter. Loma will need to go to Lopez’s body, wearing him down from the start.
The jab is a great weapon against a big puncher, but Loma has the shorter reach, as Lopez has a better defense than he gets credit for. Loma will need to beware when trying to set up the bigger Lopez. If Loma can start smart and fast, that’s his best shot to outlast Lopez and earn the “W.”
KEYS TO VICTORY – TEOFIMO LOPEZ
When facing a matrix-master like Lomachenko, it’s a very difficult assignment. Instincts may tell you to press the action, but common sense makes you cognizant of the fact that you’ll need energy in the tank late in the fight as well.
Lopez will need to execute with precision and avoid wasting punches. His jab isn’t as good as it could be, but against the shorter Lomachenko, a strong jab will set up everything else in his arsenal.
This one adjustment could make his night that much easier. If Lopez can use his jab to set up bodywork and occasional power shots, frustration could get Loma out of his element, and it all goes downhill from there. If Lopez can keep Loma on his backfoot and stalk-til-he-can’t-walk, it’s his fight to lose!
FOUR TO EXPLORE (CRITICAL GAME-CHANGERS TO WATCH FOR)
(BOYS TO MEN): Baptism by fire is real! If there were ever a time to see that level of theater play out in a boxing ring, Saturday night is the night! Experience could play a key role. While Lopez took part in an Olympic trial, Lomachenko’s Olympic success places him in a rare air.
Great, but meaningless for both in the pros. While Walters has power and Linares has height, Loma has never faced a man with both, who also has the dog required to execute with them.
Similarly, nothing on Lopez’s ledger will prepare him for a matrix named Loma. In the end, one of these men will have to walk through the fire down to the wire? In the words of music legend Johnny Gill: “These are the things that change boys to men”!
BY THE NUMBERS
Against the smaller, technical Rigondeaux, Loma’s highest connection rate in any round was 25%, yet he still found a way to get a stoppage in the end.
Against the taller, longer Linares, he never landed fewer than 14 punches in any round. He threw as many as 102 in a round, averaging over 60 per round en route to another stoppage. Translation? Lomachenko can deliver the goods in either type of fight.
Defensively, Lopez allows opponents to land 21% of their punches per round, including a moderately high 28% power-punch connect percentage. Despite the relatively high numbers, it should be noted that Lopez won all but 3 career fights by stoppage. Can he allow Loma to land at that rate and still win?
THE GREAT WEIGHT DEBATE
In April of this year, Lopez said to reporters that he was 160lbs. He typically enters the ring on fight night closer to 150lbs. Why is this important? Another big, rugged Latino fighter gave Lomachenko his first professional loss after entering the ring on fight night at 147lbs and failing to make the 126lb limit.
Based on the weight factor, Lopez has said in advance that this will be his final fight at lightweight. Makes you wonder whether or not weight added after the long layoff could force him to drain himself to get down to 135lbs come fight night?
A drained fighter in front of Lomachenko is a dead man walking. When the bell rings, will Teo have enough in the tank to avoid getting spanked?
Both men will enter the ring on the heels of their longest career lay-off. For Lomachenko, it’s been 14 months; for Lopez, it’s been 10 months.
Sluggish energy will be the biggest problem for Lopez after going so long without lacing up. For Lomachenko, instincts and timing could seal the deal, allowing Lopez to go for the ‘kill’!
At the highest level, a split-second lapse in attention can dictate whether a fighter escapes a thunderous shot or is attentive enough to land one of his own.
Facing a younger, stronger, bigger fighter like Lopez, needless to say, for Lomachenko, this is a chief concern that could get him burned!
What started as typical promotional theater has clearly become personal. Lomachenko is threatening to “punish” Lopez for the tough talk, and everything in his past tells us he has the skill to do it. But how? As tough as he is, you can’t help but realize that this is a different level.
Both Linares and Pedraza made Lomachenko appear very human despite their losses to him. Everyone talks about the Commey stoppage when Lopez connected flush in the 2nd round, but no one talks about the greatest element of that story.
That element is the fact that they were both welterweights in the ring that night, hovering at or slightly above the 150lb mark.
Lomachenko has all the tools to dissect someone like Lopez……at a lower weight class! Yes, he can hurt Teo, and yes, Loma can put him on his back foot. But can his small frame absorb the punishment necessary to do that long enough to stop Teo from dishing his own punishment?
Can Loma take it when he does? The odds say, NO! And certainly not for 12rds. Having to use his shorter reach to get closer will result in more punishment than the incredible Ukrainian will be able to absorb. A strong body assault, coupled with power shots and vicious hook, will end the night.
TEOFIMO LOPEZ – KO RD9
(This stoppage could very well come at a point where Lopez finds himself down on all 3 scoring cards)
Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at 954.770.9807 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For daily boxing talk, go to his Facebook.