While Vasyl Lomachenko has been lauded as the greatest fighter of this era by some in the media, we were once again reminded that unequivocal greatness requires an abundance of quality in both offense, and defense. Lomachenko, along with Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones Jr. were so offensively gifted that they were able to mask the fact that their only defense was their speed and reflexes. Doesn’t take away from their overall greatness. But it does give a glimpse into why they fell short in some of the biggest fights of their careers.
Each went on to carve out amazing legacies, with Pacquiao having arguably the greatest legacy of all. Personal accolades aside, the deciding factors which led to each of them falling short came down to not only slight size advantages, but more importantly, the opponents’ greater command of defense to accompany that size. Antonio Tarver, Erik Morales, Floyd Mayweather, and now Teofimo Lopez each used fundamental skill sets to overcome the massive obstacles in front of them in a way few others could. In an effort to revisit my thought process going into the fight, let’s examine what we learned during the fight and how seeing it in advance (via film study) helped me to predict the outcome:
1). What was missing in Lomachenko’s performance?
(VW): Teo Lopez landed 148 power shots on Lomachenko, which was considerably more than anyone he ever faced. This is key, as it highlights my concerns for Loma’s lack of pure defensive fundamentals coming into the fight. Many fans and media tend to overlook this, but at the highest level, it will always show. Lomachenko didn’t “wait” to start throwing punches. He realized the damage he’d sustain if he opened up and tried to exchange without an adequate defense. The bottom line, the only thing “missing” with Lomachenko was a strong defense. If he felt more confident in his ability to avoid punches, he would have taken more chances, and in essence, scored more points while increasing his odds of breaking the younger fighter down.
2). Do the amateur ranks REALLY matter?
(VW): Yes….in the amateurs! At the highest level in the pros, we continue to see the “styles makes fights” moniker live large! This isn’t to say a great amateur won’t have a successful career because we’ve seen too many do it. But again, at the highest level, a highly decorated amateur can still struggle against an elite veteran. Salido proved that, Tarver proved that, along with many others. Some things can’t be taught. Teo Lopez defeated a dangerous opponent like Commey, only to turn around nearly a year later and make his first mandatory defense against arguably the top mythical P4P fighter in the sport, who happens to be a dangerous, powerful southpaw. His response? He performed to perfection! Amateur experience is great. Heart, will, and/or skill could in fact be better!
3). Did Teofimo simply want it more?
(VW): His preparation and ability to execute certainly made it appear that way. For a guy known only for his power, his ability to work his plan so smoothly was a bit uncanny. Over the first 7 rounds, Lomachenko only landed 31 punches. After appearing to fade badly over the second half of the fight, he was able to muster up his fighting spirit and land his highest connect rates of the fight. In the 11th round he landed 29 punches and when it was time to play for all the marbles in the 12th, he landed the equal amount landed by Lomachenko over the entire first 8 rounds (50 punches). That type of moxy and spirit can’t be taught. This is a kid who’s hunger exceeded anything we gave him credit for and he deserves full attention.
4). In response to criticism for those who balked at the notion that Teo Lopez has a comparable Ring IQ and Experience level of Lomachenko:
(VW): The outcome of the fight proved why I rated Lopez so high in both areas. The “experience” ratings were comparable based on the fact that I don’t value amateur history the same way most do. On the pro level, Lomachenko faced better competition, but Lopez actually showed me more balanced skills and in-round adjustments. Taking an opponent’s weapons away from them without the help of your corner, and being able to use defense to create offense consistently? Those two things are formed through the unconscious repetition of throwing lots of punches and full commitment to schemes. The results cemented this thought. His experience may have been slightly less (which I alluded to in my pre-fight ratings); but the Ring IQ was clearly comparable, as Loma went about 7rds with no answer for Lopez’s adjustments.
5). Is Loma a true P4P fighter by my standards?
This fight demonstrates precisely why I’ve never done the ‘mythical’ thing. When the term P4P was coined, there were other greats in that era. The term wasn’t designed for a group of men based on their ability to put cheeks in seats. It was given to the one talent that was so profound (in totality, not just offense or defense); that it would find immeasurable success in any era and any weight division. In this era, only Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao reach that mantle. Judging today’s crop of fighters, I can’t put any on that level, currently. If I had to choose which guys I feel have a strong shot at avoiding defeat (doing the mythical thing), I would say Naoye Inoue and Canelo Alvarez. Everyone else would require favorable matchmaking, as each of them have deficiencies that are exploitable at the highest level.
(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at 954.770.9807, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on facebook in daily fight chats)