Pound-for-Pound king Vasyl Lomachenko, one of the finest amateur fighters of all time – two Olympic gold medals won, an amateur record of 396-1 compiled; the loss avenged not once but twice – went pro on this day in 2013. To much fan fair, “Hi-Tech” was moved ultra-fast, challenging for a major title in just his second pro fight. Lomachenko lost.
Beaten in a close, somewhat controversial 12 round split decision by Orlando Salido in a fight for the vacant WBO featherweight title, the Ukrainian southpaw had to make do with becoming a world champ after three paid fights; Loma winning a split decision over Gary Russell Jr to win the again vacant WBO 126 pound strap, this three months after the loss to Salido.
Since then, Lomachenko,14-1(10) has seen off all comers, often making his opponents quit. But this Saturday in Las Vegas, 32-year-old Lomachenko perhaps faces – make that definitely faces if we listen to what his Oct. 17 rival has to say, and has had to say for many weeks now – his career toughest test. Teofimo Lopez, who has said again and again that he just doesn’t like or appreciate Loma, that he will knock him out and become “the future” of the sport, is the man in the opposite corner. But will the 23-year-old deliver on his promises?
It’s a great fight, a hugely interesting fight, a fascinating fight, that we are all gearing up for. And it’s almost here. So what happens? Will Lomachenko, an almost otherworldly fighter who has never really experienced a genuine loss, taste the pain and agony of defeat this Saturday? Or will the masterful lightweight put Lopez firmly in his place, in so doing both enjoying himself and reminding us (if any reminder was needed) how special he really is?
Lomachenko is the favorite to win on Saturday, but Lopez has got plenty of fans, experts and former Lomachenko opponents thinking. Why is Lopez so utterly confident of victory? Why is the 15-0(12) puncher so absolutely certain he will not only win, but will do so by KO? Is Lopez really the future of boxing, the way he says, no, insists he is?
Is this fight and what happens in it a tough one to pick, or have we simply been listening to too much talk from Lopez – talk he will not be able to back up on Saturday? I must confess, I’m just not sure. Whenever a fighter, an underdog, has so much absolute and genuine belief he will win the fight, it makes for a reason to wonder why. Maybe Lopez sees something in Loma we do not.
Saturday night’s fight has nothing but our undiluted attention. The same will go for the winner.