TEOFIMO LOPEZ turned in a majestic and controlled performance to upset Vasiliy Lomachenko via deserved unanimous decision in Las Vegas. After 12 rounds, the scores were 116-112, 117-111 and a far too wide 119-109. Boxing News scored the bout 115-113 for the new lightweight leader.
It was a fight of two halves. Lopez was longer and stronger in the early going and bossed the action before Lomachenko, astonishingly quiet through rounds one to six, came to life in the seventh and eighth.
With the fight seemingly in the balance going into the final three minutes, Lopez punctuated a supreme effort with a commanding last session.
The bout was engrossing but only rarely thrilling. It will not go down in history as a classic fight but Lopez’s showing – outboxing a vastly more experienced ring wizard – will live long in the memory.
The 23-year-old, from Brooklyn, took charge early. He landed powerful blows to the body as Lomachenko watched and waited. It seemed only a matter of time before the Ukrainian would spring into life.
But what he couldn’t have expected was how difficult Lopez would be to break down. The American’s lead foot prevented Lomachenko from getting too close and his fast right hand – a key weapon against a southpaw – scored time and again.
At 32, there has to be questions about Lomachenko’s future. But one must wonder if a younger ‘Loma’ would have fared any better. What he needed, it seemed, was not to be younger or fresher, but to be faster, taller and stronger. The height and reach of the broad-shouldered Lopez, alongside his intelligent fast hands, proved the difference inside the MGM Grand.
Lomachenko, wearing bright green gloves and sporting a denser beard than usual, was the more accurate in terms of shots thrown and landed. But he waited too long to throw those punches. That, at least in part, must be credited to Lopez; he earned his rival’s respect early with powerful singles to the body.
In the third a left hook bounced off Loma and a right through the middle forced him backwards in the fourth.
Into the fifth and Lopez – as the rest of the world waited for Lomachenko to wake up – was busier as he hustled forward, never once allowing his rival a sniff of an opportunity. Uncomfortable, though not once in trouble, Lomachenko could not claim to have earned even a share of any of the first six rounds.
The seventh was arguably another Lopez round but Lomachenko was at last showing signs of life. But one must wonder if the old master will look back on this fight with regret. By the time he unshackled his weaponry, Lopez was well ahead.
Lomachenko raided in the eighth. He found his range and let the flurries fly. A four-punch combination, hurled up close, forced Lopez back for the first time before a fifth blow – a slashing left – completed the move.
A new pattern was formed forthwith. Lopez was rocked off balance in the ninth and 10th sessions. But the underdog refused to be overawed. He was always looking to counter, always in the fight.
After Loma appeared to edge the 11th, it seemed that a big last round could see him steal a draw. But Lopez showed exactly what he was made of in those final three minutes. He stood his ground in centre ring and made Lomachenko, the fighter who has wowed a generation, look ordinary.
Lopez had told us all beforehand that Loma struggles to fight going backwards. He was proved right, at least in this fight. He was right, too, when he told us all he would win. It would look easy, his father said.
Easy it wasn’t, but in defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko the hard way – by fighting his fight and pushing him back, by countering effectively and bossing the distance against a master of range – Teofimo Lopez stunned us all.
Bravo to the new king.