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Lomachenko-Lopez is close to an even money fight

IBHOF inductee Graham Houston looks ahead to the fascinating confrontation between Ukrainian master Vasiliy Lomachenko and young hotshot Teofimo Lopez, and says it’s a much closer contest than many believe.

The good news for fight fans is that one of the most anticipated bouts of 2020 now looks certain to go ahead, with Vasiliy Lomachenko meeting Teofimo Lopez in a lightweight unification match. Lomachenko apparently took a purse cut to make the fight happen after the Lopez side held out for more money. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum plans to stage the bout on October 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, sans spectators but with TV coverage on either ESPN or the streaming service ESPN+.

Some sportsbooks have already offered odds, with Lomachenko priced at 4/1 on and Lopez as an 11/4 underdog.

I think this is actually close to an even-money fight…

It’s an intriguing fight. Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, could be considered the greatest amateur ever. He is also probably the best boxer in the world at any weight. So, of course, he is the obvious favourite. 

At 32, Lomachenko shows no signs of slowing down. He outclassed fellow Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell in London in his last bout. Before this Lomachenko annihilated a somewhat faded Anthony Crolla in four rounds. Although Lomachenko has had only 15 pro fights he is, of course, a veteran due to his 396-1 amateur record.

Lopez, 23, is giving away a great deal of experience. He is 15-0 (12 KOs) in his unbeaten career but he has nothing like Lomachenko’s vast amateur experience. However, Lopez has youth on his side and he seems genuinely very confident. He is the naturally bigger man and he has the power to hurt Lomachenko. As superb a fighter as he is, Lomachenko was nevertheless knocked down in his bout with Jorge Linares. He can be hit and he can be hurt.

The big question, for me anyway, is whether Lopez can stand up to Lomachenko’s rapid-fire deliveries and land enough shots to get into the fight. Lopez is going to have to find a way to stay in punching distance and either get off first or use the shoulder-roll-and-counter method (as he did when blowing out Richard Commey). 

Although Lomachenko is faster, Lopez has good hand speed. Lomachenko has machine-like precision but Lopez looks physically stronger. (Lomachenko could probably still make junior lightweight quite comfortably.) I think Lopez is going to have to stay right with Lomachenko and put him under pressure to have any chance of winning. I think he can do this.

While Lomachenko dominated Luke Campbell, he was meeting a stand-up boxer, albeit a very good one. Lopez is more athletic and explosive than Campbell. As ever, different styles make different fights. 

It’s possible that Lopez will be bringing the sort of intensity and self-belief that Lomachenko hasn’t seen in a while. I see value in Lopez at the current odds.

We know that Lopez won’t be intimidated. This is a fight that he has wanted for some time. It’s the sort of experience vs youth match-up that gets fans excited. One can visualise Lomachenko moving around Lopez, getting in his quick punches and sliding away, making the younger man miss. It is also possible to form a mental picture of Lopez timing Lomachenko for sharp right hands and left hooks.

We know how good Lomachenko is. He is a superb boxing machine. But we cannot be sure of the level Lopez can reach. Perhaps Lopez can rise to the occasion and produce the performance of his life.

It’s great to have boxing back again after the three-month hiatus due to Covid-19 but we haven’t had a really big fight to look forward to with eager anticipation. Now we have one. Lomachenko should win but Teo definitely could win. Kudos to all concerned for making the fight happen. It’s just the filip boxing aficionados need as the world waits for the vaccine that might finally restore the normality that, prior to Covid-19, we took for granted.

Main image: Teofimo Lopez, Bob Arum and Vasiliy Lomachenko assemble. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.