It's the kind of fight boxing fans live for, but it doesn't happen nearly often enough. On Saturday night, Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, will take on Teofimo Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs) in a lightweight world title unification bout.
Both fighters have just 15 professional bouts under their belts, but they're at very different stages of their careers.
Lomachenko is 32 years old and holds the WBA and WBO world lightweight titles. After winning two Olympic gold medals as an amateur, he turned pro in 2013 and quickly established himself as one of the most skilled boxers around, dazzling fans with his impeccable timing, sublime combinations and defensive wizardry.
Lopez, by contrast, is a 23-year-old IBF world titleholder who has demonstrated some great technical gifts to go along with his eye-catching power.
At an age when many top fighters are still carefully working to preserve their unblemished records, he is putting it all on the line as a solid underdog. He's been angling to take on the Ukrainian for some time now and is finally getting his wish.
This marquee bout will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and has fight-of-the-year potential, so it's worth clearing the schedule for. Here's how to watch.
Lomachenko vs. Lopez Fight Info
When: Saturday, Oct. 17 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Live stream: ESPN.com or ESPN+
Odds: Lomachenko -435 (bet $435 to win $100), Lopez +290 (bet $100 to win $290) (via Draftkings Sportsbook)
This is an ambitious undertaking for Lopez, as Lomachenko represents a major step up from any of his previous competition.
When we last saw the Honduran-American, he pummeled veteran Richard Commey for about four minutes to score a second-round knockout and win the IBF title in December.
The bout solidified him as Lomachenko's top contender, putting him in position to complete the "takeover" he and his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., have been promoting for the last couple of years. To them, Lomachenko is just part of the plan.
"This is the fight that's going to make my son a superhero," Lopez Sr. said in August, per ESPN.com's Steve Kim. "He's going to be like Superman."
Lopez has echoed his father's confidence every step of the way.
"You will see a 23-year-old become an undisputed world champ. Simple as that," said the young prizefighter, per Kim.
If only it were that simple. It's going to take more than raw power and youthful exuberance to defeat the crafty, disciplined Lomachenko.
The Ukrainian is a master at breaking down his opponents while taking minimal damage. He's not a perfect fit at lightweight and will give up size to Lopez, but his speed, accuracy and clever traps will give the younger boxer much to think about in the ring.
Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ thinks it would be unwise for Lopez to try to outbox Lomachenko, but he did offer one possible route to victory:
"What he may try to do is box with Lomachenko enough to set up his expected large advantage: pure, raw power. If he can get Lomachenko into trades, he might find a home for something huge. Lomachenko is not a natural lightweight. He is legitimately small at 135 pounds, and it’s reasonable enough to question if he can consistently take power shots from Lopez, a serious puncher at this weight."
Consistency will be key, but Lopez still has to worry about taking punishment as well. Lomachenko is adept at changing levels, equally capable of targeting the head or eroding an opponent's stamina and willpower by targeting the body.
After the years of chatter building up to this fight, the Ukrainian appears eager to do more than just safely box and move.
"I want to beat him very badly, very, very badly. I want to really beat him badly," Lomachenko told The Ring's Dan Rafael. "(Lopez's father) thinks (Lopez is) a big superstar like Tyson Fury. That's why they do the trash talk. They act like they're a big superstar, but they're not."
Lopez may not be a big superstar just yet, but he will be if he scores the upset on Saturday night. A win over Lomachenko at this stage would set him up for a long, lucrative career. Even if he loses, though, there's still plenty of time for him to establish himself.
Lomachenko, meanwhile, is nearing the end of his prime, and having started his professional career at the age of 25, he is going to want to wear the crown as long as he can.