Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez: Bleacher Report Staff Predictions

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2020

Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez: Bleacher Report Staff Predictions

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    Mikey Williams/Top Rank

    Vasiliy Lomachenko takes on Teofimo Lopez with all the belts on the line that matter in boxing's lightweight division on October 17 at The Bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    Lomachenko vs. Lopez is a rare gem in the boxing world. It's a fight between two elite world champions who would probably be wise to avoid facing each other but are deciding to risk it all for the glory anyway.

    Lomachenko, 32, from Ukraine, and Lopez, 23, from Brooklyn, New York, are set to do battle for Loma's WBA, WBC and WBO titles and Lopez's IBF title belt. The winner will also earn Lomachenko's The Ring magazine lightweight championship as well as the vacant Transnational Boxing Rankings Board title.

    What does all that mean?

    Well, it means Lomachenko vs. Lopez is probably the most important boxing event of the whole year.

    Better yet, the fight will be televised live on ESPN instead of pay-per-view.

    Best yet, the winner will be crowned the first undisputed 135-pound boxing champion among the men since Pernell Whitaker accomplished the feat 30 years ago.

    Behold, Bleacher Report's predictions for the big fight.

Kelsey McCarson: Vasiliy Lomachenko Wins

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    Lomachenko's experience will overpower Lopez's size.
    Lomachenko's experience will overpower Lopez's size.Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

    I spent all year thinking I would pick Lopez to beat Lomachenko, but as fight night approaches, all I can think about are all the erroneous predictors I've used for similar matchups in the past.

    The biggest lesson in that study is that size only matters in boxing when skill and talent are equal, so Lopez might be a little bigger than Lomachehko, but that probably won't matter much in the fight.

    Like Lomachenko, Lopez is also absurdly talented. But Lomachenko is almost a decade older and has gained a vast wealth of experience through that time in the sport that Lopez simply doesn't possess.

    Sure, Lomachenko (14-1) and Lopez (15-0) have the same number of professional fights on their records, but Lomachenko claims to have competed in 397 amateur fights, in which he compiled an incredible record of 396-1.

    Oh, by the way, he avenged his only loss twice.

    Nobody has ever proved that glossy record to be false, and the two Olympic gold medals he captured in 2008 and 2012 only add to its veracity.

    In the end, this fight reminds me too much of when Canelo Alvarez tried to usurp Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013.

    Like Lopez, Alvarez was just 23 at the time. Like him again, Alvarez was going up against arguably the most brutal and elite pound-for-pound savant of his time.

    Unlike Mayweather, though, Lomachenko is much younger and closer to his prime years for this fight than Mayweather was when he outclassed Alvarez.

    I'm picking Lomachenko to beat Lopez via decision. Lopez will show flashes of brilliance that will display why his future is still so bright, but Lomachenko's timing, accuracy and footwork carry the day for him on the biggest stage possible.

    Lomachenko via unanimous decision

Jonathan Snowden: Vasiliy Lomachenko Wins

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    Lomachenko's experience will have him playing matador to Lopez.
    Lomachenko's experience will have him playing matador to Lopez.Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

    It's not often that boxing, as an enterprise, gets things right. Too often the biggest, most competitive fights are hidden behind a paywall; entire generations of so-called stars doing their best work far from the public eye.

    That made sense for legitimate attractions like Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya or Mayweather—established drawing cards and icons who were already well known to any sports fan with even a passing interest in the sweet science. In 2020, however, even fighters like the Charlo brothers, still developing an audience and a reputation, are thrust on to pay-per-view long before it's seemingly warranted. Just two more promising boxers limiting their fanbase exclusively to people who are already fistic diehards.

    Showtime, HBO and even ESPN+ require fans to pay a premium to see top fighters compete, meaning boxing has all but disappeared for anyone who consumes sports on network television or basic cable.

    ESPN and Top Rank could have easily chased the quick buck with Lomachenko and Lopez, too. By today's standards, it's absolutely a pay-per-view caliber bout. Instead, they are offering it on ESPN to a potentially huge audience of curious potential boxing converts. That's a pretty big deal.

    The fight, of course, is about more than dollars and cents. It's a battle to unify a championship and has the makings of a potential classic. Lomachenko will pit his technical wizardry, craft and incredible reaction time against Lopez's overwhelming power and leaping fits of aggression. As a fan of the sport, it's the kind of bout that makes your heart beat just a little faster; the kind of fight that just doesn't seem to happen as often as it should anymore.

    The idea here, if you're Team Lopez at least, is that we'll see a changing of the guard. The 23-year-old slugger, the story goes, will overwhelm the smaller, older Olympian, relegating him to yesterday's news at the tender age of 32.

    But, while it's true that Lomachenko has covered a lot of ring miles in a career that includes more than 400 fights between the amateur and professional ranks, he looks far from finished to me. I see him playing matador here, deftly maneuvering Lopez around the ring and piecing him up in a way that will make many question whether the young fighter's potential wasn't merely an illusion.

    Lomachenko, TKO, Rd. 8

Lyle Fitzsimmons: Vasiliy Lomachenko Wins

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    Lomachenko's skill will result in a TKO victory.
    Lomachenko's skill will result in a TKO victory.Kevin Hagen/Associated Press

    I love this fight. Love, love, love it.

    And you should, too.

    Lopez is a dynamic young talent with a high-revving motor and big-time power, and he supplements it with the sort of brash social media savvy that's mandatory in the 21st century.

    So, make no mistake: If he's able to knock off a pound-for-pound elitist like Lomachenko, he'll instantly become one of boxing's biggest crossover stars.

    But he won't knock off Lomachenko.

    In fact, it says here that he won't even be vertical when the fight ends.

    It's not because Lopez isn't a good fighter, it's because Lomachenko is a great fighter.

    He's a generationally great fighter whose skills were compared to Willie Pep by no less an authority than the late, great Harold Lederman. And if a guy on that level says you're reminiscent of Willie Pep, you are.

    Though he's certainly not the one-punch banger Lopez is, Lomachenko does everything else better. He moves better, plays defense better, works the angles better and counterpunches better.

    If Lopez tries to box him, he'll experience the boxing equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. If he tries to aggressively pressure him, he'll be the amateurish bull to the three-division champion's matador.

    Lomachenko isn't Mayweather by any stretch, but he has a similar impact on foes. When they get in there with him, they realize he's not as easy to hit as the other guys have been. And when they miss punches against him, they realize the counters come quicker and sharper than they have elsewhere.

    Slowly but surely the work rate falls off, the exchanges become more one-sided and the punishment piles up round after round. And before you know it, the opponent is mentally and physically shot.

    That will happen by Round 10, which is when Lomachenko will apply the finishing TKO touches.

    Lomachenko, TKO, Rd. 10