2020 has been a chaotic year choc full of surprises. Nothing has seemed to go according to plan these last 10 or so months and what played out two nights ago follows the trend. In the most anticipated fight AC (after Covid) the “puncher” Lopez, out boxed and befuddled the “boxer” Lomachenko in route to a definitive decision victory. Much like the most anticipated fight BC (before COVID) Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury II the script was flipped around. Its not that Fury was not picked to win, many did, he fought in a manner outside of his character and stunned Wilder in a statement making TKO. Fury was expected to box and move and make Wilder look lost and clumsy on way to safe decision win. Fury instead scrambled Wilder’s senses, dropped him multiple times, made it a fight and prevailed. Heading into this past Saturday night Lopez was given a chance by some insiders but largely just a puncher’s chance. Most pegged him to be out boxed and a smaller few said he could knock Lomachenko out if he caught him. What played out in the those 36 minutes was quite different.
From the Old Dog’s Boxing Club in Readington, New Jersey Teofimo Lopez Sr. hinted at the possibility of a deep bag of tricks being in play. The exact quote I cannot recall but he mentioned Teofimo Jr. having more depth to his game than had been shown or required in previous fights. He warned that Lomachenko was going to be in for a surprise. What ensued in the first 6 rounds was a mix of shock, humor and some boredom. I was stunned at what was unfolding as Lopez was stalking, jabbing and going to the body completely unopposed. Lomachenko was content to his high guard and moving but was hardly throwing anything in return. He also showed none of the angles he tactfully employed in his previous fights. It was stunning to see Lomachenko just hang back and let Lopez get comfortable in there on a stage he had never seen. I found humor in the master boxer Lomachenko just resigned to let the fight slip away. For so long he was a top pound for pound fighter with a bullet proof defense and precise offense that could frustrate world class guys into packing it in. To see such a young and relatively inexperienced fighter so comfortably pile up points was a sight to see that elicited some laughter as I looked on. Unfortunately, boredom eventually set in despite the surprise the one way traffic in the fight was not compelling. I sat waiting for the fight to erupt.
I got what I asked for in round 7 as Lomachenko seemed to come out of his coma and began shifting his feet into position and getting his left hand out of storage. The fight became competitive and the momentum swung. Lomachenko is not a knock you dead type of puncher but his precision and hand speed is enough to drop fighters and his liver shot is fight ender. Teofimo did a very good job keeping his right hand low enough to guard the liver. Teo began to show damage as the area around his eyes began to redden and he was fatigued as well. As Lopez seemed to fade Lomachenko began to cut the gap in the score. Though I had the fight sealed by round 8 having given Lopez 7 of the first 8 rounds I could not be sure the judges had seen it the same way as myself.
With the fight possibly in the balance heading into the final round, any early celebrating for the upset was beginning to diminish as I sat with my eyes locked on the screen. Lopez in my eyes had lost 4 of the last 5 rounds and though fading had a strong final minute in the 11th round. The stage was set for a very exciting close. Lopez came out of his corner looking renewed, possibly he saved some energy for the final round or maybe the moment took over. He won the first minute of the round with his counter right hand and his uppercut that he was trying to walk Lomachenko into. Lomachenko met the aggression with an attack of his own and began to tighten the round up. In the final minute Lopez landed a solid left hook and Lomachenko looked hurt. Lopez was emboldened and began to pile on his punches and an accidental headbutt opened a nasty cut which led to referee Russell Mora inexplicably stopping the action. Only 10 seconds remained and the momentum seemed lost. Lopez tried to make a statement and swung freely as he ate a sharp left hand near the closing seconds that he answered with his own return fire. The big statement in the 12th round should have sealed the fight even in the worst case scenario that Lopez had only won the first 6 and the win would have been sealed in the 12th as a 115 to 113 card.
The scores turned in by two of the judges were almost as shocking as the fight itself as the trusted Steve Weisfeld and Julie Lederman had it 117-111 and 119-109. Fortunately, the right man was the winner but these wide scores are a bad look and give off the appearance of bad faith. I think there is a case to score this fight as narrowly as 115-113 if you give Lomachenko every break or drank too many beers but I think that’s as close as this one gets. In the aftermath Lomachenko immediately left the ring in protest of the decision and undoubtedly frustrated given the tension between the two. Lopez did snow angels in the ring before being presented with the belts.
|Undisputed 135lb Title||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12||Final|
I mirrored Tim Cheatham at 116-112 though we flipped on the 7th and 8th rounds. I think round 2, 5, 7, and 8 are the only debatable rounds for me. I see some scoring on Eye on the Ring giving Lomachenko the 2nd. The Boxrec fan cards average out to 116-113 mirroring the victory. Over 60% disagree with the scores on Eye on the Ring with some draws and a few Lomachenko scores. Some controversy exists but that is just the nature of big fights that go to the cards. I write for Boxing24 and their forum which does a round by round and the best scorers on the site were in agreement on Lopez securing the victory.
I was reminded of several fights while watching this that pitted clashes of styles in high profile match ups. I drew comparisons to Bernard Hopkins and Jermaine Taylor’s middleweight championship tilt from 2004. In that fight the much more skilled and proven Hopkins lost a disputed decision to Jermaine Taylor where he seemed to give away the first 7 or 8 rounds only to turn it up. Despite showing his class and beating up Taylor near the end he had dug too much of a hole to comeback. The early going reminded me a little of Saul Alvarez against Erislandy Lara. The southpaw and orthodox clash mixed with Lomachenko’s negative and mobile start paired with the body attack and low out put in the first 6 mirrored this fight. Canelo like Lopez patiently stalked and snuck in shots where he could though he missed with plenty of his own. Finally, the fight also bore some resemblance to Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward’s initial meeting in a big time light heavyweight title clash from 2016. In that fight the “puncher” Kovalev came out with a calculated strategy behind a jab and piled on an early lead. Later in the fight Ward waited for Kovalev to slow a little and found openings to climb back in.
Many cited Orlando Salido in the lead up to this fight as the blueprint for solving “The Matrix”. Salido dug in numerous uncalled low blows and made it a dirty fight that bothered Lomachenko in his 2nd pro fight. Making it ugly appeared to be a requisite in securing the victory but oddly enough it was Lomachenko who bent the rules a little. I counted at least 5 accidental on purpose headbutts that drew virtually no punishment from Mora. Lomachenko was coming in with his head and then inside he hit and held which is another foul. It was interesting to see the very clean boxing Lomachenko go to that level but he was desperate and the shit talking prefight probably did not help.
To my understanding there was no rematch clause in making this fight. Devin Haney is the other serious player at 135 with his WBC title that lacks legitimacy. He claims Lomachenko ducked him and boasts that he is the man to beat at 135. I think he is the obvious next step for division clarity. Lopez and Haney are two young undefeated fighters of immense talent and I have a feeling that fight can be a big seller given their personalities. It also has the interesting elements of youth, athleticism and skill. It is not often we see two guys so talented and seated a top a division under the age of 25. This match up excites me in the ways a Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns fight would have excited people of my father’s generation nearly 40 years ago.
With all of that said, a rematch here is intriguing. We saw Teofimo Lopez have lots of success and we saw Vasiliy Lomachenko dig deep and have his own success. Lomachenko seemed to do more damage despite being the smaller man and Lopez being touted as the puncher. Conversely, Lopez boxed so successfully with Lomachenko that it seems that he is capable of solving the puzzle and meeting Lomachenko’s ability. He won 8 rounds on my score and amid a second half surge he took the 12th when Lomachenko needed the round. I repeat needed the round! This to me indicates he has a great shot of repeating his victory. Lopez also came up just short on a few fight ending uppercuts that he timed Lomachenko with so well. I think if Lopez improves upon his conditioning he can do this again. Sometimes when the “puncher” out boxes the “boxer” but the fight tightens near the end I predict revenge in the rematch. I did so when Ward won controversially over Kovalev, I felt Kovalev won but Ward had figured him out and would surely win the rematch. I was right. However, I feel Lopez’s showing in the 12th put some doubt in my mind of just how much Lomachenko figured him out. I’d argue Lopez had his best scoring shots in the final round. Many have commented “well Lomachenko took too long but look what he did once he got going”. I will respond saying there is a reason he did not open up and it is the same reason why Lopez landed effectively in round 12. That reason is Lopez is fast enough to counter Lomachenko and hits hard enough to get his respect. I’m not so sure Lomachenko is just going to throw more punches. Beating Lopez is going to take strategy and adjustments.