Image Credit: Howard Simmons/AP/Shutterstock
It is a popular consensus that Teofimo Lopez, Jr. is a part of boxing right future elite brigade.
That’s not fight hype, he also has the credentials.
The 23 year old Honduran-American professional boxer has held the IBF lightweight title since 2019. As an amateur, he also represented Honduras at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
It’s… FIGHT WEEK‼️🤩 #TheTakeover
— Teofimo Lopez (@TeofimoLopez) October 12, 2020
He is flashy as well.
His one-punch knockouts are akin to his peers in Ryan Garcia and Gervonta “Tank” Davis. He also puts the cherry on top of his wins with Cirque du Soleil style aerial backflips coupled with post-fight “Fortnite” dances that only attest to his in-ring footwork.
However, this Saturday, the unbeaten champion tangles with unified titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko. A man known simply as “The Matrix” for like Neo he is believed to always be capable of the impossible.
“Lomachenko-Lopez is the best fight that can be made in boxing, and we are delighted that it will be available to fans for no extra charge live on ESPN,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Teofimo and Vasiliy demanded the fight, and we are glad we could make it happen. Vasiliy has never backed down from a challenge since he turned pro under the Top Rank banner, and Teofimo is a fearless young champion daring to be great. This has all the makings of a modern boxing classic.”
A Father’s Intuition
Teofimo Lopez Sr., the trainer and father to the star, has been calling out Lomachenko for the past two years, predicting a knockout victory.
After you lose, remember the words your father said right here. He is writing checks that you're not going to be able to cash. pic.twitter.com/ayNbg7Rmto
— bombs boxing™ (@bombsboxing) October 12, 2020
For many this would normally seem laughable when discussing Loma who after 15 fights, with only one loss early in his career, has looked like nothing short than a boxing savant.
But Lopez, Jr. is no regular boxer.
Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), emerged as boxing’s most charismatic young superstar following his 2016 pro debut. He was the consensus 2018 Prospect of the Year, a campaign punctuated by a one-punch, first-round knockout over Mason Menard on the Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza undercard.
100% ⬇️@AlBernstein: @TeofimoLopez @VasylLomachenko Really don’t have a pick- toss-up. Thesize & power of Teo vs skillset & overall brilliance of Loma. But, Teo skilled fighter too & Loma has power too. Hence it seems like a toss up. I Do know 1 thing. It will be fun to watch.”
— John Cusack (@johncusack) October 12, 2020
Following the Menard knockout, he donned the jersey of Kyler Murray, who’d won the Heisman Trophy earlier that evening. Lopez climbed the rankings in 2019 with wins over Diego Magdaleno, Edis Tatli and Masayoshi Nakatani.
But in December 2018 an incident happens that sets the Lopez, Jr. on a collision course towards his eventual destiny.
A few nights before Lopez is scheduled to fight Mason Menard at Madison Square Garden, Lopez Sr. ran into Lomachenko in the hallway of the hotel where both fighters are staying.
The story was told to journalist Mark Kriegel:
“How you doing, Lomachenko?” Lopez Sr. says, offering his hand.
But then Lomachenko gives him that look.
Lopez Sr. starts screaming, cursing, making a scene.
“Yo, you ain’t gonna do nothing. We coming for you. F— you! Come Saturday we’re gonna steal the show!”
The junior Teofimo gets very upset when his father tells him. He now sees Lomachenko’s actions as disrespectful to his father without even saying one word. He faulted his Dad but it also gave him motivation.
“Why would you do that?” Teofimo says he thought. “Now I got to clean up your mess.”
Lomachenko Is A Problem
Vasiliy “Loma” Lomachenko is the WBO/WBA/WBC Franchise world champion. He is affectionately called the pound-for-pound “Boxing Baryshnikov” from Ukraine.
I’ve had the pleasure of covering both Loma & Teofimo’s careers since their pro debuts. Going back and finding some old photos and videos brought me across this gem of @VasylLomachenko from Macau on the #PacAlgieri undercard in 2014 🥊 pic.twitter.com/7SemdETXrA
— Crystina Poncher (@CrystinaPoncher) October 13, 2020
With two gold medals, a stellar amateur career going 396-1, and a reputation as possibly the best active fighter with only 15 fights to his name, he is a rarity in the sport.
“Teofimo Lopez can talk all he wants. He’s very good at talking. He has done nothing but say my name for the past two years. I am a fighter, and my goal is to win another world title. Good for Teofimo. When we fight in Las Vegas, he will eat my punches and his words. I will be the better man, and four world titles will come home with me to Ukraine.”
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) is coming off a decision win over British star Luke Campbell last August in front of a sold-out O2 Arena in London. Lomachenko tied a boxing record by winning a world title in his third pro fight. He is a former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion who won the lightweight crown in May 2018 with a body shot knockout over Jorge Linares.
In seven years as a pro, Lomachenko is 13-1 with 9 knockouts in world title fights and is ranked by many pundits as this generation’s most accomplished pugilist. From 2016-2017, he made four consecutive fighters quit on their stools, earning him the “No-Mas-chenko” moniker.
Lomachenko reportedly took a pay cut in order to make the numbers work for Lopez. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no live gate for the fight.
But Loma to many is on the tail end of his career.
— Teofimo Lopez (@TeofimoLopez) October 9, 2020
Lopez is embarking on a quest to become a young giant killer and prove he is who he says he is.
By pursuing and landing a fight of this magnitude early in his career, he is attempting to make a statement that could carry his name for his entire career.
In addition, ESPN decided to take a seemingly guaranteed pay-per-view bout and give it for free on basic cable.
“Boxing has long been part of the fabric of our company and we could not be more excited for the October schedule on ESPN platforms, which includes the highly anticipated lightweight title bout between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez on October 17. Top Rank was one of the very first organizations to safely stage live events during the pandemic and as the calendar turns to fall, ESPN will be home to fights that will excite boxing enthusiasts and capture the attention of casual fans.”
-Matt Kenny, Vice President, Programming and Acquisitions, ESPN
This Saturday, Teofimo Lopez looks to become a giant killer and Loma seeks to solidify his greatness a la Manny Pacquiao over Keith Thurman style.
For boxing fans, it is the perfect storm they’ve always waited for.