“I am ready to take over the world,” Teofimo Lopez cried following a crowning evening inside Top Rank’s Bubble, Las Vegas. Against the odds, the braggadocious 23-year-old had upset one of the very best to lace up a pair of gloves via a relatively comfortable unanimous decision – the official score totals read 116-112, 117-111, and 119-109, with my card reading 116-112 in a contest that was surprisingly easy to score.
There were several questions posed of both men before Saturday evening’s bout, and over 36 minutes of unabating brilliance, answers became clearer as the tide shifted in the 135-pound division. Vasiliy Lomachenko — widely regarded in the top two of the sport’s active fighters prior to this contest — looked a shadow of the man that has danced through his career dropping jaws of opponents and crowds across three divisions.
With limited output over the first six rounds against a dynamic Lopez (16-0, 12 KO), Loma looked like a fighter walking the tightrope between attack and defence, unable to counter with a confidence that has defined his rise to greatness. This was less to do with the Ukrainian’s shortcomings as it was to do with Lopez’s implementation of a gameplan that next to nobody predicted having the success that it did. Lopez — young, big and strong at the weight — was able to land stiff jabs and single, thudding shots to the body of the favourite, stunting his ability to close the distance and work off of counter openings. Lopez stifled Lomachenko’s ability to create angles and utilise his lateral movement which has seen him swarm opposition into surrender on numerous occasions.
The lack of a roaring crowd inside the MGM Grand allowed the viewer to peep behind the curtain of the effect Lopez’s punches were having on Lomachenko. Echoing clomps to the torso of the three-belt holder were audible from the comfort of our homes, as minute after minute ticked by without any visible riposte.
It wasn’t until the second half of the fight that Loma decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to work off the fire that was coming his way. He landed some impressive combinations, but nothing that looked close to drowning Lopez in output like we have seen time and time again from “Hi-Tech.”
In a fight that looked certain to be separated into two clear halves, Lopez rallied against this narrative with guts, grit and aggression in the final three minutes, trading with Lomachenko and landing the healthier work. Unwilling to canter towards the finish line, Lopez underlined one of the most memorable underdog performances in recent years, doing to Lomachenko what only Albert Selimov and Orlando Salido have previously proved possible — only this time, there were zero controversies.
Lomachenko threatened to spring into life throughout the contest — he’d set the traps, stand primed to roll, pivot and throw — but Lopez didn’t once allow Loma that time or space to dip into his box of tricks. Constant pressure coupled with thudding artillery proved the kryptonite to a man many believed was superhuman inside the four corners of the roped ring.
It’s a tale of two fighters at different ends of two spectrums. Loma found his ceiling in weight against a guy who is expected to move through to at least 147-pounds throughout his blossoming career. Questions will be asked of Lomachenko’s 32 years and 400+ bouts, but Saturday wasn’t about a faded Lomachenko, but the birth of Teofimo Lopez; not of a fighter turning old overnight, but of a boy turning into a man.
If a rematch doesn’t take place, a return to 130-pound waters will be expected from Lomachenko, whereas Lopez has a plethora of options going forward. “I’ll have Josh Taylor in the morning,” Lopez told ESPN post-fight, “and then I’ll have Jose Ramirez at night.” But one more fight at lightweight may be tempting for Lopez, who has made his feelings clear about “two-time email champion,” Devin Haney. After all, Haney does hold the final key to technical undisputed status at lightweight — if anyone is really bothered.
Whatever comes next, Lopez is perfectly positioned to become one of the sports brightest stars over the next decade. “We talked the talk, and we walked the walk,” Lopez boasted after his seismic victory — and thankfully for us, there are plenty of miles left on his journey.