What went so wrong for Lomachenko Saturday night?
Boxing fans who’ve craved another mega-fight since Fury-Wilder 2 and the COVID pandemic looked to Saturday October 17, 2020 the same way that a man dying of thirst looks to find water.
It was the “pound for pound king” in Vasily Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez, the young upstart who dared to be great after securing his title by starching Richard Comey inside 2 rounds. He had done that with a lightning strike of a right hand and immediately set his sights on the man many believed to be the best boxer on the planet.
Many applauded the young Lopez for his courage, but few actually believed that the 23 year old New York power punching prospect, turned champion in his last outing could hold his own against the best boxing has to offer.
Today, the boxing world largely mourned their expectations, as the brash young Lopez gave the boxing one of the great shockers in a lower weight division in recent memory with a 12 round unanimous decision win for the Unified Lightweight titles, leaving us to wonder what went wrong?
And, what are the takeaways from the victorious one, known as “the Takeover?”
First, Lomachenko had shown unparalleled technical wizardry and tactical genius that had been the calling card of the Ukrainian former 3 division champion. From the starting bell, Lomachenko appeared to take on a bold strategy as Lopez held court unchallenged for most of the fights first 7 rounds.
One important thing Lopez, the physically superior fighter in size and strength, did was eat up the ring and force Lomachenko to skirt the ropes as he strafed the body and threatened the right hand. That was to impose his will and use his shots sparingly but effectively to cage the movement of the veteran Lomachenko,
Thus, forcing Loma’s movement to be reduced to simple left and right side to side along the ropes, as Lopez effectively used feints to cause the Ukrainian to back up.
This effective, economical offense gave little room for counters or forward movements. That has been the staple of the Lomachenko puzzle with his dazzling, dancing around his opponent serving angles to step around and smother his opponents.
Thus, he can create angles to hit his opponents, while remaining out of range of any return fire. This resulted in the boxing world collectively watching this an unfamiliar style baffle Loma and that couldn’t be stifled.
Boxing has held true that all must face challenges and be fed to the fire. And, as with most long time champions, a rival appears who poses the questions and the problems to challenge his heart and soul, as well as the skill. And, the public’s perceptions are then also put on trial against reality.
That reality often dictates that sometimes the underdog (Lopez) elects to flip the script, and refuses to give in to the idea that they are lesser than their opponent- no matter how great.
And, there we have the answer.
And, Lopez exposed the fanatical ideology that a fighter is somehow more than a mortal man, when in fact, he is a man with two hands that bleeds and suffers setbacks as does everyone else.
The collective opinion now seems in ways to criticize and take back the praise all the boxing world has bestowed upon Lomachenko’s legacy. But, the only real opinions that matter are those who step into the other side of the ropes and into the proving ground that is the boxing ring.
And Teofimo Lopez never let the opinions of Lomachenko being deemed the greatest or invincible put an ounce of doubt into his belief that he is the man. And that he truly believed, while so many others doubted, is a powerful insight into the psychology of the now undisputed 135 lb. champion.
The belief in talent and skill by young Lopez harkens to the young Cassius Clay upsetting and knocking out the supposed “baddest man alive” in Sonny Liston.
We often forget the narrative of the history of boxing and the greatest fighters, whom near all of which tasted defeat.
Ali did. Leonard did. Tyson did, as well.
And now, we will see the character of Lomachenko, as Saturday was his second loss, and as he works to make his way back to champion. Will he re-ignite the imagination of all boxing fans across the world?
There lies the challenge to judge greatness, as he attempts to ascend once again to the throne.
Until then, we have a great young and brash champion in Lopez, who has had a near supernatural power to bend the boxing universe to his will. The clinching in the 8th to 11th round or the left arm shoving Lomachenko out of the pocket where he artistically breaks down his opponents will and that has forced undefeated champions to yield to his supremacy.
Yet, it was taken away in an overpowering, consistent display of low volume but effective punches and discipline to stand his ground by Lopez. And, it forced the legendary Lomachenko to accept a style of fight that Lopez could beat the seemingly unbeatable, hardest test below 140 lbs.
One star has fallen but a new star with immense potential, far beyond our perceptions prior to the actual contest has risen!
Change is uncomfortable, but boxing mirroring the lives of those of us who were on the other side of the ropes, has always shown that changing of the guard is inevitable.
And, Saturday night, Teofimo Lopez clearly illustrated that cold reality for the boxing world and its love for one of its greatest fighters in Lomachenko.
But, we cant make the mistake of putting a period on any outcome, prematurely. No, as many of us celebrate or grieve the incredible and jaw dropping shocker of a performance that Lopez gave us.
Only one thing is certain, this isn’t over yet.