How much does Vasyl Lomachenko have left? And just how good is Teofimo Lopez?
The pair will put an edgy build-up behind them and engage in what Radio 5 Live’s Mike Costello says is “a huge fight” in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Versions of all four world lightweight world titles will be on the line as the brash-talking Lopez looks to humble a celebrated and decorated rival.
“This is the part where I’m leading the new generation,” said American Lopez. “Winning this is a stamp and a mark to put on for the new era.”
An icon with obscure ways
Much has been made of Lopez’s decision to repeatedly verbally attack Lomachenko, who, at 32, is nine years older and has grown used to adulation rather than abuse.
“Why do I have to fear somebody? That guy is here to take my bread and butter and that’s what it comes to,” Lopez told Sport.
“Really though for me it’s not about Loma, it’s about the belts, becoming undisputed world champion, that’s for me why we have this fight and the magnitude of it.
“He’s never faced someone like me, with the confidence I have. I just can’t wait.”
Lomachenko told Sport: “I read that he said he wants to knock me out in three rounds and then I read that he’s preparing for 12 rounds.
“When I hear trash talking from the other side – not from me – it looks very fun.
“It doesn’t depend on whether he’s young or hungry, it depends on what he’s going to do and bring to the ring.”
Both men are trained by their fathers and while gym footage of Lopez has featured plenty of hard hitting, shots of Lomachenko have again captured the obscure methods
that have helped him to the top.
At one point during a documentary recently aired in the US, he simply sits at a dinner table with his mouth and nose immersed in water while his father times the exercise. The drill is said to help him remain calm under stress.
The Ukrainian, a two-time Olympic champion as an amateur, didn’t turn turn pro until the age of 25 in 2013.
“If he retires on Saturday having beaten Lopez it will be sixteen fights, 15 wins, 15 straight world title fights, as well as world titles at three weights, while fighting the best fighters,” said 5 Live Boxing’s Steve Bunce.
“If you take that catalogue of just those 16 fights, no one compares. It doesn’t mean he is better than the greats but those icons can’t compare with what he has done in so few years and so few fights.”
Lopez’s breakout night?
Lopez puts the IBF belt he won in his last fight on the line while Lomachenko will risk the WBA, WBO and WBC ‘Franchise’ titles.
The bout is without question the most significant globally since the coronavirus pandemic rocked the sporting calendar but will have no fans in attendance.
Lomachenko expects a “chess match”, while Lopez’s camp insist their charge will rough up the 1-4 bookmakers’ favourite.
“For how much longer can Lomachenko find the motivation?” says 5 Live Boxing’s Costello.
“I think what Lopez has been saying here will give him enough for this fight but you just never know at 32.
“The trainer Virgil Hunter once said to me you can look back through history and there are points where a fighter stepped up and delivered a great performance that had not been seen in them.
“I am just wondering if there might be one of those in Lopez this weekend. That is what makes it fascinating for me.”
‘Ignorant but the best I’ve faced’
Lopez already boasts a handful of highlight-reel knockouts, while Lomachenko’s movement and relentless nature has on times broken rivals. He made four men in a row quit in their corner between rounds during 2016 and 2017.
Britain’s Luke Campbell took him the distance in his last bout and holds unique insight, having also sparred with Lopez.
“Lomachenko’s judgment of distance, coming in and out of range, was the best I have been in the ring with,” Campbell told 5 Live Boxing.
“But I get where Lopez is coming from attacking Lomachenko for his ignorance and for looking at you like you’re a piece of gum on his shoe. I think Lomachenko is very ignorant.”
Bunce, Costello and Campbell all feel Lomachenko will prevail and bolster the already stellar legacy he looks set to leave behind.
Lopez though seems to care little for boxing’s views and hierarchy. A win would without doubt give him the status to match his youthful swagger.