The most exciting talent in boxing against arguably its best. It’s a matchup that we last saw in 2013, when a fresh-faced Canelo, just 23-years-old, took on the best of an era in Floyd Mayweather Jr. That time, despite many believing the young Mexican would be the man to stop the seemingly unbeatable champion, it was the grizzled veteran who came out on top.
Wind forward seven years and it is the highly-rated Honduran-American Teofimo Lopez, also 23, who steps into the shoes of the prospect and it's Vasyl Lomachenko, a professor in the art of the sweet science, who takes Mayweather’s mantle of being (arguably) the current era’s numero uno. The pair this week signed up to fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on October 17 and will duke it out for the Lomachenko’s WBC, WBA and WBO titles and Lopez’s IBF belt - essentially meaning that whoever wins this lightweight showdown will become the division’s undisputed king.
We all know who Lomachenko is - the fistic wizard with one of the best amateur records ever (396 wins, just one loss), the owner of two shiny Olympic golds (2008 and 2012) and the man who became a three-weight world champion in just 12 professional fights - but who is the man in the opposite corner?
Lopez, who is unbeaten after 15 fights, producing 12 knockouts along the way, might not be a household name yet but he’s certainly been making noise inside and outside of the ring since his debut in 2016. In fact, the Brooklyn native has had his eyes set on Lomachenko since his sixth pro fight, mentioning his rival’s name for the first time publicly in the aftermath of his win over Christian Santibanez. Lopez’s brashness is only matched by his father Teofimo Sr’s, who echoed his son’s words, vowing that the then 20-year-old would one day seek and destroy the Ukrainian. Next month they both have the chance to make good on that opportunity, and send shockwaves through the boxing world.
Can he actually beat Lomachenko or will it be a repeat of Canelo vs Mayweather? Well, Lomachenko is certainly the heavy betting favourite to triumph over the youngster at 1/4 but Loma isn’t invincible, having tasted defeat to Orlando Salido in just his second fight (albeit controversially), and Lopez’s punching power certainly brings an element of ‘What if?’ to the fight. Boasting an 80% knockout rate, with stand out stoppage wins over Richard Commey and Diego Magdaleno, Lopez is building something of a fearsome reputation, and while he won the fight eventually, fellow lightweight Jorge Linares proved in 2018 that Lomachenko can be put on the canvas.
Fight fans have understandably lit up after news of this fight’s announcement, a silver lining in a year where a pandemic has hampered both boxing and sport as whole and with two of the best talents in the sport, at different spectrums of their careers. And even if the fight ends up being a damp squib, the build-up should be fun at least, with the two fighter’s sharing a genuine animosity between each other, thanks in part to Lopez’s cock-sure confidence.
“I will beat up Lomachenko and take his belts. Simple as that,” said Lopez after the fight’s announcement.
“I’m coming to Las Vegas to make history. I don’t like the guy, and I’m going to have fun as Lomachenko’s face is beaten and marked up by my hands.”
Win or lose on October 17, Lopez’s stock is about to skyrocket in the world of boxing, and he should be applauded for taking such a tough fight so early on in his blossoming career. Should he win? Say hello to the biggest boxing star in the world. The future’s bright whatever happens.