One of the most eagerly awaited clashes of 2020 finally comes to fruition this Saturday night, as superlative Ukrainian, Vasiliy Lomachenko takes on the assured Brooklynite, Teofimo Lopez for the undisputed Lightweight crown inside The Bubble of MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
250 fans will also be in attendance in Sin City, as promoter Bob Arum gives tickets to first responders and sponsors to see what should be a mouthwatering main event on ESPN in the USA and FITE TV in the UK.
Lomachenko’s WBA (Super), WBO and Ring Magazine titles are on the line, as well as his WBC Franchise belt, with Devin Haney holding the full title and Lopez brings the IBF belt claimed against Richard Commey in December into Saturday’s mega fight.
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) needs little introduction. Quite possibly the best amateur the sport has ever seen, he amassed a reported 396-1 unpaid record, avenging his sole defeat to Albert Selimov twice, while securing Gold at two World Championships and two Olympic Games.
This made him hot property when turning over, and Bob Arum and Top Rank won the race for his signature.
Lomachenko debuted at Featherweight in October 2013, and catapulted him into a world title fight in his second bout, but found Orlando Salido too much of a veteran, as the Mexican came in over weight, then fouled and bullied his way to a split decision win.
This was a massive learning curve for ‘Hi-Tech’ and it remains his sole loss.
The 32-year-old won the vacant WBO crown in just his third outing, defeating current WBC champion, Gary Russell Jr by majority decision, making three successful defences before moving up in weight to relieve Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez of the WBO Super Featherweight belt with a crushing fifth round knockout win.
A run of four straight retirement defences followed, as Lomachenko dazzled his opponents into submission, including established champions, Nicholas Walters (RTD7) and Guillermo Rigondeaux (RTD6), earning him the moniker ‘No-Mas-Chenko’.
A move up in weight to further his legacy was needed, and the Ukranian survived a fourth round knockdown to drop Jorge Linares, stopping the Mexican in ten to claim the WBA (Super) title at Lightweight.
He then added the WBO strap in December 2018 with a dominant points win against Jose Pedraza. Lomachenko’s last two assignments have come against British opposition.
First, Anthony Crolla was bravely put to the sword in four in April 2019, and his last fight came in London in August of the same year, adding the vacant WBC title to his collection with a landslide win on the cards against Luke Campbell.
The man looking to stop the Lomachenko express is Teofimo Lopez, who has courted a meeting with the Ukrainian for a while.
The 23-year-old first made a real statement in February last year, knocking out Diego Magdaleno in seven rounds to climb the rankings.
Two months later, Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) backed that win up with an impressive fifth round body shot knockout of former European champion, Edis Tatli.
Lopez was spectacularly crowned IBF world champion in December when a massive right hand dropped Richard Commey heavily, and the Honduran native finished the job for a second round stoppage win.
An interesting back story sees both men trained by their fathers, with Anatoly Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Sr taking the reins in the corner for their sons. The fires have been stoked by Lopez going into this one.
Prediction: It’s likely to be a fight to remember while it lasts, with both men having designs of an early nights’ work. Lomachenko has shown little signs of slowing down, and remains at the top end of the pound-for-pound lists for good reason.
I think he will be wary of Lopez’s power early on, and may elect to box as Teofimo looks for the knockout. Lopez may even wobble Lomachenko in the early going, but the European, now based in California, is the world’s best at solving puzzles, and by halfway, I expect him to be able to wear a tiring Lopez down, before scoring a stoppage or retirement in the later rounds in a classic.
In what would be classed as the head of the preliminaries, Oklahoma-based Mexican, Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) takes on Arnold Barboza Jr (24-0, 10 KOs) in a Super Lightweight ten rounder.
Saucedo failed in a 2018 bid for the WBO title bid against Maurice Hooker, stopped in seven rounds, and has won two in a row since.
Barboza has largely defeated faded fighters, with wins over Mike Alvarado and Tony Luis springing to mind.
Prediction: It’s a good test for both, and I lean towards the experience of Saucedo, possibly on the cards.
Knockout artist Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs), who has yet to make it past the first round, takes on Lannell Bellows (20-5-3, 13 KOs), who has never previously been stopped, over a scheduled eight rounds at Super Middleweight.
Clay Collard (9-2-3, 4 KOs) has been one of the busiest fighters during the Pandemic, and he makes his sixth appearance of 2020 in a rematch of his June 2019 meeting with Quincy LaVallais (9-0-1, 5 KOs) which ended in a split draw over six. This one takes place over eight at Middleweight.
Other bouts scheduled on the ESPN card are:
Josue Vargas (17-1, 9 KOs) vs Kendo Castaneda- 10 rounds, Super Welterweight
Jose Enrique Vargas (19-1, 10 KOs) v John Vincent Moralde (23-3, 13 KOs) – 8 Rounds, Featherweight
Quinton Randall (6-0, 2 KOs) v Jan Carlos Rivera (4-0, 4 KOs) – 6 Rounds, Welterweight
Jahi Tucker (1-0, 1 KO) v Charles Garner (1-0) – 4 Rounds, Welterweight