It was a rare sight on Saturday night seeing Vasiliy Lomachenko leave an arena without having his hand raised in triumph.
Prior to his first defeat in over six years, Lomachenko was arguably viewed as the best fighter on the planet and officially second by the coveted Ring Magazine.
Yet, a points loss to Teofimo Lopez in their Lightweight unification battle in Las Vegas has seen the Ukrainian drop five places to seven in the official pound-for-pound rankings, behind his conquerer, Lopez who moves up to six.
Such is the level of esteemed company Lomachenko finds himself in, that has ultimately led to a dramatic plummet, with four-weight world champion, Canelo Alvarez, Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue, three-weight title holder, Terence Crawford and compatriot Oleksandr Usyk filling the top four places.
Lomachenko loss for the just the second time as a professional, ending a run of thirteen without defeat, since a split decision reverse to Orlando Salido in 2014.
It was an out of sorts Lomachenko early on, who landed just 31 punches over the course of the first seven rounds which appeared to cost him dear, as he struggled to figure out the aggressive, Lopez.
A controversial score of 119-109 from judge Julie Lederman seemed a harsh reflection, as Lomachenko railed to set up a grandstand finish, displaying the kind of urgency most had expected early on.
Truth be told, Lopez did not allow his rival to get going early on, marching forward and controlling proceedings from his jab, whilst Lomachenko always seemed understandably wary of the power of the naturally bigger man, particularly in the early going.
Lopez left the MGM Grand Bubble with all the belts in his grasp, after adding Lomachenko’s WBA ‘Super,’ WBO, WBC Franchise and Ring titles to his IBF belts.
The 32-year-old is looking for a rematch, which appears a non-starter, particularly with Lopez looking to face the likes of Devin Haney or move up to 140 pounds to face the victor of the undisputed showdown between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez.
Promoter Bob Arum named Ryan Garcia, who faces Luke Campbell on December 5, as his preferred choice for Lopez’s first defence of his unified titles.
“For what? I beat him and I did everything that I had to, to beat him,” Lopez said in his post-fight press conference.
“If anything it’ll happen again it’ll be the same thing, there was no rematch clause for a reason.”
Lomachenko’s manager Egis Klimas has since revealed the Ukrainian underwent shoulder surgery from an injury sustained in the weeks prior to the clash, with the three-weight world champion sidelined until January.
Regardless, the size difference between the pair proved key to Lopez’s win, meaning unless he secures the rematch, which is seemingly unlikely at this stage then it seems inevitable that he’ll move back down to 130 pounds, where he made six world title defences.
Three Top Rank promotional stablemates could all be appealing options:
After being in a fight of that magnitude, which delivered the highest viewing figures of a boxing event on US TV since Jeff Horn’s shock win over Manny Pacquiao in 2017, with a peak of 2.898 million viewers on ESPN, it would be unrealistic to think that Lomachenko would want a ‘warm up’ type fight.
Per Nielsen Media Research, #LomaLopez peaked at 2.898 million, an absolutely massive number. This is what happens when the best fight the best and it’s not behind a paywall. Average of 2.1 million. Doesn’t include streaming on ESPN App or ESPN+ https://t.co/RLvn0jda09
— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) October 20, 2020
The Ukrainian was convinced he had done enough to win the bout and with his element of invisibility disappearing on Saturday night, Lomachenko will be determined to prove the doubters wrong with WBC Super Featherweight champion, Miguel Berchelt representing arguably the toughest test at the 130 pounds.
The big-punching Mexican, who is set to defend his crown against Oscar Valdez on December 12, pending official confirmation, has 33 knockouts from his 37 victories and on paper this would be another combination of power against pedigree and flair.
Lomachenko would likely enter as the favourite, with size no longer a disadvantage for him, although if there was ever a better time to face the future hall of famer it would be now, coming off a defeat.
Jamel Herring/Carl Frampton winner
WBO Super Featherweight champion, Jamel Herring could also be an option for Lomachenko’s road to redemption.
The awkward southpaw is likely to face Carl Frampton towards the end of 2020 first and at 34-years-old he’ll be searching for the biggest and most lucrative fights.
Frampton jumps up in weight after holding world titles at Super Bantamweight and Featherweight and victory over Herring would be another enticing possibility for Lomachenko, with ’The Jackal’ already a known quantity in the USA, following his two memorable fights with Leo Santa Cruz.
Shakur Stevenson has already drawn comparisons with former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr and the 23-year-old welcomed a showdown with Lomachenko, taking to social media to make his intentions known.
“Send that boy my way I been wit all the smoke,” Stevenson tweeted.
Send that boy my way I been wit all the smoke 😤
— Shakur Stevenson (@ShakurStevenson) October 18, 2020
Perhaps a fight for further down the line, with the former WBO Featherweight champion looking to claim the same belt at 130 pounds first before unifying with Berchelt.
For all his prowess and glaring potential, Stevenson remains inexperienced in the professional ranks, with just 13 fights under his belt and may see more worth in facing double Olympic gold medalist, Lomachenko in the coming years.
Whatever the next move may be for Lomachenko, Saturday’s defeat should not defect away from his remarkable achievements both as an amateur and professional.
Nor should anything be taken away from Lopez, who capitalised on his opportunity in a close fight, announcing himself into stardom in Sin City.
The next move for Lomachenko will determine if this remains a minor setback, that will provide the path for a substantial resurgence and who would really write him off?