Teofimo Lopez would be doing himself a disservice to dodge Vasyl Lomachenko. It sounds like a contradiction to say a fighter could dodge an opponent he’s already faced but that’s precisely what critics would say if Lopez avoids giving Lomachenko a rematch. However, before the argument can be made that Lomachenko does indeed deserve a second chance, Lopez should be praised for his performance in their initial bout.
Coming into the fight, Lomachenko was praised for being “The Technician” and the only chance Lopez was given by casual fans has everything to do with his punching power. Lopez, who entered the fight as the reigning IBF champion, is indeed one of the hardest hitting fighters in the lightweight division, but his skills were seen as no match for the legendary Ukrainian who came into the fight as the WBO, WBA and The Ring lightweight champion.
However, the 23-year-old Lopez proved all the critics wrong, clearly out-boxing the 32-year-old Lomachenko through the first few rounds of the fight. It was a gutsy move by the Lopez camp to showcase his technical skills early on, but it may have been the only decision available.
After all, had Lopez gone for an early knockdown, the more experienced Lomachenko would have surely exploited a mistake by the younger fighter and taken control of the fight.
Vasyl Lomachenko mounted a furious comeback in the later stages of the fight, clearly winning rounds nine, ten and eleven. With the outcome of the fight hanging in the balance, both fighters entered round twelve needing to do something special to walk away as the clear-cut winner of the bout.
That’s when Teofimo Lopez stepped up and officially became a superstar. He dominated the championship round and left no doubt that the night was his. Boxing fans got to witness a 23-year-old who came into the fight as an underdog take the belts of a 32-year-old legend who many considered the best pound for pound fighter in the sport. It was one of the most memorable nights in recent boxing history.
This unification bout was exactly what boxing needs
Fight fans all over the world should be thankful to both Lomachenko’s camp and Lopez’s camp for not avoiding this fight. This bout could just as easily not have happened, with each fighter milking their status as a titleholder, facing countless opponents who simply served to generate large paydays and improve their records. Indeed, boxing has gained a reputation over the years for managers carrying fighters by ducking tough opponents.
In this case, the boxing world was given two superb fighters who both publicly stated they wanted to unify their division; and the fight itself did not disappoint. Coming into the fight, Lomachenko held three world titles along with an aura of invincibility. He lost all of that in his defeat at the hands of Lopez.
That’s the risk you take when you climb in the ring with another world champion. It takes courage to put all of that on the line and fight fans everywhere should be grateful.
Lomachenko was understandably upset with the decision
In the post-fight interview, Vasyl Lomachenko did not hesitate to state that the judges made the wrong decision. While its true he clearly won several of the later rounds of the fight, no unbiased observer could score Lomachenko as the winner of the bout.
If nothing else, he needed to dominate the twelfth round in order to have a shot at winning a decision, but the exact opposite took place. Lopez clearly won the twelfth round and therefore clearly won the fight. Lomachenko put on a valiant performance, but the night clearly belonged to the younger man.
Lopez has publicly stated that a rematch with Lomachenko isn’t a priority
In recent interviews since becoming the undisputed lightweight champion of the world, Lopez has stated that he doesn’t see a reason to give Lomachenko a rematch. On the surface, the assumption can easily be made that Lopez’s camp feels they did a thorough enough job that the outcome of the fight isn’t in any doubt and therefore a rematch is unnecessary.
Although no pundits disagreed with the unanimous decision that made Lopez a superstar, there also weren’t any observers who didn’t feel that a rematch could go the other way. Simply put, Lopez put on a stellar performance but Lomachenko also made mistakes that could have potentially cost him the fight.
Lopez’s camp should not be comfortable with the narrative that their fighter caught an aging legend on an off night. Those who judge the fight objectively certainly won’t walk away with that conclusion, however, less knowledgeable fans may not be so kind to Lopez; many still consider Vasyl to be the superior fighter and the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
If Teofimo wants to show that the result of their bout at the MGM Grand wasn’t a fluke, he needs to do it again. That’s certainly not fair, but fairness is not part of the equation when it comes to cementing a legacy. Either beat Lomachenko again or live with the fact that every time you walk to the ring as the undisputed champion, there will be some members of the audience who think someone else could easily hold that title.
A rematch between these two fighters would be even bigger than their first fight
The fact is Lopez should grant Lomachenko a rematch if for no other reason than the large payday both men would undoubtedly receive. While their first fight certainly generated a buzz, a rematch would certainly be a much bigger draw, since the two fighters have already given fans a taste of the electricity that happens when they’re in the ring together.
The first fight was available on cable television; the rematch could easily be a large pay-per-view draw. That means an even bigger purse for each camp than they received the first go-round. This scenario is very similar to the saga of Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.
After Canelo won a controversial decision over GGG in their first fight, the demand from the public all but guaranteed a larger purse for both fighters in the rematch. The two fighters fought again, giving them both another large payday and giving Alvarez the confirmation that the results of their first fight weren’t a fluke. Lopez should consider the benefits of a similar outcome for him and Lomachenko.
The worst-case scenario for Lopez is that he loses a rematch. This would ultimately force the two fighters into a dramatic third fight, often referred to in boxing circles as a trilogy. In the early 2000s Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti engaged in a trilogy that resulted in all three fights being named Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine.
While it’s doubtful that a Lopez-Lomachenko trilogy could match the drama and brutality of Ward vs. Gatti, the status it could give both fighters in boxing lore is significant.
Although Lopez deserves to take this moment to celebrate his victory, he should reconsider his stance on granting Lomachenko a rematch. This may the most important chapter of his career. Another win over Vasyl Lomachenko confirms Lopez’s place in boxing history as the better fighter.
However, a loss in the rematch would set him up for the ever-intriguing trilogy scenario boxing has become famous for. Either way, Lopez is in a win-win situation and he should not cheat himself out or the boxing public out of the opportunity.