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Lopez shocks the lightweight world; Lomachenko leaves it too late in bid for legacy-defining success

Teofimo Lopez lived up to his own hype as he scored a surprising unanimous decision victory over Ukrainian phenomenon and pound-for-pound boxing great, Vasyl Lomachenko.

Surprising is the optimum word here, as it was surprising to see Lopez’s hand raised as victor in a contest where few gave him any serious chance, surprising to see the official scorecards read 117-111, 119-109 and 116-112 (when the contest had been much closer), and surprising to see Lomachenko so inactive and subdued for much of the fight, especially during the first six rounds.

It has long been known that Lomachenko likes to spend the early phases of a fight studying his opponents, to, as Jimmy Tobin eloquently writes: ‘…calibrate himself to your movements.’

This pattern was again forthcoming, though Lomachenko was far too inactive in the early rounds to scoringly compete. After three rounds he had landed 2 of only 11 punches thrown, compared to Lopez’s 11 of 42. Lopez was also demonstrably bigger than Lomachenko, and was finding himself not only able to cut off the ring, but also to occasionally ensnare Lomachenko on the ropes or in the corner. The smaller man spent the majority of the first few rounds either backing up, or in obvious, regular retreat.

By the halfway point, I had Lopez 6-0 up. Andre Ward, working the fight for ESPN had it 5 rounds to 1 (in Lopez’s favour (with the current climate in boxing, you sadly have to specify)).

It had been commonly thought that Lomachenko would come on strong, especially in the second half of the fight, with many predicting either a late Lomachenko stoppage or a unanimous decision victory.

Though the expected onslaught did come, it did so in patches, and was far too subdued and infrequent to overcome the earlier inertia. That said, Lomachenko did win rounds 8, 9, 10 and 11. When he upped the pressure and took more risks, he was able to slip inside Lopez’s jab and let off a succession of eye-catching flurries. It seems incongruous to say, given the final result, but the gulf in class showed in these moments; Lomachenko flirted and flashed the brilliance we have come to expect from him, and he made Lopez look comparatively flat-footed and ordinary.

Irrespective of the scorecards, and to the partisan nonsense of the many New Yorkers who occupy American network punditry positions, to many watching, myself included, it seemed that round 12 would be the pivotal and deciding round; a Lomachenko triumph resulting in a 114-114 draw; Lopez, and the IBF champion earning a narrow 115-113 victory. Lopez did win this round and was therefore, to my mind, subsequently a worthy winner. As the fight ended, he had a cut over his right eye – the result of a Lomachenko headbutt, with only 10 seconds remaining – but given that he was supposedly in the toughest fight of his career to date, he barely looked like he’d been exerted.

Yes, you could make an argument that the fight ended a draw, especially if you were viewing it through the blurred prism of corneal dystrophy. This argument would even seem rational and cogent, compared to the events from the Matchroom card in Peterborough and the abysmal, corrupt scoring of the Ritson-Vasquez fight. Equally, you could say that Lopez won as wide as 116-112. You can’t defend the wide scoring of the ringside judges, even though the right man got the decision. Lomachenko’s slow start and surprising reticence to engage ultimately cost him the fight.

That said, the congratulations, along with the soils, must go to Teofimo Lopez (and to all associated with the Lopez camp), who at 23 years old becomes the unified IBF, WBO and WBA world lightweight champion, and the youngest four-belt champion since the WBO was founded (in 1988).


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