By Scoop Malinowski
Teofimo Lopez psyched out Vasyl Lomachenko before the fight with his confidence, swagger and threats of power, and the intimidation transferred into the ring.
Lopez dominated an overly cautious and careful Lomachenko in the first half of the fight and subdued the Ukrainian’s late rally to win a unanimous decision. The 23 year old American is now the undisputed Lightweight champion and on the cusp of superstardom.
The tone of this fight was set by the underdog Lopez, who verbally chastised his rival for years, masterfully articulating that he was superior and he would show it and prove it when he got the chance. It was similar to how younger underdog Tyson Fury psyched out Wladimir Klitschko before their fight and then back it up with a brilliant performance in the ring. Other similar mental/physical performances in recent years were Tarver vs Jones, Ali vs Foreman, McCall vs Lewis 1. In each of these fights, the underdog verbally intimidated with supreme confidence, and then slayed the favored but intimidated champ.
Lomachenko threw minimal punches for the first six rounds, clearly concerned and confused by the arsenal, power and confidence of Lopez. Lopez used his physical advantages brilliantly to control the fight and punish Lomachenko when he dared to attack.
Finally in the second half of the fight, Lomachenko began to score with some impressive punches but it was not enough to overcome the scorecard deficit or to discourage Lopez from his winning gameplan.
The fight resembled a matador, Lopez, handling a bull with a dazzling array of straight rights high and low, left jabs, hooks, uppercuts. Lomachenko simply had no effective answers.
At the final bell it was Lopez who celebrated as if he knew he won, and it was Lomachenko who looked frustrated and disappointed – the body language of a man who knew he had been defeated. In a fitting display of fine sportsmanship, Lopez came over to the Loma corner to shake hands with the team, as if to say, Sorry I disrespected you before the fight but this is business and I had to do it, you are a great champion.
Lomachenko did not return the warmth to Lopez and looked like he knew the judges were going to go against him, which they did on all three cards, even a horribly inaccurate 119-109. Andre Ward scored the fight 114-114 on the ESPN telecast.
When the ring announcer awarded the decision and titles to Lopez, Lomachenko made a quick, barely noticeable nod of approval and then quickly left the ring without congratulating his conqueror. A few minutes later Lomachenko admitted he was not sure if he won the fight, he would have to watch a video replay. He did not look extraordinary at 135 vs Lopez and all the wear and tear of his illustrious pro and amateur career may have taken an ominous toll. Or perhaps Lopez is his kryptonite.
Neither fighter seemed eager for a rematch.
Lopez will surely become a major champion franchise and his charisma, humor, and colorful personality will attract new fans for the sport. Many lucrative fights await this super talented new champion and his thrilled promoter Bob Arum.