The case for a Lomchenko vs. Lopez rematch

On October 17th, Teofimo Lopez unified the WBO, IBF, and WBA lightweight belts after beating Vasily Lomachenko via unanimous decision.

I got a bit distracted by the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov so I am rather late to the game here, but nonetheless, I wanted to talk about Lomachenko vs. Lopez.

But first, a disclaimer: Yes, I’m a stupid person who gets emotionally invested in fighters’ careers. And there are very few fighters whose careers I am more invested in than Vasily’s. If you think that makes my opinion too biased, you can dismiss everything I am about to say.

To be clear: I do not have a problem with the result of this fight. The result itself is not controversial. I don’t think anyone can claim that. But judge Julie Lederman scored the fight 119-109, which would indicate a bell-to-bell beatdown, which it most certainly was not.

Why does it matter though? Why is it important?

It’s important because people – and even boxing fans – will refer to these scorecards. Assuming we are still alive, 20 years from now, someone will be looking up Lomachenko’s resume on BoxRec and reach the conclusion that Teofimo Lopez beat the brakes off of him simply because of this 119-109 scorecard. Even today, just go to any boxing forum and look at all the people talking about how dominant of a performance it was from Lopez.

But then, this was to be expected after a Lomachenko loss. Within the disturbed mind of a particular breed of combat sport fan, there is an impulse to hate a fighter who never did anything to warrant hate. In the case of Lomachenko, we have a man who is well-mannered, charismatic, supremely skilled and entertaining within the ring, and really has never had any issues outside the ring. So why hate on him?

The only explanation has to be some kind of twisted contrarianism. Jim Lampley, Joe Tessitore, and others will go on and on about how great he is, and this rubs people the wrong way. And thus, they hate on him as a reaction to this.

This is the only way I can explain why we are witnessing the phenomenon of all these fans coming out of the woodwork to say that Lomachenko is just hype, was never actually good, and never actually beat anyone of note. This is the worst part about following combat sports: when a dominant fighter loses, suddenly he was actually always bad and has finally been exposed. This is irritating no matter who it happens to, but with Loma it hurt me more than it really should (for aforementioned reasons).

That strand of absurd thinking aside, the more sensible view which has been floating around is that Lomachenko simply does not belong in the lightweight division. I can see the logic of this. Not everyone can be a Pacquiao. Loma was not particularly powerful at featherweight or super featherweight to begin with, and his power certainly isn’t carrying over to lightweight.

Moreover, he’s not been quite as dominant at lightweight, as evidenced by the Lopez fight as well as by previous fights. He gets hit more at lightweight than at the lower weights. He was, of course, knocked down by Jorge Linares; the first and only time he got knocked down. But even when he has been coasting to victory, like in his more recent performances, it wasn’t quite the same as when he systematically deconstructed the likes of Walters or Rigondeaux.

Although the “Loma isn’t a lightweight” camp has a more sensible view, I still think Loma is perfectly capable as a lightweight, and capable of becoming the undisputed lightweight champ; in spite of having a significant size handicap and lacking the power to make up for it. And, yes, in a rematch against Lopez, Lomachenko would still be favored, albeit not by as wide of a margin.

So, about this fight: I scored the fight 114-114. In fact, my scorecard was identical to Andre Ward’s. But just like in any boxing match, there is a certain acceptable range of scores. In this case, there is really no path to saying Loma won this fight. However, anything from a draw, to a 116-112 scorecard for Lopez, is an acceptable scorecard in my view.

And yet, all but one of the official scorecards was not within this range.

So if we concede that rounds 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 12 are clear Lopez rounds, and that rounds 8, 9, 10, and 11 are clear Loma rounds (yes they were; go watch them), then that leaves two swing rounds: 2, and 7.

So, why did me and Andre Ward score Round 2 for Lomachenko? Some people think this was a clear Lopez round. But Loma landed the best combination of the round and the best punch of the round by far. Yes, Lopez was the more active fighter this round, and, well, Lopez was the more active fighter for the entire first half of the fight. But he didn’t land many clean punches in this round, certainly not to the head. He did land a few good ones to the body, but he didn’t do anything as significant as Loma’s aforementioned combination and left hand.

For rounds 1-6, Loma seemingly stayed in first gear. It was not until Round 7 that you see a sense of urgency from him. He was far more aggressive, and more physical as well, initiating the clinch on a number of occasions and sneaking in some shots while there. He was far more active in this round than in any previous round, by far, and although Lopez still threw (emphasis on threw) a lot more punches, Loma just seemed in control, and his defence was superb as well.

And that brings us to my overall point:

Lopez arguably won all of the first six rounds. Aside from that second round, the rounds he won were not close. OK.

But why weren’t they close? And in answering this question, we have to be honest: Lopez won those rounds on activity, not on damage. Loma is always low output in the early rounds, but in this fight he was abnormally low output. He threw four punches in the first round. That has to be a career low.

Lopez was doing good work, especially with that fast, snappy jab, but let’s be honest: he was the only one doing any work. And most of the punches he was landing were merely hitting the gloves and the forearms of Loma.

Loma conceded a lot of those early rounds. I am not sure what his strategy was; all I know is that it didn’t work. Loma wasn’t doing enough to really keep Teofimo honest, so for nearly the entire first half of the fight, Teofimo never had to leave his comfort zone. He filled up on easy points while Loma refused to throw punches.

So let’s not pretend that this was a bell-to-bell beatdown.

And if you’re one of those weirdos who think Loma lost those aforementioned later rounds, please reevaluate your choices in life and go watch those rounds again. He was landing more punches and better punches than Lopez in those four rounds (8, 9, 10, 11). And landed more clean shots in these rounds than Lopez did in the earlier rounds.

So… needless to say, I think Lomachenko would take the rematch. I am not sure he can finish Lopez, as he has trouble finishing lightweights in general. But I think he could put in another dominant all-around performance that we had come to expect from the Ukrainian through the years.

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