This weekend’s Main Event is made in matchup heaven!
What makes a fight intriguing? What is it that separates the fights that are enormous draws from the ones that barely register? I contend that what separates mega fights from forgettable affairs has less to do with the action that they possess and more to do with a combination of several factors. First among all of these factors is star power. Every big fight in history has all featured superstars whose brand and name preceded them. The other factor that weighs into making a fight marketable is the narrative. What is the storyline that makes us care about who wins and loses? The biggest fights of all time have all featured a combination of star power and narrative.
This weekend’s main event between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez may be the greatest combination of narratives that we’ve seen in many years, it features so many different boxing matchup tropes that if it was a Hollywood film it would be deemed unrealistic. Age vs. Experience. Size vs. Speed. Cocky vs. Collected. Power vs. Precision. Every boxing movie cliché, every overused saying, every single element that is on display this Saturday is another chapter in a long line of great matchups, with countless precedents between them. We are going to break down each one, piece by piece and get to the bottom of what makes this fight a masterclass in matchmaking.
Age vs. Experience. At only 23 years of age, Teofimo Lopez Jr. has boundless energy and a tenacity that is reserved for the young. His athleticism is at its peak, and his weight has no trouble staying down. He is entering his prime as his opponent begins to exit his. However, to underestimate Vasyl Lomachenko is to misunderstand him. He may be the best conditioned boxer on the planet and what he lacks in youth, he more than makes up for in experience. Perhaps the greatest amateur boxer of all time, with 396 victories to only 1 loss and 2 Olympic Gold medals to boot. He has been in every situation imaginable inside of the squared circle, other than losing by knockout. Boxing has been filled to the brim with this style of matchup. Time will tell whether this will be a “passing of the torch” moment a la Oscar De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez or a humbling, teaching experience along the lines of Mayweather-Alvarez.
Size vs. Speed. Teofimo Lopez towers over Vasyl Lomachenko both in height as well as stature. Lomachenko views the 135 pound division as his final form, whereas Lopez sees it as a starting point. One look at the two men and it’s hard to believe that they fight in the same weight class. Sporting a two inch height advantage and a three inch reach advantage, Lopez looks to use his substantial advantages in size and length to bully Lomachenko and keep him at bay. Lomachenko, on the other hand, will look to exploit his natural advantages in speed and pace. He throws punches in bunches, and many of his past opponents have had trouble keeping up with the pace that he sets. He hopes to mitigate Lopez’s natural size advantage with his superior speed, using his fast hands and faster feet to keep Lopez guessing and struggling to keep up. Come Saturday, we’ll see who has more success.
Cocky vs. Collected. Teofimo carries himself with the sort of brashness and confidence that is unmistakably American. He dances, backflips, talk’s trash, and otherwise makes a splash everywhere he goes. A major contributor in most of Lomachenko’s victories has been in his ability to strike fear in many opponents before they even walked into the ring. That won’t be a factor in this fight. Lopez has a level of self-confidence that could be described as cocksure, arrogant, or pompous, but it’s exactly what’s been driving him throughout his stellar young career. Vasyl, on the other hand, has the kind of cold demeanor that would fit right in on the set of a James Bond film. He has never once appeared flustered or emotional at any point in his career. His nickname is The Matrix, and he very much seems made up of 1s and 0s more than flesh and blood. He is a calculated, terrifying, collected killer whose very presence sends chills up one’s spine. This clash of personalities is as perfect as their clash in styles.
Power vs. Precision. Teofimo Lopez hits with perhaps the heaviest hands in the division. His ability to land knockout shots with both hands is a tremendous advantage and forces his opponent to be hyper focused and nearly perfect defensively, or risk getting put to sleep in a split second. Across the ring, Vasyl may be the closest thing we’ve seen to perfection since Floyd Mayweather retired. His ability to land accurate shots, while staying out of harm’s way, is as tight and precise as we’ve seen in modern history. He is as great a technical boxer as has been in the game in my lifetime. They say that power is the ultimate equalizer, and we’ll find out Saturday whether Teofimo’s power will be able to offset Loma’s skill gap.
These men are as opposite as two opponents can be. Even their trainers, who are also their fathers, are polar opposites. “Papa-chenko” operates behind the scenes like the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings and staying out of the spotlight. “Teo Sr.,” on the other hand, is his son’s toughest critic, biggest cheerleader, and most vocal proponent. This matchup is our reward as fight fans for having gone without meaningful matchups for so long this year. This is a fight for all the marbles, undisputed champion status, and a legacy that will be remembered for generations. Let’s get it on.