The much-anticipated fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. to unify lightweight world titles is as evenly matched as a fight can be and very difficult to predict. Lomachenko is the older, more experienced fighter, having accumulated a record of 396-1 as an amateur, and winning world titles in three divisions in 15 pro fights.
Lopez is one of the most exciting fighters in boxing. The 23-year-old has power, charisma and the confidence to become the sport’s next superstar. But does he have what it takes to beat Lomachenko, who is recognized as ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
We spoke to a few of Lomachenko’s past opponents to see what worked — and what didn’t — against one of the most technically sound fighters in the world.
When I was preparing to fight him, I knew that Lomachenko was a very smart fighter. We knew we had to make him uncomfortable, not let him think, and be on top of him to make him a good fight — and that’s what happened that night.
I planned to be there, always by his side, throwing punches, not letting him think, not letting him act, because we knew he was a fighter with many weapons.
I didn’t watch any videos of him before the fight. I am not used to watching videos, because maybe it scares me. Better to see how the fight plays out in the ring. We prepared to improvise depending on what he did.
I did not feel his power during the fight, but his punches to the body were brutal. In the last two rounds he got me with two hooks to the liver that made me bend over. I really felt them.
Lomachenko has been far superior to all the opponents he has faced so far. Nobody wants to fight him because they know how difficult and how good he is. He moves very well, he has speed of hands and legs, he is intelligent.
When I fought him, I got on top of him, trying not to give him distance and not let him think. If you let him think, he starts with his side steps, his movements, his left-handed guard, and that makes him very dangerous.
I wanted the rematch, but they didn’t want to pay. I was willing to give him a chance for revenge, but I wanted to sell my defeat, I wanted to get paid. When we fought the first time, he was a phenomenon, a great fighter and he made like five times more than me.
Prediction: I think Lomachenko wins, either by decision or KO. Lomachenko is a better fighter, he has more mobility, he knows how to take advantage of your timing to avoid punches and he has many variations to his game.
Jose Pedraza: lost to Lomachenko by UD on Dec. 8, 2018
Lomachenko is definitely a boxer with a very high IQ. He adapts to each opponent style. In the middle of a fight, if you change your strategy, which is what I did — I didn’t use a single style, I used many strategies — every time I saw that he dominated me, I changed strategies and he adapted immediately. In addition, he always comes in in an incredible physical condition that helps him do those lateral movements makes him an even more difficult boxer.
He is very patient. In his fight with Jorge Linares, at the time Lomachenko was sent to the canvas, he was a bit desperate, that’s what he left himself open. But the knockdown helped him in a way — he calmed down a bit and returned to his rhythm of continuing to press and waiting for the right moments, and by doing that, he managed to win the fight.
That makes him a very complicated fighter to face. He is very patient and very intelligent.
“In losing, we won a lot. I did not have the victory, but we won a lot of respect from my fans and his as well.”
Jose Pedraza on fighting Vasiliy Lomachenko
About lateral movements — you have to have the physical condition that he has, or better, to do what he does, to keep up with him. If he does those lateral movements, you move laterally as well, which is basically what I did. While I fought him, I kept him at a distance. I also kept moving around so as not to be an easy target, because he finds it very easy, with his lateral movements and his speed, to catch fighters who do not move, who stay planted on their feet. That’s what I did, I moved and turned, and I did that well in a lot of rounds.
If I had to fight Lomachenko again, I would do the same thing I did in my first fight, but I would be a little more aggressive. Basically I was boxing, using a lot of distance, I didn’t let him get close to me because that’s his fight plan, using his lateral movements a lot and working the body. That is what we did not want to let him do. But I would like to be more aggressive, throw more punches. I threw many punches in the first fight, but I’d throw more when he is coming closer. If he manages to reduce the distance, I want to throw stronger punches, be more aggressive, to get him out of rhythm and move him away.
Lomachenko is definitely a power puncher, but he doesn’t use that power throughout the fight, he uses it at appropriate times. With me, and with other boxers, he didn’t throw that many power punches, but he is breaking you down little by little. He keeps his rhythm and puts more pressure on you, and when he finds the right moment, he throws his strong blows. And where does he throw his heavy punches? To the body. And that works in Rounds 9, 10, 11 and 12 where you are most tired, and a strong blow to the body is devastating.
I was not frustrated in the fight with Lomachenko. But that’s another factor that makes Lomachenko better than his opponents. Apart from tiring them, he frustrates you, because he keeps throwing punches, and you wait and see the right distance, throw your punches and they don’t get to touch him. You’re getting punched and then when you want to throw yours, you can’t find him — that’s frustrating.
When I trained to fight Lomachenko, I didn’t want to fall into that frustration, get caught in his game. I just wanted to be well focused and mentally strong and follow the plan to the letter. Thank God we did not get frustrated and we achieved something. In losing, we won a lot. I did not have the victory, but we won a lot of respect from my fans and his as well. Many Lomachenko fans and boxing commentators and media members congratulated me for the good work I did in that fight.
Prediction: Teofimo is a very good fighter, there is no doubt about that. He’s a fighter with a lot of talent, a lot of strength. He is very explosive and Lomachenko definitely has to take care of himself. But I understand that if Teofimo doesn’t do anything in the first five or six rounds [a KO or knockdowns], he’s not going to do anything from there on. I see Lomachenko winning by decision. And watch out for a knockout if he does a good job frustrating Teofimo, wearing him down little by little and then throwing his power punches. If Lopez doesn’t knock him out in the first five or six rounds, I don’t think he’ll achieve anything from there on.
What was so difficult was trying to get the right sparring. We had to get a range of sparring partners in, there would be three sparring partners to try to do things Lomachenko does well between them. But it’s near impossible to get someone who is like Lomachenko.
I don’t think anyone has as good feet as him in boxing. He’s so hard to read with the shots he likes to throw. He’s a very unique fighter. I wish I would have taken the fight to him more rather than try to box him, but we didn’t expect him to come out so aggressive. You try to cover all bases, but he’s so versatile.
He’s a complete fighter. I was surprised by a few things when I fought him. He wasn’t the biggest single puncher I’ve faced, or the biggest puncher I’ve faced, but he will dress power up by touching shots and then whip in a shot hard. He was economical with punches and the distance was great, he would see me fall short and make me pay.
I remember years before I fought Lomachenko, Russ Anber, who wraps Lomachenko’s hands, told me he was the best he had seen. He said he sees moves, three or four moves before they happen and that’s what came to my head when I was on the floor face down. It came back to me what Russ said. He sees things happening before you do.
He dresses up the moves and thinks ahead, he’s the best I’ve been in with. He was just going through the gears and I had no say in what he was doing.
Prediction: I think Lopez is the real deal. Top Rank has done a great job with him, but I just don’t believe he’s the man to beat Lomachenko. He has riled Lomachenko a bit [with his comments in the build up of the fight] and Lomachenko might come out a bit more aggressive because of it, which might allow Lopez to land shots. Lopez is a world-class puncher as we saw against Richard Commey, but I see Lomachenko breaking him up, hurting him to the body, wearing him down and stopping him in eight or nine rounds.
I didn’t feel like there was a big difference in there against Lomachenko, and a lot of the rounds were close. He would nick it with a 15-second burst at the end of the round. There were a few he won convincingly, but there were a few rounds I felt I won too.
I’ve watched Lomachenko since I was 15 years old and he was destroying everybody, chinning people when he was an amateur with headgear, bigger gloves and in three rounds. He used to box in the weight division above me, so fighting bigger guys has never been a problem for him.
I’ve seen the press saying Lopez is too big and powerful, but apart from catching Commey with a good shot and putting him out early, I feel some of the press are making Lopez out to be a huge monster who destroys everybody, and that Lomachenko doesn’t belong in the weight class. But I don’t believe it.
Lopez can only win by knocking out Lomachenko — but I can’t see it happening. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Lopez and his dad, I did a few rounds of sparring with him in Miami a few years ago, and I hope he wins. But I think it will be very hard for him and I don’t think he will.
I’m the only one in Lomachenko’s recent fights where he has not been able to be relentless right the way through fights, and I’m bigger than Lopez.
Prediction: Lomachenko will break him down the way he breaks down everyone with his agility, movement and boxing IQ. He’s the best body puncher I’ve ever seen and he seems to get more relentless as the fight goes on. I’m big for the weight so I was able to nullify him a bit. Lopez is short and if he stays in the pocket, he will play into Lomachenko’s hands.
Vasiliy Lomachenko toys with Miguel Marriaga and knocks him down twice en route to a seventh-round TKO victory.
When we were notified of the fight with Lomachenko, we traveled from Colombia to Mexico City to prepare. We focused more on the waist movements because we knew that Lomachenko is a great fighter who throws a lot of punches and we wanted to make him miss, and that showed in the fight. We got to the fight in great condition, but I was fighting at a weight that was not mine (130 pounds) — I always fought at 126. That difference in weight helped him — I could feel the power of Lomachenko.
Lomachenko is a counter-puncher, quite strong. I was moving backward as we planned, so when he counterattacked, I would catch him. I even swelled his right cheekbone. That tactic worked for me against Lomachenko for a few rounds. But the weight difference was key for him.
The blows to the body — I felt them a lot. He didn’t hit me much in the face because I was slippery, moving my waist and head and I made him miss. He didn’t land his powerful blows to the face, but I did feel the blows to the body.
His movements and turns did not surprise me. We knew that if we stayed standing in front of him, he would take advantage of it, turn to the right side and throwed blows. That’s easy for him, but as I moved backward, he was never at a right distance and we made it difficult for him. That frustrated him a bit and at one point he called me to the corner to go fight him there and I obliged, so as not to be left with the desire, but it was not a great idea. It is best to keep your distance from Lomachenko so that he cannot counterattack. Lomachenko is one of the best fighters in the world.
To beat Lomachenko you have to make him miss and hit him back and hit him hard, because one thing is to throw blows and another to land them. Lomachenko is very elusive, he moves a lot. But you have to hit him hard to take away the speed he has.
Prediction: Teofimo is a great boxer, and he has some experience, good technique and he is a very good power puncher. That’s going to be key, his power. But Lomachenko has much more experience at the amateur level and even though he has only 15 fights as a professional, he has learned a lot, has a lot of stamina, throws a lot of punches, is very elusive and is very fast. I think Lomachenko is going to beat Teofimo. Lopez is a very good fighter and the fight can go to a decision, but I think Lomachenko wins by KO in the ninth round.