Editorials

Reconstructing The Matrix: Vasiliy Lomachenko’s Next Move

Vasiliy Lomachenko
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Though my own scorecard greatly diverged from those of the official ringside judges, the result was the same. Last Saturday, on October 17, Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) lost to the younger, larger and hungrier Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs).

As a Lomachenko fan myself, let me quell some of the rumblings easily now seen on social media pages and YouTube channels dedicated to boxing. This was no robbery.

Frankly, it was a fairly easy fight to score, Lomachenko gave away the first six rounds in bizarre fashion. His trademark “collecting of data” on his opponent in Lopez appeared to lag far behind his usual download speed, as his offense stagnated. After finally coming alive and taking the next five rounds, Lopez stormed back to take the final frame and secure a 115-113 victory on my card. Fairly clear-cut.

It wasn’t what the majority of writers or pundits expected, but it was undeniably good for boxing. A long-standing pound-for-pound fighter being upset on basic cable in front of nearly three million viewers represents a turning of the tides.

Teofimo Lopez has the world at his feet. He can go anywhere; his fistic future is as bright as they come.

For Lomachenko, the future is still bright, but the soon-to-be 33 year old has decidedly less time and room for error to work with.

The first, most likely option (in my opinion) is a rematch with Lopez. If you’re being objective about the outcome of the first fight, you’d say that it was close, even if it was definitive. Lopez definitely won, but Lomachenko showed enough skill and fortitude to win rounds and interest anyone in a possible rematch.

Adding further intrigue to this possibility is the explicit refusal by Teofimo Lopez and his father/trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr., to let it happen. Their reasons for doing so carry–Jr. calls himself the new king, saying that he is under no obligation to fight anyone. According to Raj Sarkar at Essentially Sports, Sr. sees all Lightweight competition as unworthy–including Devin Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) and Lomachenko.

The denial of a rematch, along with Lomachenko’s shoulder surgery (per Michael Benson at TalkSport), will only add to public demand for it. To my thinking, Lomachenko’s injury doesn’t taint Lopez’s victory over him. Though he appears to have suffered an initial injury in training camp, which was worsened during the fight, it must be noted that all fighters deal with injuries during training camp. However, it would still be interesting to see the types of adjustments a fully–or at least more–healthy Lomachenko would make. Maybe nothing would change. We don’t know, and that is just what makes a hypothetical rematch exciting.

One of the reasons for Teofimo Sr.’s resistance to any Lightweight fight is that, whether he would admit it or not, his son has some difficulty making the 135 pound limit. At 23, he’s still growing, and will undoubtedly fill in to the 140 and 147 pound divisions. Similarly, Lomachenko is an undersized 135 pounder. If a rematch doesn’t happen, both could leave Lightweight soon–Lomachenko for 130 and Lopez for 140.

Shown here landing a hellacious body shot on Jason Sosa, Loma at 130 was simply dominant. Marilyn Paulino/ Round By Round Boxing

Vasiliy Lomachenko enjoyed the most dominant stretch of his career so far at 130. It was where, for a time, he earned the moniker “No-mas-chenko.” His four consecutive victories by retirement over Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga and Guillermo Rigondeaux represented one of the all-time-great runs in that weight neighborhood.

The one thing Lomachenko failed to do during his run at 130 was to unify any of the titles. He held his lone WBO title for the duration of his time there, and had no small amount of difficulty getting the other champions in the ring with him.

Mike Tyson once said, in reference to his first loss to Buster Douglas, “I was bigger after I lost than I ever was when I was champion.” His pay was far higher, opponents were far less fearful, and fans found the now-uncrowned titan to be more relatable. From this point of view, Loma’s loss to Lopez could kick off the most entertaining and lucrative years of his boxing career.

Gervonta Davis is one of many solid opponents for Loma at 130.
Scott Hirano

The championship picture at 130 is an intriguing one. Miguel Berchelt sits atop the rankings with his WBC strap. Joseph Diaz holds the IBF belt after taking it from former Lomachenko sparring partner, Tevin Farmer earlier this year. Jamel Herring holds the WBO title, and looks slated to fight Carl Frampton at the end of the year. Leo Santa Cruz will put his WBA super title on the line on Halloween night against Gervonta Davis.

Immediately, all of these names are tied up. Berchelt is rumored to be fighting Oscar Valdez next. Diaz and Farmer may be looking to engage in a rematch. Additionally, Herring and Frampton have all but signed to fight the end of the year. Lomachenko himself will be occupied for the better part of the next six-to-eight months with recovery, so it makes little difference.

Of course, former Olympian and WBO featherweight champion, Shakur Stevenson has also moved to 130 pounds. Loma and Shakur could be the next big fight at that weight. If on their own at Super Featherweight, both men could clean out the weight class independently. Or, together, they could each collect belts until they are set up for yet another undisputed, four-belt title fight.

Shakur Stevenson would probably be the ultimate target, should Lomachenko move down to 130 pounds.

With Lomachenko’s recovery, and the logistics of each man getting the other 130 pound champs to agree to fights, this is a mega-event that may not happen for two or three years.

By that time, the smart money would be squarely on Shakur, if it isn’t already. But, just as with Loma and Lopez, there is no shame in losing such a fight. Even for such consummate winners as these.

So, in short, recovery is immediately next for Lomachenko. Then, it would seem, a move down to 130 pounds is the smartest, most likely venture.

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