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Arum having difficult time holding back Teofimo Lopez

Vasyl Lomachenko

By Chris Williams: Teofimo Lopez (12-0, 10 KOs) is ready to challenge WBA/WBO lightweight champion Vasily Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) for his titles this year, and send him scurrying back to the super featherweight division with another loss on his record. However, their Top Rank promoter Bob Arum doesn’t seem to be in such a hurry to let the unbeaten Lopez fight the 31-year-old Lomachenko for some reason. Some boxing fans think the promoter is protecting his aging fighter Lomachenko from a young lion who may be too young, too strong and too big for him to deal with.

Arum compares the 21-year-old Lopez to that of a race horse that wants to run immediately once you get him on the track.

“That’s not my call,” Arum said to Fighthype when asked if unbeaten 21-year-old Teofimo Lopez is ready to fight Lomachenko in 2019. “Teofimo Lopez is so confident, and his father is so confident. It’s like if I was a trainer of horses, sometimes you have a stallion that wants to run as soon as you get them on the track, and you can’t hold him back. Teofimo is like that,” Arum said.

Arum seem to want to take the go slow approach with Teofimo. Unfortunately, with Teofimo getting bigger, and about to leave the lightweight division for good at the beginning of next year, if he doesn’t face Lomachenko now, he may never get that fight. Lomachenko says he’s going to be moving back down to super featherweight once he finishes unifying the 135 lb division. At that point, two divisions will separate Lomachenko and Lopez, which means the fight between them likely will never happen. It would be like Arum Lomachenko in with the likes of light welterweights Vergil Ortiz, Regis Prograis or Josh Taylor. Arum won’t make those fights, because they would likely end badly for Lomachenko with him getting chewed up and spit out.

Some would argue that Arum doesn’t want to let Teofimo get a piece of Lomachenko, because he might beat him, and that ruin all the hard work that the promoter has put in with hyping him up. Teofimo isn’t the first guy that Arum hasn’t matched Lomachenko against. When he was at super featherweight, Lomachenko didn’t fight Gervonta Davis or Miguel Berchelt. A lot of boxing fans think Lomachenko would be beaten by both of those guys. At lightweight, Arum hasn’t put Lomachenko in with Mikey Garcia or Teofimo.

Despite all the talk Arum has made of wanting to match Lomachenko against Mikey, it appears he’s never reached out to him. Mikey says Top Rank hasn’t tried to make a fight between him and Lomachenko. Arum talks about it, but there’s never been an attempt to make that fight. Some boxing fans think Arum is just name dropping Mikey’s name to get more press for Lomachenko, and to make the boxing public think he’s interested in matching them, but in reality, he’s not. There’s too much fear there. It would be a risky fight for Lomachenko facing Mikey.

It would be the same thing if Arum threw Lomachenko in with a young lion like Teofimo. As banged up as Lomachenko looked after his recent fight against Jose Pedraza last December, a young lion like Teofimo could make a mess of him. Sometimes talent doesn’t work against younger fighters with huge power. Boxing is a young man’s sport, and it’s clear Lomachenko is aging. We’ve seen the signs there from watching him struggle in his last two fights against Pedraza and Jorge Linares.

Teofimo is fighting this month against lightweight contender Edis Tatli (31-2, 10 KOs) in a 12 round fight on the undercard of Terence Crawford vs. Amir Khan on April 20 on ESPN PPV at Madison Square Garden in New York. Teofimo has been talking about wanting to fight IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey in July. However, Arum hasn’t been saying anything this week about making that fight. He’s saying he wants to match Lomachenko against Commey. It’s unclear what gave Teofimo the impression that Top Rank is going to let him fight Commey instead of Lomachenko, because that doesn’t seem to be their plans.

Lomachenko is driven to win all the belts, and he’s the guy that Top Rank is investing highly to try and make him a star. For that reason, it’s not likely Arum is going to allow Teofimo to fight Commey for his IBF title in July. If anyone, it’ll be Lomachenko who gets that shot. Teofimo will likely be matched against another contender, maybe even someone lower than his opponent for April 20. Reading the tea leaves, it doesn’t look like Teofimo will get a title shot against any of the champions at lightweight in 2019, least of all Lomachenko.

If Lopez is serious about wanting to move up to 140 in 2020, he might as well do it now, because he’s going to be waiting around wasting his time at lightweight for nothing this year hoping he’ll get a title shot against Lomachenko or Commey that’ll never happen. It’ll be tough for Teofimo when he moves up to 140, as that division is stacked with a lot of talented fighters that would likely tear a little guy like Lomachenko apart. It won’t be easy for Teofimo to handle guys like Prograis, Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez, Ivan Baranchyk, Kiryl Relikh and Maurice Hooker. It’ll be harder still for Top Rank to make fights against some of those guys involving Lopez. Hopefully, Lopez won’t be going up in weight for nothing, and wind up languishing fighting guys that won’t lead to him getting a quick title shot.

As for Lomachenko, Arum says wants to have him fight Luke Campbell if he wins the WBC lightweight title when/if it comes vacant.

“Lomachenko wants to unify the titles. I’m looking to have him fight Luke Campbell if he becomes the lightweight champion. If Garcia is going to stay at 135, then fighting Garcia,” Arum said. “Maybe fighting Commey, the IBF champion. Fighting three times this year. This is the first one,” Arum said about Anthony Crolla being Lomachenko’s first of three possible fights in 2019.

It’s doubtful that Arum will match Lomachenko against Mikey for the WBC lightweight belt if he comes back down to the weight class to defend the title. Mikey doesn’t need to fight Lomachenko if he doesn’t want to deal with the politics of trying to negotiate the fight and dealing with his old promoter. Mikey would defend against his mandatory Luke Campbell, and then look to do whatever. Teofimo is ranked #4 by the WBC. It could take Teofimo two to four years to get a title shot against Mikey depending on whether the WBC pushes him to fight his mandatory challengers. Adonis Stevenson went five years between defending against his mandatory challengers when he held the WBC light heavyweight title.

“Crolla is a seasoned fighter, and a two-time champion, and a very, very good lightweight,” Arum said. “That being said, Lomachenko is something special, and Lomachenko can handle any lightweight around.”

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