Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

By Jeff Aronow: Andre Ward sees tonight’s fight for Teofimo Lopez against Vasily Lomachenko as one that could potentially send his career downward if he loses and gets dominated. Some of the top fighters that Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) has beaten in the last weren’t able to bounce back from the losses.

WBA/WBC/WBO lightweight champion Lomachenko says he doesn’t want to knockout IBF champ Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) tonight. He wants to give him a methodical beating for 12 rounds and make him pay for all the things he said about him during the lead up to tonight’s contest.

Lopez, 23, and Lomachenko will be fighting on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at ‘The Bubble’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Lopez-Lomahcneko fight winner will be the undisputed lightweight champion and holds the IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO titles.

Teofimo will likely move up to 140 after tonight’s fight unless he’s tempted by a fight against one of the other popular fighters at 135 like Gervonta Davis or Ryan Garcia. But that’ll depend on the outcome of the Lomachenko clash.

It’s doubtful that Lopez will stick around at 135 if he gets soundly beaten by the 32-year-old Lomachenko.

It’s already well past the time for Teofimo to move up to light-welterweight because he’s been forced to trim off muscle weight to stay at 135, and he can’t continue to do that as he moves closer to his mid-20s.

Lomachenko 4 to 1 favorite

Image: Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

“We don’t get these matches as often as we should, but we got this one, and we’re a day away,” said Andre Ward to Max on Boxing on ESPN on the Lomachenko vs. Lopez fight.

“This is a great match-up between two fast-twitch fighters with speed and power,” said Max Kellerman in talking about Lomachenko and Lopez.

“Lomachenko hits you with shots you don’t see. Lopez can knock you out there you see it coming or not. And skill and it’s a grudge match, and this is the biggest fight since the pandemic hit worldwide.

“But Lomachenko is a three to one, four to one favorite. First of all, does he agree to be a 3 to 1 o 4 to 1 favorite?”

“I don’t pay too much attention to the odds, but I think he should be the favorite in the fight by what kind of margin I don’t know,” said Andre Ward.

“Simply because of his track record, they have the same amount of fights, but using a football term, the strength of schedule, the level of opposition that both guys have fought is a lot different. So Loma, based on his body of work, he definitely deserves to be the favorite going into this fight.”

“In the meantime, even as a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 favorite, normally that doesn’t make a super fight or a highly anticipated fight, and real boxing heads are really anticipating this one,” Kellerman said of the Teofimo vs. Lomachenko bout.

The odds-makers say it is immaterial, as they’re often wrong, and there’s no way to predict what will happen involving a knockout puncher like Teofimo.

Lomachenko was the favorite in his fight with Orlando Salido in 2014, and he lost that fight. He couldn’t handle the body shots from Salido, who proved many people wrong in that fight.

Teofimo’s self-confidence is key

Image: Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

“In this case, Lopez is the naturally larger fighter and he’s also the knockout puncher and there are a surprising number of boxing people picking him outright to win.,” said Kellerman. What kind of chances do you give him to win the fight?”

“Again, Loma is the favorite, but this is the opportunity for Lopez to back up all the talk his father has had over the years and all the talk that he’s had in the build-up to this fight,” Ward said.

“This is his moment. Cassius Clay fought ‘The Big Bear,’ Sonny Liston, and I think he was a 7 to 1 underdog, depending on what odds you looked at.

“Everybody thought he was crazy. The key is not what everybody else thinks and everybody else believes but what you believe. That’s the greatest asset that Lopez has going into this fight. He truly believes Lomachenko has nothing for him,” said Ward.

“I think that’s a very good point,” said Kellerman. “There’s something that is an extra dimension here. It’s not just the youth or the size over Lomachenko or the punching power. But it’s self-confidence. This is a grudge match. Teofimo’s father and Teofimo have a different kind of level of intensity and it seems like desire.

“On the other hand, Lomachenko has made proud fighters quit in the past. He made Guillermo Rigondeaux quit, he made Nicholas ‘The Axe Man’ Walters quit and may have ended his career,” Kellerman said.

“What about that? Can you see Teofimo put in a kind of position by Lomachenko where he’s defeated psychologically because that’s the real reason why we like this fight?

“It’s hard to imagine that,” said Kellerman in bringing up a scenario where Lopez quits after being dominated by Vasily.

Lopez has going for him to have speed, height, power, youth, size, and confidence. Right now, Lopez is in the prime of his career, and he’s got devastating power.

Will Lopez quit?

Image: Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

“It’s not likely but it’s certainly possible,” Ward said of Teofimo possibly quitting due to him being humiliated by Lomachenko tonight. “You just listed some great fighters that had never quit up until the point where they fought Lomachenko, and that’s the ability that he has.

“We talked about that in the last couple of weeks. It’s the indirect stuff that Loma does. It’s the foot feints, the hand feints, and all the movements. People say that Lomachenko is a slow starter.

“I disagree. I think he does a lot early in his fight. He doesn’t throw a lot of punches until midway through and halfway through the fight because he’s getting in position.

“That’s frustrating, and I think that’s the gameplan for Team Lomachenko. To take the mind, frustrate the mind of the young fighter, and then watch the body fall,” said Ward.

“There have been fights in boxing where a young fighter in retrospect been rushed into a fight with a great older fighter,” said Kellerman. “Davey Moore fought Robert Duran and got ruined.

“On the other hand, Azumah Nelson got rushed into a Salvador Sanchez fight and went to school on the fight, and became a great champion. [Ray] ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini was knocked out in 14 rounds by Alexis Arguello and went to school on the fight, and won a title and made title defenses.

“When you look at this fight [Lomachenko vs. Teofimo], if the younger fighter isn’t able to impose himself on the older fighter physically if he’s not able to land the big shot and winds up being outclassed and otherwise loses, what are the risks here in terms of being ruined or going to school and getting better? How do you see this kind of fight?”

Lopez isn’t the type that will quit in a fight, and it’s silly even to consider that. The guys that Lomachenko did make quit were at 130, and he had an advantage over them.

Fighters that quit against Lomachenko:

  •  Jason Sosa
  • Guillermo Rigondeaux – moved up two divisions to face Loma.
  • Nicholas Walters
  • Miguel Marriaga

What hurts Teofimo’s chances of winning is his lack of experience. He hasn’t fought the same type of opposition that Lomachenko has as a pro, and he’s not been around long enough to sharpen his game.

There are advantages of Teofim still being green. He has less wear & tear on him than Lomachenko, and he hasn’t fought anyone good enough or him to hurt his self-confidence.

Lomachenko wants to punish Teofimo

Image: Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

“I don’t see this fight as the type of fight where Lopez can lose and go on and be better,” said Ward. “Of course, it can happen. It’s not outside of the realm of possibilities, but when you come in with as much bravado and as much moxie as Team Lopez has over the last couple of years.

“Typically, there’s no in-between. It’s either you’re going to see the birth of a new star and it’s going to be a great night for Team Lopez or this has the potential, especially against Lomacheko, a guy who we just talked about, loves to frustrate, loves to bewilder his opponents to the point where great champions, proud champions end up quitting.

“It’s going to be either-or. I don’t see very much in between. Based on the style and based on the type of fighter Lomachenko is. We just heard from Lomachenko a few minutes ago.

YouTube video

“He’s the one that initiated that face-off [with Lopez]. He pushed past the barrier and said, ‘We’re not social distancing. I am getting in your face and letting you know that I’m here, and I’m going to be there on Saturday night.’

“He also said, ‘I don’t want a knockout. I want this to go as long as it possibly can because I want to punish Lopez, and I want to make him pay,” Ward said.

It would be smarter for Lomachenko to knock out Teofimo rather than keep him around for 12 rounds. The longer Teofimo stays in the fight, the greater the chances that he can land one of his bombs on the chin of the smaller Lomachenko.

If Lomachenko were younger and fighting in his natural weight class at 126, it would make more sense for him to go the full 12 rounds to punish his opponent. But he’s getting older at 32, and he looks like a person 36 to 38. It’s too risky for him to let Teofimo stay around if he’s got him hurt.

Lopez not likely to quit

Image: Andre Ward previews Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez

“I don’t have to go to Roberto Duran or Salvador Sanchez for great fighters that schooled,” said Kellerman.

“I don’t have to go to those examples to see who’s ruined and who got better. Nicholas Walters, ‘The Axe Man,’ the undefeated champion, seemed to be ruined by Lomachenko. However, Gary Russell Jr seemed to go to school on that fight, even though it was a majority decision.

“Lomachenko totally dominated that fight. I thought he won ten rounds against Gary Russell Jr. The difference is, one guy, quit [Nicholas Walters], and the other guy [Russell] kept fighting and kept trying.

“Who is Teofimo Lopez when it comes down to it? It’s hard to imagine him quitting, but it was hard to imagine a lot of guys doing that against Lomachenko,” said Kellerman.

Lopez is the type that would stick around until the bitter end rather than having his father pull him out in between rounds. If Teofimo didn’t have the one-punch power going for him, it might make sense for him to give up.

Teofimo has got the size, speed, youth, and power going for him, which might be enough to negate the talent of Lomachenko.

What would be interesting is if Lomachenko is the one that quits tonight or is pulled dout by his dad Anatoliy if he starts taking too bad of a beating. Don’t be surprised if that happens.