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Ringside Seat – Lomachenko and Lopez prepared for monumental light-weight unification battle

The second has lastly arrived. Through years of conflict and antagonization, particular person paths to titles and eventually a world pandemic, on Saturday, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. will step between the ropes to battle for light-weight world titles from all 4 main sanctioning our bodies on the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas (ESPN and ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET).

It’s exhausting to overstate what this battle may imply, each to the fighters and the game generally. Lomachenko, the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer on this planet, in opposition to one of many fastest-rising fighters within the sport in Lopez, with stakes that could not be any increased.

With all due respect to Devin Haney, the winner of this battle will likely be seen because the unified light-weight champion of the world.

That doesn’t suggest the stakes for every boxer is identical, as every fighter takes this battle at dramatically completely different factors of their respective careers, regardless of it being the 16th professional battle for each Lomachenko and Lopez.

For Lomachenko, a win would additional solidify his declare as one of the best fighter on the planet. While there are a number of different boxers who may rightfully make that declare — Canelo Alvarez, Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford amongst them — a win of this magnitude would additional set Lomachenko aside. A victory over a gifted younger foe who’s 10 years his junior could be a major assertion, as he would add one other well-known identify to his resume on the age of 32.

When it involves Lopez, a victory would show that he is not only a proficient fighter with super upside, however one thing past that — a star. How many different boxers, at simply 23 years previous, may declare to be the unified champion of division, and attain it by toppling an elite boxer within the course of?

In an age during which many fighters are guided fastidiously to world titles and cling to them with second-rate fights for too lengthy, Lopez has taken the street much less traveled. If he will get to his vacation spot, the “Takeover,” as he calls it, will likely be full.

Can Teofimo Lopez again up his father’s predictions?

While Lopez and Lomachenko face off in one of many greatest title unification bouts in current reminiscence, the person who is likely to be on the spot most may not be both of the boxers entering into the ring.

That mantle belongs to the person who in some ways spoke this battle into existence as he boldly proclaimed that his son — whereas he was nonetheless only a prospect — would topple somebody who is taken into account one of the best boxer on this planet.

Back when Lopez was simply reducing his tooth on Top Rank undercards — a few of these exhibits have been headlined by Lomachenko — Teofimo Lopez Sr., within the eyes of many observers, dedicated the cardinal sin of not solely failing to bow all the way down to Lomachenko’s greatness however being downright disdainful.

He had the temerity to inform anybody who would pay attention that his son would defeat Lomachenko sooner reasonably than later.

Now, because the day of reckoning approaches, does the daddy really feel any additional apprehension?

“Not at all. I don’t see anything I should be nervous about,” he told ESPN. My son is very prepared for this fight. I’ve never seen him as hungry as he is right now.”

Lopez Sr. has described this battle camp, which was as soon as once more held in acquainted territory for the Lopez clan — in Flemington, New Jersey — as ”phenomenal.” He has not backed away from his statements with regard to this battle and the way it performs out.

“We’re going to make this easier than the [Richard] Commey fight,” he mentioned. “I feel bad for Loma, but a new lion’s gotta come in and take over this division.”

For Lopez Sr. — who truly wears a cap that claims “Nostradamus” — this imaginative and prescient started lengthy earlier than his son stopped the usually sturdy Commey in simply two rounds to win the IBF belt again in December. He has been calling out Lomachenko for 3 years.

“I already predicted the fight’s not going six rounds, and that’s just the way it’s going to go,” the elder Lopez mentioned. “We’ve been right all these times and we’re going to be right on this fight, too. There’s no way a 126-pounder is going to beat my son. It’s just impossible.”

Lopez Sr. is an element Danny Garcia, half Freddie Blassie, with a little bit of Bundini Brown and George Benton combined in. But you need to give him credit score — he has trained his gifted son from the very starting — and guided him to a world title in simply 15 fights. That’s one thing he forecast at the start of his son’s profession in 2016. Then he boldly predicted that his 16th bout would come in opposition to Lomachenko.

But you marvel, is his son totally onboard with all this? At simply 23, in an period when most boxers are judiciously dealt with and avoided such stern challenges, Lopez was placed on the very quickest of tracks by the daddy.

“I told him, ‘Hey listen, I’m all-in — if it comes, it comes,'” mentioned the youthful Lopez. “That’s how I look at life — if it comes, it comes. Whatever it is, whatever comes my way, we’re going to make things work out. Now, it’s here.”

The youthful Lopez makes it clear, although, that whereas some observers will look upon Saturday evening as a referendum on his father, that is about him and his profession.

“I love my father,” Lopez mentioned, “but it isn’t about proving his prophecy. He talks whatever he wants to talk. He made this bigger than it needed to be — I think everyone needs to congratulate him on that part. But really what it is, it’s just that he knows what I’m all about. He talks what he talks; he’s very confident about it because he sees in me what no one else sees in me, yet.”

The father has an never-ending confidence within the son. Not solely will he let you know that his son would be the greatest fighter on this planet pound-for-pound within the close to future, he does not hesitate to observe up by saying that Teofimo would be the best of all time. Yeah, as in GOAT. As you hearken to him communicate these phrases, you get the sense he is truly very critical.

But earlier than they begin engraving Lopez’s plaque within the Boxing Hall of Fame, he faces a removed from easy activity on Saturday — he has to beat among the best boxers of this technology. Even with the entire speaking, the elder Lopez does not really feel like he has added any strain or given Lomachenko an excessive amount of “bulletin-board” materials

“No, I really don’t care about that because what I believe, it always happens,” Lopez Sr. mentioned. “I’ve no doubts. My son has no strain in anyway. Once he is in that ring, he is a unique animal. That’s why I do know my son is prepared for this battle. There’s no one else that we’ve got to battle; that is the battle we’ve got to battle to get all of the belts, to be acknowledged as among the best fighters on this planet.

“That’s why I’ve bought no doubts about this battle. Come Oct. 17, the entire world goes to know who my son is, if they do not know already … This man Lomachenko, he’ll make us look good, and I am unable to wait. I instructed all people the higher the fighter is, the simpler the battle it may be for us.”

Key stats from ESPN Stats & Information

23 years, 85 days: Teofimo Lopez Jr. would change into the second-youngest boxer in historical past to carry no less than three world titles in a division — behind solely Mike Tyson (21 years, 37 days)

30: Combined variety of skilled fights between Lopez and Lomachenko, the fewest ever in a unification bout within the four-belt period (since 1988).

13: Either Lomachenko or Lopez will change into simply the 13th fighter to carry world titles from all 4 main sanctioning our bodies on the identical time since 1988.

Betting odds for Lomachenko-Lopez

As of Wednesday morning, courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Money line:

Lomachenko: -420
Lopez: +330

Specific outcomes:

Lomachenko by choice/technical choice: -120
Lomachenko by KO/TKO/DQ: +225
Lopez by choice/technical choice: +800
Lopez by KO/TKO/DQ: +500
Draw: +2000

Over/underneath:

7.5 rounds: O: -500 / U: +333
8.5 rounds: O: -400 / U: +275
9.5 rounds: O: -275 / U: +200
10.5 rounds: O: -200 / U: +150

Will the battle go the gap? Yes: -163 / No: +120

Prediction

I’ve been a believer in Lopez from the time he turned professional. It’s not simply the abilities, but in addition his extremely underrated ring IQ and self-belief. There is that this misperception that he is only a bruising, heavy-handed puncher, however he has the flexibility to put traps and counter reflexively. There is not any doubting the greatness of Lomachenko, however he’s not a pure light-weight, and whereas he is nonetheless very a lot an elite fighter, after a protracted, storied novice profession, there are some indicators of slight bodily slippage.

Many imagine this would be the modern-day model of Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy. But Lopez has many extra aspects to his sport than a typical “underdog” going right into a battle in opposition to Lomachenko. Lopez will discover methods to the touch and harm Lomachenko, and in the end he’ll cease Lomachenko within the late rounds.

What to look at for on the undercard

⬛ There is a pivotal junior welterweight contest that serves because the co-main occasion on Saturday contained in the Top Rank bubble, as former world title challenger Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) faces the undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr. (24-0, 10 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round contest.

It figures to be a fan-friendly battle. Saucedo, who has notched two victories since shedding to Maurice Hooker in a battle for the vacant WBO 140-pound title in 2018, is a hard-nosed, aggressive grinder, whereas Barboza himself is not one to again away from a battle himself. Neither man should work exhausting to search out each other inside that ring.

Like the memorable warfare that was waged by Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk a few weeks in the past, Saucedo and Barboza are preventing for positioning within the junior welterweight division, which by the spring of 2021 may have a number of vacated belts after Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez unify the division (and subsequently make an anticipated transfer as much as welterweight.)

⬛ So far, it has been 14 up, 14 down within the first spherical for tremendous middleweight hopeful Edgar Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs). Top Rank matchmakers have achieved their greatest to search out foes who will no less than get Berlanga into the center rounds and to get him some precious expertise. This weekend he’s paired with veteran Lanell Bellows (20-5-3, 13 KOs), who on the very least is sturdy. In 28 skilled outings, he has by no means been stopped. With his devastating punching prowess, Berlanga has change into must-see TV.

At a sure level, we are going to see Berlanga preventing in Round 2. Will it’s on Saturday evening?

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