Where does Vasiliy Lomachenko go from here?

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4 min read

LAS VEGAS — If you knew of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s pedigree, and his history, and his mind for boxing, you kept expecting a response. Round after round went by in his bout for the undisputed lightweight title with Teofimo Lopez on Saturday and the immediate thought was that he was searching for an answer he’d soon reveal.

He went long stretches, particularly in the first half of the fight, without throwing punches. It seemed he was taking things in and processing the information.

The storm never came, however. There were brief showers, but Lomachenko never seemed as if he’d solved the Lopez riddle. The guy who had proven so often over the years to be the Rubik’s Cube for so many other fighters ultimately had no answer for the brash 23-year-old Lopez.

He was confused, out of sorts and looked nothing like the guy who many had proclaimed prior to the fight was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

There were no signs of the explosiveness he has long been known for, and his quickness seemed nonexistent. He was reacting to Lopez instead of, as he has in the past, making Lopez react to him.

Size, clearly, was a factor. In an interview with Yahoo Sports prior to the fight, Lomachenko said that he could still make featherweight. Shortly after the fight, Lopez’s father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., said he would prefer to see his son move up to 140 pounds.

There clearly was a huge size disparity, but while size was a factor, it wasn’t the sole reason Lopez was successful.

It’s almost like he fought an arrogant fight, believing he could turn it on at any moment. He gave away round after round through sheer inactivity.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 17: In this handout image provided by Top Rank, Vasiliy Lomachenko sits in his corner during the Lightweight World Title bout against Teofimo Lopez Jr (not pictured) at MGM Grand Las Vegas Conference Center on October 17, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)
Vasiliy Lomachenko suffered the second loss of his career Saturday. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

Lopez won the first seven rounds on all three scorecards, which is how Yahoo Sports scored it. The only round one possibly could have given Lomachenko in the first half of the bout was the second. He landed a combination late in the round, and those were the best punches of the round.

Lopez, though, was far more active and landed nearly as many punches (11) in the round as Lomachenko threw (12). Lomachenko threw only 58 punches in the first six rounds, which isn’t nearly enough. Lopez threw 235 in that same time frame, according to CompuBox.

His lack of activity was probably only the second-most astounding thing on Saturday. He did not attend the post-fight news conference, but told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel he felt he’d won the fight. That was a clearly delusional opinion.

Lomachenko has options after Lopez loss

Lomachenko did not want a rematch clause, and so there was none. But it’s all moot because a rematch would be all but pointless. What could Lomachenko do differently the next time around?

His best bet is to drop back to super featherweight, where there is going to be a superb fight on Dec. 12 when Miguel Berchelt faces Oscar Valdez for the WBC 130-pound title.

Berchelt is on the verge of being elite, with a 37-1 record and 33 KOs. If he gets past Valdez, a Berchelt-Lomachenko bout would be fascinating at 130 and would be the boxer versus the puncher yet again.

If he wanted to drop to featherweight, a fight with WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete would be interesting. Lomachenko would be a big favorite in that fight, but Navarrete has fight-changing power, so there would be intrigue there.

Lomachenko has now lost twice in 16 bouts as a pro, and in both defeats, his opponent’s size was an issue. Orlando Salido beat him in just his second pro fight, putting an inordinate amount of pressure on him and not giving him time to react.

Lopez was aggressive, too, and was going well to the body. That took its toll on Lomachenko, who couldn’t get past what Lopez Sr. referred to as his son’s “pyramid” until the final third of the bout when his hopes by that point were all but dashed.

Lomachenko is a brilliant fighter who was bested by a bad game plan, an off-night and a young, supremely talented opponent who rose to the occasion.

His time as a star is far from done in this sport, but at this stage going forward, matchmaking is going to be critical.

One suspects that when Lomachenko’s next fight ends, viewers will suddenly appreciate what Lopez did on Oct. 17 all that much more.

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