By Dan Rafael
Teofimo Lopez had nicknamed himself “The Takeover” – as in what he planned to do in his boxing career — and on Saturday night he indeed took over the lightweight division.
Lopez spent the better part of the past two years calling out Lomachenko, regarded by many as the No. 1 fighter pound for pound in the world, and when he finally got him into the ring he scored the upset at the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, taking a unanimous decision to unify 135-pound world titles in a career-defining victory in one of the biggest fights that could be made.
Lopez retained his IBF belt for the first time and claimed the WBA, WBO and WBC “franchise” titles from Lomachenko, whose very slow start following a 14-month layoff cost him big-time.
Judge Tim Cheatham had it 116-112, Steve Weisfeld 117-111 and Julie Lederman a quite surprisingly wide 119-109. I also had it for Lopez, 116-112, scoring every round the same as Cheatham.
After the scores were read, Lopez did a backflip and then laid down on his back and pretended to make snow angels.
Lopez left nothing to change, closing the fight with a big 12th round of a fight for which there was no rematch clause on either side.
“I’m a fighter,” said Lopez, who appeared to be holding back tears. “I had to dig deep, man. I’m thankful. I’m grateful. And each and every day, I take that in. I knew he was coming. I didn’t know if they had him up on the scorecards or not, and I love to fight. I can bang, too. I don’t care, man. I’ll take one to give one. That’s what a true champion does. I find a way to win.”
Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), 23, of Brooklyn, New York, fulfilled the prophecy of his father/trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr., who had predicted since his son turned pro after the 2016 Olympics that would be an elite star. He got off to a very fast start against a Lomachenko whose inactivity over the first six rounds was shocking. He never landed more than seven punches or threw more than 13 in any of the first six rounds, according to CompuBox, while Lopez was busy touching Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs), 32, a three-division world champion, with jabs, body shots and right hands.
Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, who was making his fourth lightweight title defense, finally got going in the second half of the fight but by that time he had given away so many rounds it looked like he would need a knockout to win.
But he could never land anything too damaging on Lopez other than an accidental head butt that opened a cut over Lopez’s right eye with 10 seconds remaining in the bout.
“You just gotta keep pressuring him, press the gas, stick the jab and don’t really give him that opportunity to set up,” Lopez said. “Every time he did want to throw, I had something ready for him.”
Accoring to CompuBox, Lopez landed 183 of 659 punches (28 percent) and Lomachenko landed 141 of 321 (44 percent) but only 25 of the landed blows were in the first six rounds. Of Lopez 183 landed punches, 148 were power shots, the most ever landed on Lomachenko in a fight.
Lomachenko said he thought he won the fight but would have look at the video.
“I think the first half of the fight he got more rounds than I did, but in the second half of the fight I took over,” Lomachenko said. “I was much better. I want to go home and see what I can do better. I’m definitely not agreeing with the scorecards. I thought I won the fight, but the results are the results, and I’m not going to argue it right now.”