Last night, October 17th, history was made at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 23 year-old first generation American from Brooklyn, New York, Teófimo López defeated Vasyl Lomachenko to become the undisputed Lightweight champion of the world. This marks only the fifth time in the four-belt era that an undisputed champion has been crowned in any weight division.
Going into the fight, Lomachenko was seen as the heavy favorite as he has been among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world; arguably the best. Lomachenko is nine years older than López with much more fight experience, going 396-1 as an amateur, and has won a title in three weight divisions. This bout marked his fourth title defense as a Lightweight. Meanwhile, López was coming off his first ever major title fight where he won by technical knockout against former IBO champion, Richard Commey.
Many predicted either an early-round knockout from López, as Lomachenko is a traditionally slow starter, or for Lomachenko to out-box López in the later rounds. The end result surprised many, and has left the boxing community shook.
Early on, López was cautious of the Ukranian, but made sure to take calculated risks. He used his jabs way more often than we’re used to seeing from him, but made sure to attack the body of Lomachenko in order to try and slow him down. The first six rounds didn’t offer much from Lomachenko besides him dancing around López with the occasional calculated counterpunch. He threw a mere 58 punches compared to López’s 239.
As the fight continued, Lomachenko could no longer afford to sit back and soak in information as he was drastically behind on the score cards. The next few rounds would end up in Lomachenko’s favor, but heading into the 12th, the winner was still unclear; and if Lomachenko were to take the final round, it would be very close. But, if López were to take the final round, it would be without a doubt a victory for him.
Both men fought valiantly and evenly, but it became apparently obvious with around a minute and a half left that López had won the round. Lomachenko was visibly hurt and tired, and was hit by many of López’s counterpunches, uncharacteristic of the man dubbed “The Matrix.” When the bell rang, it seemed almost certain that López would be crowned the ultimate champion.
Tim Cheatman scored the bout 116-112, Julie Lederman had it 119-109, and Steve Weisfeld had it 117-111, so by unanimous decision, Teófimo López became the undisputed Lightweight champion of the world. In the post-fight interview, López dedicated this win to his friend Dioney Ramirez who died on January 24th after being involved in a motorcycle accident.
What It Meant For Boxing
This bout, regardless of who won, was outstanding for the sport of boxing. This mega-fight could have easily sold out Madison Square Garden with celebrities taking up the first few rows ringside, with a million fans buying “tickets” via pay-per-view. Instead, Lomachenko and López decided to fight in front of a crowd of maybe 100 people and it was free on ESPN, no pay-per-view purchase necessary. Some boxers fight for money or the fame, but these two fighters fought to fight, and they should be applauded that they did so.
If massive fights like this that would normally be on pay-per-view are available for free, this would be a huge boost for the sport, as a new generation of boxing fans can be born from being able to witness such mega-fights. In fact, prospective fans were made aware of two upcoming title fights last night. Naoya Inoue will defend his WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles against Jason Moloney on Halloween later this month. In addition, the former undisputed lightweight champion and pound-for-pound king, Terrance Crawford will defend his WBO title against former IBF champion Kell Brook on November 14th. The first fight will be available to ESPN+ subscribers, and the latter will be on ESPN for free for all to enjoy.