The fight of the year was supposed to happen in May before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York.
But the coronavirus pandemic forced Top Rank to postpone the showdown between WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and IBF champion Teofimo Lopez until Saturday inside the promotion’s bubble at the MGM Grand.
Different venue. Same stakes.
“It’s a very big fight for people who love boxing, who understand boxing,” Lomachenko said Wednesday. “I think it will be a very historical fight.”
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 knockouts) and Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) will finally fight to unify their titles in one of the most consequential bouts in recent memory. Lomachenko, 32, is looking to solidify his legacy as perhaps the most dominant fighter of his era. Lopez, 23, is seeking undisputed superstardom as one of the faces of boxing’s next generation.
The two met inside the hotel Wednesday for a final news conference moderated by ESPN’s Joe Tessitore, who will call the fight. Lopez was brash as usual. Lomachenko was reserved and quiet, preferring instead to unveil his skill in the ring.
“I think only about my future fight and about Saturday. That’s it,” said Lomachenko, who hails from Ukraine. “I think it will be like a chess match.”
Lomachenko is a three-division champion, hailed by many as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. He compiled a 396-1 amateur record, won two Olympic gold medals and captured titles in the featherweight and junior lightweight divisions before conquering the lightweight division in 2018.
Lomachenko’s last fight was Aug. 31, 2019, a unanimous decision over Luke Campbell, but he downplayed the significance of the longest layoff of his career.
“I’ve never stayed one year outside (of the) ring,” Lomachenko said. “Now will be the first time.”
Lopez, from Brooklyn, New York, emerged in the last year as a legitimate champion and viable opponent for Lomachenko. He posted a 150-20 amateur record and breezed through his first 14 professional fights before knocking out Richard Comney on Dec. 14 to win the IBF crown.
He’s risking his undefeated record to fight Lomachenko — a rarity in boxing among young prospects — and said Wednesday he wants to represent the younger generation of fighters.
“That’s where the takeover comes in. The takeover isn’t just necessarily a phrase that we throw out there,” Lopez said. “This is the part where I’m leading that new generation. Winning this is that stamp and that mark to put on for the new era.”
Both fighters are promoted by Top Rank, and the fight will air on ESPN despite a marquee billing worthy of pay-per-view pricing.
The master meets the prodigy.
“All this I’m going to collect,” Lopez said, gesturing toward the belts. “I talk a lot. Yeah, of course. I talk a lot. But I back it up each and every time.”
Who: Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) vs. Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: MGM Grand
Odds: Lomachenko -400; Lopez +300 (William Hill)