Five big questions ahead of Loma-Lopez

1156698450.jpg.0 - Five big questions ahead of Loma-LopezPhoto by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Loma or Lopez? What are keys to lightweight supremacy this Saturday night?

No. 1 and No. 2 in the historic 135-pound division face-off this weekend in a welcomed return to what boxing does best. A dream match-up riddled with emotion, skill and desire accompanied by a mouth-watering side dish of paternal instruction.

Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez signifies much more than the trinkets at stake. Alphabet titles aside, we have the two best lightweights on the planet preparing for their biggest tests yet. Diametrically opposed in style and personality, who’s substance will allow them to scribble their name into the division’s colourful archives?

Here are five things to consider before the opening bell:

Is Lomachenko in too deep at 135?

Standing at 5 ft 7 in, Lomachenko’s natural weight is in the rearview mirror. A perfect run of 5-0 — all by way of stoppage — in junior-lightweight waters painted a vibrant picture of Loma’s very own condensed reign of terror at 130 pounds. Now, fighting as a lightweight for the fifth time, questions are asked of his size and stature coming up against the biggest, brashest puncher he’s faced in the division.

“He’s on the way out of the sport and 135 is just too big,” Lopez said told DAZN this past week, building on the narrative that Lomachenko is well out of his comfort zone. But considering his previous four victories at the weight, Vasiliy has still been able to operate at the very highest level at 135 pounds, despite it acting as a clear ceiling moving forward.

If getting dropped by Jorge Linares and buzzed by Luke Campbell are notable blots on Lomachenko’s lightweight copybook, he quite literally found the eraser in dropping and stopping the Venezuelan; sitting Jose Pedraza down twice; resigning Anthony Crolla to the canvas twice en route to a fourth-round KO, and dropping Campbell late in a fight he took comfortably on the cards.

Lopez’s unorthodox, springy attacks carry real power. His left hook has crippled past foes, and his right hand over the top is devastating. But this is more illustrative of what Lopez will naturally bring to the fight, rather than Lomachenko’s shortcomings at the weight. A lot of what Lomachenko does well — does to near perfection — negates notable artillery landing in riposte, despite giving away physical advantages.

Lopez’s best chance of testing Lomachenko’s worth at the deeper end of the lightweight pool will be in the clinch. If the younger man can lean, pull, rough Loma up and fire off aggressive combos in the pocket, then Salido flashbacks may lead to chinks in the Ukrainian’s armour.

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How does a “100% Lomachenko” look at lightweight?

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen an opponent that has pushed him to be 100% of what he is capable of in the ring. If Teofimo can push Loma to be at his 80% of what he is capable of doing, he can tell he [Lomachenko] has already won. I don’t think Teofimo can push Loma to 100% in the ring.”

These were the words of Egis Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager, who believes that a fully-fit fully-prepared Vasiliy Lomachenko has not yet been seen in the ring at lightweight. With hand and shoulder injuries plaguing Loma over the past few years, a full camp void of obstacles — ignoring the original COVID-19 postponement — could, in Klimas’ eyes, open the door for us to witness the best version of his fighter.

“Everything is good,” he told Sky Sports about previous injuries. “I’ve had a one-year break without a fight. Now I’m healthy and happy. I’m 32, I’ve been very long in this sport so of course, my body has tired a little bit. But I’ve had a break.”

There are two sides to this coin. Sure, Loma being free from injury heading into this fight is a clear positive, but we are yet to see the consequences of his previous injuries on his fighting body. As more and more miles are added to the Ukrainian’s clock — at his maximum weight — his body is sure to be asked more frequent, tasking questions of durability.

Can Lopez time Lomachenko?

1171478480.jpg - Five big questions ahead of Loma-LopezPhoto by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Lomachenko’s high output of feints, fidgets and range finders prove hard for opponents to counter effectively. “Hi-Tech” is constantly on the move, opening and closing angles quicker than is usually possible to react, pivoting out of harm’s way and throwing thunder in the form of flashy combinations to counter.

“Every slight mistake, I got punished. He makes you feel pretty useless,” Anthony Crolla told Boxing News. “I thought I knew how good his feet were but the way he judged the distance, it was very surreal being in there.”

Lopez has encountered just one southpaw so far in the pro ranks — crushing Diego Magdaleno in seven following an unconvincing previous six — and will have to gain Lomachenko’s respect early in the fight by hitting the target. Loma’s ability to mix up attacks while judging distance to perfection makes this task tricky, but not impossible. Lopez’s left hook is a real weapon, and if he can open his stance up to allow the left arm to react quicker to any holes Lomachenko presents, he’ll find a route through to the relatively untested chin of the Ukrainian.

Lomachenko has been dropped but hasn’t been tested by the shire destructive power that Lopez possesses in both hands. Lopez’s best shot at timing his foe may well lie in anticipation of his movements, assessing the patterns in the opening stanzas. Blink, and you’ll miss Loma’s adjustments — Lopez should try to be proactive in attack rather than reactive.

Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for Lomachenko vs Lopez starting at 7:30 pm ET on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles

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