Lomachenko vs Lopez in 2020? The case for and against
On Saturday night, ultra-talented fight phenom Teofimo Lopez faces Richard Commey for the latter's IBF Lightweight title.
Lopez, of course, has been talking a lot of smack about Vasyl Lomachenko and insists Loma would be no match for him should they meet head-to-head. And not only has he gotten Loma's attention with his brazen remarks, he's getting the public's attention with his flamboyance and panache inside and outside the ring.
A 2016 Honduras representative at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (60kg), Lopez is flashy and arrogant, and has a crowd-friendly style.
He's the goods so far and everything a promoter would want in a fighter.
Fighters like him are very rare and if you're promoting a fella like that he must be cultivated wisely. Throwing him in the ring with the world's best fighter too soon could have a negative, devastating effect.
Lopez and Lomachenko have been trading barbs all year. If the former's wins Saturday night against Commey, no easy task, Teofimo would own 1/4 of the lightweight title. The other three belts belong to Lomachenko so a lightweight unification bout in 2020 should be expected, right?
... Not so fast.
Given Lomachenko and Lopez are promoted by Top Rank, the fight would be easy to make because only one promoter would be involved. Moreover, it would be a lucrative endeavor for that promoter. HOWEVER, Top Rank might not pull the trigger yet.
The case against Lomachenko vs Lopez in 2020
Should Lopez defeat Commey, Top Rank still may choose to marinate Loma vs Lopez awhile longer. After all, Lopez is still relatively unknown among non-diehards.
Waiting a year and building the fight up could result in doubling public demand and maximizing the revenue for both fighters and Top Rank.
Lopez's performance against Commey and that fight's viewership on ESPN will tell us about where Lopez is in relation to Lomachenko, skills-wise and in popularity.
Ultimately, if you're Top Rank you probably want to keep these fellas winning and milk it as long as you can before putting them head to head. Yes, the promoter will reap the short term revenue benefits of an in-house Lomachenko vs Lopez affair but someone's stock will likely drop a bit when or if they fight.
And yes, boxing has been this way for ages and it's not an entirely bad thing.
Leonard vs Hearns 1981
Let's go back to 1980... Hardcore fight fans were clamoring for Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns but they didn't get it right away.
The darling of the 1976 Olympics, the current welterweight champion and a mainstream star, Leonard initially balked at fighting Hearns.
"At the time, no one outside the boxing fraternity knew who Tommy Hearns was," Ray stated in the late 1980s...
"I said, 'I'll tell you what, I'll fight Hearns when the grandmother on the street knows who he is.'"
Credit to Leonard: He brought everything to the table while Hearns, although awesome and dominant, had little juice with the mainstream at that time. There was little upside for Leonard in a bout with Hearns in 1980.
Instead of fighting Hearns, Ray would face popular lightweight legend Roberto Duran in June 1980 and drop a close 15 round decision. Two months later, Hearns would secure the WBA strap by scoring a devastating second-round knockout of 'Pipino' Cuevas in August 1980 on national TV. And finally, in October, Sugar Ray would regain his WBC Welterweight title by stopping Roberto Duran in their rematch.
When 1981 rolled around, both Leonard and Hearns had welterweight titles and the latter was also a marque name.
The fight was on! Leonard was still the strong A-side but both fighters brought a lot of interest and revenue to the table.
Leonard and Hearns would co-feature on the same card in June prior to their superfight against each other in September.
In a classic, Leonard would defeat Hearns and unify the world welterweight championship in front of a live crowd of 23,618 and a worldwide TV audience of some 300 million.
To that point, it was arguably the most anticipated fight in boxing history sans, perhaps, the rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling some 43 years prior.
Patience paid off.
But, Roberto Duran had temporarily put a wrench in Ray's plans but upsetting him in their first bout. And that brings us to the cons of waiting.
The case for Lomachenko vs Lopez in 2020
A clear win for Teofimo over Commey would certainly legitimize Lopez vs Loma on paper. Commey is a polished, well-respected champion and arguably one of the most underrated in boxing. Let's face it, what hardcore fight fan wouldn't be salivating over Loma vs Lopez in the event Lopez solidly defeats Commey?
And if you're Top Rank, perhaps you'll make that fight in 2020 while it's hot - or relatively warm, at least.
After all, why take a chance on one of them losing while you wait, wait and wait for the presumed ideal time? And why take a chance on that fight losing luster going forward, even if both guys continue to win?
With Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia also campaigning at lightweight, there's no guarantee Loma vs Lopez will be the 'fight to make' at lightweight come 2021.
The appeal of boxing match-ups, like fashion trends, come and go. And tomorrow is never guaranteed.
With a Lopez win Saturday, the case could be argued for Lomachenko vs Lopez in 2020 even if both guys take an interim bout in between.
And maybe, come Sunday morning, we'll be talking about Loma vs Commey instead? That's also a great fight but I think most of us want to see how the young, brash, freakishly-gifted showman fairs against the top fighter in the world.