When comparing and contrasting the skills of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. as a means to handicap Saturday's lightweight unification fight in Las Vegas, everything from Lomachenko's footwork to Lopez's one-punch knockout power need to be considered.
Yet it's clear the biggest difference between these reigning 135-pound champions is Lomachenko's edge in experience. Despite both fighters entering with exactly 15 pro fights apiece, the 32-year-old Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) has already won world titles in three weight divisions, including collecting three of the four recognized lightweight belts, following a legendary amateur career in the Ukraine.
It's ultimately what we still yet don't know about Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), a brash native of Brooklyn, New York, who captured the IBF title in December by stopping Richard Commey in his biggest fight to date, that has gone a long way in making him a betting underdog this weekend inside the MGM Grand Conference Center (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET).
For everything that Lopez brings to the table from the standpoint of flash and danger, he has very limited exposure to elite competition. Lomachenko, in contrast, fought for a world title in just his second pro fight and was able to win one in his third. A big reason why Lomachenko's fast-tracked start as a professional wasn't a case of too much, too soon was because of the experience he gained from being a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
But what about Lopez? How do we know that he's truly ready to be this bold and challenge arguably the world's top pound-for-pound boxer for a chance to become undisputed champion at just 23? Heck, how does he even know?
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"I'm built different. I'm one of those that is just different," Lopez said during an interview with "Morning Kombat" on Monday. "I step up to the plate and it's always in my favor. That just comes with a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifices that I have made throughout my career. It's 18 years in and still counting. It comes with all that, just the mentality part.
"[It's also] the fact that I walk by faith and I live by it. Everything that I do is always through God and He always steers me in the right way. My time is now and that's what I believe."
In case you haven't picked up on it by now, confidence isn't something that's lacking from the Lopez family. While Teofimo can alternate his gift of gab as a cocky trash talker when its needed with a humble smile and camera-ready charm, his father and trainer, Teofimo Sr., has absolutely no filter at all.
The only thing the elder Lopez does better than ruffle the feathers of anyone in his path is talk up how great and special his son is as a fighter. Tabbed by his father for greatness at an incredibly young age, Lopez has incredibly lived up to every expectation put on him by the man who shares his name.
A big part of that is because Lopez, a naturally gifted athlete, has embodied the unorthodox fighting style -- taught to him by his untrained father -- of explosive power shots from unexpected angles so perfectly. Another reason is that the younger Lopez is both unflappable and mature beyond his years at such a young age, already married and openly introspective about the ups and downs of his life following a tumultuous childhood in which his father sold drugs.
How this fight came to be
Even the manner in which the Lomachenko fight came together is a wild story that's hard to believe and a full illustration of Lopez's trust and love for his father despite the incredibly large target he often throws onto his son's back.
The setting was December 2018 inside the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York. Lopez, just a 10-0 prospect who wouldn't yet begin to gain the full attention of boxing fans until his explosive first-round knockout the next night, was finalizing his weight cut for a televised opener against Mason Menard. Lomachenko was scheduled to headline the same card in a unification fight against Jose Pedraza.
As Lopez recalls the story of what happened next, even though he wasn't present at the time, he can't help but laugh at his father's proud and bold ways. The elder Lopez crossed paths with Lomachenko backstage at the weigh-in and kindly offered to shake his hand.
According to Team Lopez, the respectful gesture was met with a dirty look from Lomachenko and a cantankerous vibe.
"It got real controversial, it got real intense," Lopez said, "people were blowing me up [saying,] 'Yo, your father just went off on Loma.' I was laughing."
Enraged at the snub, Lopez's father began to verbally accost Lomachenko with expletives and a promise that, "My son is going to knock you out. My son is going to kill you. We are going to take over the show."
The next night, Lopez's face-first demolition of Menard was the darling of ESPN's "SportsCenter" as a top play and became a viral online video. Although Lomachenko went on to defeat Pedraza by decision in a competitive fight, the Lopez family had announced themselves in a huge way and the son was anything but upset about the promise his father had made to the division's best fighter.
"My father is the type, he's got that New York in him where if he has something to say, he's just going to say it, straight up," Lopez said. "He's not going to hold anything back to it. That's one of the traits that I love about him despite what people may feel about it. He just doesn't care."
So is this the right time for this fight?
Convincing yourself and your family that you're ready for the very best at such a young age is one thing. Convincing everyone else is another thing altogether, which brings us back to the idea of whether fighting Lomachenko at this point will prove to be a miscalculation.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, had a similar level of doubt when the idea for this fight was first birthed around the time the elder Lopez made his presence known in Lomachenko's face. The Hall-of-Fame promoter was ultimately forced to decide whether he should step in and delay his fighter's ambitious plan or get out of the way.
"You get out of the way because Lopez and his father believe that he can fight Tyson Fury and beat Tyson Fury," Arum told CBS Sports in 2019. "I get out of their way and I can't stop the Lopez freight train. They are so confident and have so much belief in themselves. If I felt it was too soon and I told them that, they would override me."
If recent history has anything to say about what Lopez is attempting to do at 23, the results have been mixed as to how much a failed attempt at daring to be great can prevent a young fighter from realizing their full potential.
Sugar Ray Leonard was just 24 when he lost his welterweight title to bitter rival Roberto Duran in 1980 but proved no worse for the wear by coming back just five months later to avenge the loss and make Duran quit. Canelo Alvarez was just 23 in 2013 when he lost a wide decision to Floyd Mayweather and all it did was fuel him to be even better on his road to supplanting Mayweather as the sport's new pay-per-view king.
But there's also former the tale of former two-time junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas who, five days shy of his own 23rd birthday, lost a 154-pound unification fight with Felix Trinidad via 12th-round TKO. Even though the fight was hailed an instant classic due to its number of combined knockdowns, Vargas suffered a brutal beating and, after a similarly violent loss to Oscar De La Hoya less than two years later, would never go on to win another meaningful fight.
The difference for Leonard, Alvarez and Vargas compared to Lopez, however, is that each one of them had collected a small handful of meaningful wins before suffering those defeats, thus proving themselves ready for the challenge.
Lopez, outside of the Commey stoppage and a knockout of former 130-pound title challenger Diego Magdaleno, doesn't have a similar amount of big wins to rest his hat on. He does have plenty of promise, big-time power and athleticism to go with a seemingly never-ending amount of belief in himself.
"That's the thing that everybody is waiting for, just to see [the fight]," Lopez said. "We have all seen what Loma does but we haven't seen all that I can do. Everybody just sees me as a one-punch man or someone that may come forward but there is more to that. There is more to Teofimo than that and I can't wait to showcase that. It's going to be a great fight, an entertaining fight but very technical. It's also going to be bad blood.
"You are going to see lights and fire come that night. You are definitely going to see fireworks. It's one of those fights that is fight of the year before we even step into the ring."
Nearly two full years after Lopez's father confronted one of the best fighters in the world to boldly declare the end of his reign, it's up to his son to shoulder the pressure of defending the family name. The more you get to know the younger Lopez, you get the feeling he wouldn't have it any other way.
"My father has seen the best of me and has seen the worst of me. He knows when I'm ready and he says this is the best he has seen me," Lopez said. "To hear that from my father and coach and that I feel good on top of that, I get goosebumps even talking about it. I don't know who really is going to handle that, especially the way I feel. I use all that."