Vasiliy Lomachenko is just too old and too small for Teofimo Lopez. Well, at least that's the story Lopez is telling ahead of their marquee lightweight championship unification bout which takes place Saturday from Las Vegas' MGM Grand.
"He's on the way out of the sport and 135 is just too big," Lopez said DAZN's The Ak & Barak Show.
In a sense, Lopez isn't wrong. Lomachenko, who holds the WBA and WBO world titles, is the smaller man coming into the fight. Lomachenko's only career knockdown was suffered in his first fight at lightweight when he was clipped by Jorge Linares, and he also got buzzed a bit by Luke Campbell in his most recent outing. Lopez, meanwhile, is a far bigger puncher than Linares and Campbell, with the ability to knock any man in the division out with his left or right hand.
While 32 won't be considered old by normal standards, Lomachenko's 32 years do come with 397 amateur fights in which he compiled an incredible 396-1 record and 15 fights as a professional, 14 of which were fought at the world championship level. That's a lot of ring miles. Nine years younger and with hundreds fewer fights in his combined amateur and professional career, it's easy to see why Lopez has painted a picture of Lomachenko as old, small and on his way out of the sport.
This all ignores a few things about Lomachenko in recent years, however.
Yes, Linares knocked Lomachenko down in Round 6 -- but Lomachenko finished him in Round 10. Jose Pedraza had his moments in their fight -- but the final scorecards weren't close. And Lomachenko, who is "too small" for lightweight, dropped Pedraza twice in Round 11.
Lomachenko dropped Anthony Crolla twice for a fourth-round knockout, and while Campbell stung Lomachenko a few times, the unified lightweight champ scored a knockdown in Round 11 on his way to a wide decision win against his fellow former Olympic gold medalist.
If there's any concern over Lomachenko's ability to compete at lightweight, the fact that he is averaging 1.5 knockdowns per fight since moving to 135 pounds should erase any worry that he can't punch at the weight. And being stung on occasion is a lot different than being seriously hurt. Lopez may be the man with the power to change that, but the narrative of the "too small for lightweight" Lomachenko simply doesn't check out yet.
Lomachenko is the best boxer in the world. His speed, technique, footwork, power and general boxing IQ are all elite-level qualities in his game. Recent outings have not shown a sudden decline in any area of Lomachenko's game, and the talk of him aging out of the game seems to come more from calendar pages turning than any visible skill decline.
Lomachenko remains a spectacular, sport-topping talent heading into a showdown with a young, brash star who is looking to take his star power into new heights. He carries with the confidence of a man who knows his time is not at its end.
"I heard this a lot of times from a lot of boxers," Lomachenko said of Lopez's pre-fight talk on a media conference call. "But then you come in the ring, and you forgot your words. You forgot your promise. You just try boxing, you just try fighting. For me, it's just trash talk. It's just words. We will see what happens."