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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LOPEZ OVER LOMACHENKO

By Paul Magno | October 12, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LOPEZ OVER LOMACHENKO

Nobody's ever going to accuse Teofimo Lopez of not having balls. The 23-year-old Brooklynite and IBF lightweight titlist is jumping straight at the biggest dog in the dog park, seeking his legacy victory right now. No bank account-padding soft touch first title defense. No series of showcase squashes versus aging former champs and/or tough, but overmatched second-tier patsies. No years of marinade. 

Lopez has been telling everyone, everywhere, that he's going to beat up, beat down, and flat-out defeat WBO,WBA lightweight champ/WBC 135 lb. franchise champ/two-time Olympic gold medalist/ pound-for-pound darling Vasiliy Lomachenko this coming Saturday on ESPN. How he says this stuff and the way he says it, well, it's hard to doubt him. It even goes beyond not doubting him, it's got lots of people actually believing.

I wrote this in last week's Magno's Bulging Mail Sack column and I really couldn't have put it any better, so I'll just obnoxiously quote myself:

"Lots of people are picking the upset. I've even danced around the idea that it may be, could be possible as well. And, honestly, there isn't a whole lot of boxing logic involved in picking Teo over Loma.

Lopez is a 23-year-old kid with a fairly thin professional body of work and nothing at all on his resume to suggest that he's up to the task of beating Lomachenko. As a matter of fact, the one time he WAS presented a complex stylistic task-- against Masayoshi Nakatani last year-- he looked less than stellar and touched off a wave of "see, he's not that good" talk. Given his current level of accomplishment, moving up to fight Lomachenko should be a little like moving from the minor league all-star game to game 7 of the World Series.

Not that an upset is an impossibility. I do believe it's possible. But I think for most picking Teo over Loma, it's a little but wishful thinking and a little bit hoping for a classic. 

Unlike many of Lomachenko's opponents, Lopez is absolutely not intimidated by the task awaiting him or the aura surrounding Vasiliy's mastery. The kid is cut from a different cloth than most and is absolutely brimming with confidence. People see that and the very dominant KO crushing of a very good Richard Commey in his last bout and they're letting their imaginations run with the 2 + 2 might be 5 logic. 

Like I said, I also get that "an upset is really possible" vibe from this one. That's my heart talking. My head tells me just how often confidence and aggression and offensive might is cockblocked by movement, speed, and smarts."

I couldn't agree with myself more. 

But reality, outside of the hopes and wishes of some fight fans, is a cold, hard slap in the face. Betting odds, which usually track fact over feeling, have Lomachenko a -360 favorite-- and one wonders, given the cold, hard facts of this matchup, whether those odds are a bit dreamy-eyed as well. 

Teofimo Lopez has no right or reason to be as confident as he is. That, right there, gives one the impression that a mega-confident Lopez knows something the experts don't. Or maybe he's just fucking delusional. I guess we'll know soon enough. 

And what about Lomachenko? Although he's faced a lot and, except for being roughed up a bit by Orlando Salido in his second pro fight, has come out smelling like a rose, Lopez's challenge poses something new. Vasiliy has little to gain from beating the kid and everything to lose. He's supposed to handle a challenge like this. It's a new wrinkle that presents the kind of mental pressure he hasn't felt before. It's a pressure that goes beyond the boundaries of sport. 

Lomachenko excels at boxing as a sport. But he really hasn't faced boxing as a human struggle, except for, again, the Salido fight and, to be honest, he didn't look all that superhuman for the first three-quarters of it. 

So, if things play out as Team Lopez would like, Lomachenko's going to have to step outside of his comfort zone and fight rather than box. He'll be the virtuoso musician at the rap battle and he'll have to adapt-- quickly-- or be overwhelmed by his cocky, young, hungry opponent. Of course, there's also the great likelihood that Lopez will be utterly befuddled and handcuffed by the wizardry of a current day master. 

In the real boxing world, the latter is much more likely than the former. But Lomachenko-Lopez is no slam dunk easy call and that, right there, makes the pairing more intriguing than most of what gets passed off these days as high-end, main stage boxing. That's also most likely why many are giving Teofimo more than just a puncher's chance.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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