Bob Arum offered Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez interim bouts recently.
Lomachenko could’ve fought an opponent other than Lopez in June. Lopez would’ve been able to face someone other than Lomachenko in July.
Neither lightweight champion was interested in any bout but theirs, thus their promoter hopes to put it together for September.
“We wanted to stall for time, until we were able to do the fight with a live audience,” Arum told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday. “But it’s clear that each of them wanna go right into that fight, so that’s what we’re gonna be planning for September, with or without an audience.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought boxing to a halt in the middle of March, Arum had hoped to make Lomachenko-Lopez for May 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Neither fighter had signed a contract for their much-anticipated lightweight title unification bout, but both boxers had agreed on most contractual terms.
Arum would prefer to stage Lomachenko-Lopez before a crowd, but coronavirus restrictions could keep fans from attending sporting events in the United States until at least the end of 2020. Arum doesn’t want to wait that long to promote one of the most fascinating fights that can be made in boxing, so he would sacrifice what he estimates would be somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million in ticket revenue.
“Obviously, we would love to do that fight with an audience,” Arum said. “But again, how realistic is that? When are we gonna be able to do fights with an audience? Once we get Loma here, which Egis [Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager] tells me we’re gonna try to bring him here in the beginning of June, then we’re gonna set a date for that fight. And if we can’t do it with spectators, we’re gonna still do the fight. It may very well be that we have to do that fight without spectators. But we can’t keep everybody waiting while we hope to open it up to spectators.”
If Lomachenko and Lopez don’t square off until sometime in September, the 32-year-old Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) won’t have fought for more than a year. The Ukrainian southpaw last fought August 31, when the three-division champion out-boxed England’s Luke Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) in their 12-rounder to win the then-vacant WBC lightweight title at O2 Arena in London.
The 22-year-old Lopez stopped Richard Commey in the second round of his last fight, December 14 at Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn’s Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) knocked down Ghana’s Commey (29-3, 26 KOs) in the second round and quickly finished him thereafter to win the IBF lightweight title.
“The original plan was to give them each an interim fight,” Arum said. “Loma was against that, and so was Lopez. We said, ‘Listen, we’re gonna postpone it because we don’t know when we can get a live audience.’ And our plan was in June and July to give Loma a fight and give Lopez a fight. And they each turned that down. They said they’re prepared to wait until September to fight each other.”
The September timetable is predicated on Lomachenko’s ability to enter the United States from Ukraine. Arum doesn’t anticipate that trip becoming problematic for the two-time Olympic gold medalist because Ukraine isn’t among the countries included in the United States’ travel ban.
“If you don’t have your visa, you’re out of luck now,” Arum explained, “because the consulates are shut down and there’s a hold on granting visas. So, you have to already have a visa. And then, you have to be from a country where you can get in [to the United States]. For example, we can’t get an Englishman in. We can’t get a European in, except if he comes from one of the old Soviet block countries, because for some crazy reason the travel ban doesn’t affect those people. So, if it’s Lomachenko, we fly him into Moscow, and we fly him over here. And that’s OK because Loma has a green card.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.