A fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez was momentarily on the ropes earlier this month, but cooler heads and an extra infusion of cash have prevailed, and the highly anticipated match is officially back on the burner and scheduled to take place on Oct. 17 on ESPN, it was confirmed Thursday.
Team Lopez originally declared the financial compensation they were receiving was unfit, but Lomachenko parted ways with a portion of his $3 million-plus purse and pushed it across the table toward Lopez to gratify the prospect-turned-IBF lightweight champion.
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) has not fought since dealing Luke Campbell a unanimous decision loss last September, and it was by design so that he can take on the Brooklyn-bred Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) without any limitations.
“I am preparing for Lopez. I am preparing for joining the match and the conquering of the next title. We intentionally did not hold any interim fights to avoid the risk of another injury in the interim,” Lomachenko said in an interview posted on his YouTube channel.
“There is a huge desire to get boxing, to spar, because it's like a child who hasn't played with a favorite toy. I miss it, and I would like to speed up the events. I can switch to fight mode in an instant.”
The fight is tentatively scheduled to take place at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas in a crowdless arena, unless guidelines for fans attending sporting events suddenly shift.
The three-division champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko is unbothered if the fight moves forward without fans.
“I think [the Lopez fight is] going to feel like a sparring match, most probably something like that. I have tried to picture it in my head, see what it would look like, in an empty hall,” said Lomachenko. “For me, the competition is inside the ring. So who watches that. The main thing is that the judges are there, and they are able to define the strongest one. Whether people watch it live or on TV is secondary.”
Fans or lack thereof, the WBO and WBA lightweight champ Lomachenko said it will not change his mindset in preparation, and ultimately his performance in the ring.
“Definitely not. It's not that important to me, if there are spectators or there is none ... I feel the spectators in all of the fights. I felt it more than ever when I started boxing in New York,” said Lomachenko. “There is a ring. There is an opponent. There is a goal. I don’t really know how to describe my emotions but all of the surrounding factors will have zero influence on me because I know what I want. I really need [Lopez's IBF] title.”
For the next two months, the soft and infrequently speaking Lomachenko will focus on the fight, and not the fanfare.
“The prospects are very wide and exciting [at 130 and 135]. I'm all in for it,” said Lomachenko. “[Teofimo is] doing all of the [promotional] work for both of us. I don't need to shout anything. I don't need to proclaim anything at all. I don't need to tease him or humiliate him. He does everything. He [and his father Teofimo Sr.] are promoting the fight, and they are doing it well, too. Thanks guys!”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.