Sometimes you write a column and you just know it’s a good one.
It’s a lot like when a basketball shot “feels good off the hands.”
It was exactly that way for me last week.
Upon polishing off 1,000 words on how Vasily Lomachenko would swat away Teofimo Lopez’s challenge like an upstart mosquito, I turned to my wife and kiddingly said “make room on the trophy shelf.”
That’s how sure I was.
And I was right.
On the column at least. Upon further review, it was pretty solid.
Succinct. Easy to read. Even funny in spots.
But yeah… the fight. Not so much.
So if you’re one of the 100-plus commenters from last week and you’ve made your way back here on Tuesday morning to see me chow down on some journalistic crow, here’s your reward.
I got it wrong. Way wrong.
Lopez fought a smart, disciplined fight. He carried the action early to get a lead, weathered a storm in the mid-late rounds as Lomachenko surged and admirably bit down on the mouthpiece in the final three minutes to secure what many figured was a pivotal 12th round.
Turns out some interesting ringside scoring made that last part moot. Lopez could have even been on the short end of a 10-7 round in the 12th and still won a majority decision.
That would have prompted some interesting post-fight remarks and far more calls for a rematch than have emerged in 72 or so hours since the final bell. The general tenor, in fact, has been that Lopez ought to chase new quarry at 135 pounds while Lomachenko might be best served by a return to 130.
For the record, I scored it 115-113 for the winner.
He got rounds 1 to 6 and 12 on my card, while Lomachenko got 7 to 11 and would have had a draw if he’d finished better. Nearly every Twitter post I saw in the aftermath suggested a draw was the very best the Ukrainian deserved, with most settling somewhere within the 7-5 to 9-3 range for Lopez.
I have yet to encounter a single person who believed Lomachenko won.
Anyway, in my early Sunday morning stupor, I turned to the sources I often consult when I’m looking for someone to make sense of a fight result I didn’t see coming.
And who better to provide wisdom at 135 pounds than a guy who used to rule the division?
“I thought Loma would give him a boxing lesson, which he was doing with his movement and feints, but he wasn’t throwing any punches,” said Ray Mancini, who had eight title fights at lightweight from 1981-85 and won five of them. “So it defeats the purpose of getting a guy out of position with feints and movement when you don’t make him pay for it.”
As for why the Ukrainian didn’t unload the way he typically does, “Boom Boom” blamed inactivity.
“I think the long layoff,” he said, referring to Lomachenko’s career-high 413 days between fights. “A fighter like me needs to stay active. Layoffs don’t help anyone, especially fighters that are aggressive.”
Mancini, who fought as many as 12 times in a single calendar year early in his career, lost all three times following his three longest layoffs. He was away for eight months and 15 days before dropping a rematch to Livingstone Bramble in 1985, left the sport and returned 49 months later to lose to Hector Camacho in 1989 and spent another 37 months on the shelf prior to a loss to Greg Haugen in 1992.
Prior to those defeats, he’d never gone longer than seven months between fights and was 29-2.
Meanwhile, Jim Lampley, who called many of Lomachenko’s fights as he built the “High-Tech” brand on HBO, suggested the challenger’s full-time hunger overcame the champ’s part-time excellence.
“Younger, stronger, faster, more motivated all hard to overcome when you are in fight No. 411 and you have become a once/twice-a-year businessman,” he said.
“First truly unequivocal loss of (Lomachenko’s) career, but an inevitable rite of passage. Surely closer than Julie’s card, but that is academic. Hail the new king. Instincts remind me of Duran.”
High praise from a guy who knows what he’s looking at.
And next time, I’ll make sure to chat him up before I make my pick.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBA super flyweight title – Mexico City, Mexico
Roman Gonzalez (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Israel Gonzalez (No. 3 WBA/No. 20 IWBR)
R. Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KO): First title defense; Won first 15 title fights before two losses (16-2)
I. Gonzalez (25-3, 11 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Has split four career 12-round bouts (2-2)
Fitzbitz says: Wasn’t all that long ago that Gonzalez – Roman, that is – was everyone’s P4P top guy. He’s spent some time rebuilding the brand after a couple losses and it’ll continue here. Gonzalez in 8 (99/1)
WBC super flyweight title – Mexico City, Mexico
Juan Francisco Estrada (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Carlos Cuadras (No. 3 WBC/No. 11 IWBR)
Estrada (40-3, 27 KO): Second title defense; Held WBA/WBO titles at 112 pounds (2013-15, 5 defenses)
Cuadras (39-3-1, 27 KO): Ninth title fight (6-1-1); Held WBC title at 115 pounds (2014-16, 6 defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Estrada is No. 1 in the independent rankings for a reason and it’ll be nice to see him get a big fight once he’s past this one. Won’t be easy, but he should get it done. Estrada by decision (90/10)
WBC flyweight title – Mexico City, Mexico
Julio Cesar Martinez (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Moises Calleros (No. 20 WBC/Unranked IWBR)
Martinez (16-1, 12 KO): Second title defense; Has gone past eight rounds once in 17 career fights (1-0)
Calleros (33-9-1, 17 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost WBO title shot at 105 pounds
Fitzbitz says: Martinez is a legit commodity at 112 pounds and should win here, but Flores has been in there with some worthwhile competition as won’t be a total pushover. Martinez by decision (80/20)
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Lomachenko)
2020 picks record: 25-5 (83.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,142-370 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.