The much-anticipated Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez Jr. lightweight title unification fight has been agreed to.
After weeks of difficult negotiations between Lopez and promoter Top Rank, the sides came to terms on Wednesday night, David McWater, Lopez’s manager, told BoxingScene just after he said he and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum finished hammering things out.
Lomachenko had already agreed to terms with Top Rank and was waiting for Lopez to do the same.
The fight, initially penciled in for Oct. 3, will instead take place either Oct. 17 or Oct. 24 with the final call up to broadcaster ESPN, which probably will televise the fight on the network rather than pay-per-view, Teofimo Lopez Sr., Lopez’s father and trainer, told BoxingScene.com.
“The whole world will see it and we will get more recognition when we beat Lomachenko, and that’s good for us,” Lopez Sr. said. “It’s going to be a beautiful fight between two great fighters doing the best that they can do to win.”
Lopez Sr. said they plan to sign the paperwork on Thursday.
“We came to an agreement,” McWater said. “The fight will take place later in October than Oct. 3 but we have a deal. It was a complicated deal but we made it. Arum and I have been talking and we finally got it done.”
Whichever date and platform the fight lands on it will take place inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, McWater said.
At issue had been the offer of $1.25 million to Lopez out of approximately $4.7 million available to be split between the fighters for a fight that probably would have generated millions in gate revenue. But without spectators allowed to buy tickets it was more difficult to work out the money. In the end, Lopez will get closer to $2 million with Lomachenko said to have been willing to give up a piece of his purse to help get the deal done.
“Bob was a complete gentleman. He never raised his voice to me,” McWater said. “Everything with Bob was completely businesslike. We’re both businessmen. It was easy, not easy. You know? It was one of those things that everybody was a gentleman and polite. We had to make an arrangement and we got to something where everyone was happy.”
The New York-born Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), who turned 23 last month, was a 2016 Olympian for his parents’ birth country of Honduras and has moved very quickly as a professional. He won the IBF 135-pound world title on Dec. 14 with a spectacular second-round knockout of Richard Commey with Lomachenko seated at ringside.
Lopez had been calling out for a fight with unified world champion Lomachenko, who is regarded by many as boxing’s pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter, since well before Lopez won his world title.
“How do you like my prediction from two years ago,” Lopez Sr. said of his call that his son would fight Lomachenko eventually. “It was supposed to happen. God has not given me this vision for no reason. That’s exactly what’s happening. My son ain’t scared of nobody. He’s from another freakin’ planet. I asked him once to tell me the truth when I asked him, ‘Do you get scared when you go to the ring?’ He said, ‘No, dad, I get excited to put on a big show.’ He belongs in boxing and you guys are going to see who the real deal is.”
With the 32-year-old Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), the two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist, who has won world titles in three weight classes, eager to further unify the division, he quickly approved of fighting Lopez.
“It’s crazy. I remember when Teofimo was like 3-0 and he talked about this fight and here they are,” McWater said. “In my opinion it’s a remarkable story. Teofimo and his father have been singularly focused on this fight for years and we’re making it happen. The power of the human spirit should never be underestimated. We feel like it has a chance to be important fight in history. We’re very excited. For him and his dad the fight is a dream come true.”
Had the agreement, initially reported by ESPN, not been reached, Top Rank was considering matching Lomachenko with Puerto Rican contender Felix Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs), who notched his fourth win in a row on July 16 when he drilled Will Madera in the first round inside the bubble. Lomachenko defeated Verdejo in the 2012 London Olympics.
Lopez Sr. said he wanted to take the fight when the offer was at $1.25 million but his son told him he knew he could get more.
“I told him to take the money, this is going to be for the legacy because that’s what we fight for,” Lopez Sr. said. “But my son said, ‘Dad, I know I can get more. I said, ‘Do your thing.’ He promised me he won’t lose this fight. I said, ‘OK, do your negotiations and that’s what he did. He knows what he’s worth. And with the fight in October, we have enough time for training. My son has been training and now it’s a matter of me putting the tactics in on how to beat this guy.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.