By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – If Vasiliy Lomachenko beats Jose Pedraza on Saturday night, promoter Bob Arum and his matchmakers will have a tough time finding interesting challenges for him within the lightweight division.
With Mikey Garcia committed to boxing IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr. on March 16, there is a shortage of top opponents for Lomachenko at 135 pounds.
Teofimo Lopez has implored his handlers not to look any further than the Lomachenko-Pedraza undercard for his huge challenge in 2019. Though just 10-0, the 21-year-old Lopez believes he is more than ready to defeat the three-division champion.
That doesn’t mean the Brooklyn-born, Las Vegas-based Lopez is confident Arum and company would make that fight as soon as Lopez wants it.
“To be honest, I don’t see it happening unless I have a world title and he actually wants to do it,” Lopez told BoxingScene.com. “Whenever it happens, it happens. If it happens, great. You know? If it doesn’t, I’ll know why and I’ll just move up to 140 [pounds] afterwards.”
When asked “why” Arum wouldn’t make a bout between him and Lomachenko, Lopez declined to answer.
“I know why,” Lopez said. “It’s not for me to say. There’s things inside the boxing world, so I know why.”
Lopez hopes to make an emphatic statement Saturday night, when he’ll face veteran Mason Menard. If Lopez tops Menard impressively, he’ll ask Arum first to get him a title shot, and then get him in the ring with Lomachenko.
“It’s a possibility that if could happen,” Lopez said. “Of course. And as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing and I become the superstar that everybody sees, then there you go – we can make it happen. And hopefully, it does happen. It’s one guy that would definitely impact my resume.”
Lopez respects Lomachenko, but he doesn’t view the athletic, skilled southpaw as an opponent he can’t beat in the foreseeable future.
“I don’t take nothing away from Lomachenko,” Lopez said. “But I just don’t see anything special in him – that’s all.”
The 10-rounder between Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs) and Menard (34-3, 24 KOs), of Rayne, Louisiana, will open ESPN’s tripleheader at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. It’ll immediately follow ESPN’s Heisman Trophy show.
In the main event, Ukraine’s Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), the WBA lightweight champ, and Puerto Rico’s Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs), the WBO’s 135-pound champion, will square off in a 12-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.