LAS VEGAS – Teofimo Lopez officially has taken over.
The brash Brooklyn native built an early lead, fended off Vasiliy Lomachenko’s comeback in the second half of their 12-round lightweight title unification fight Saturday night and upset Lomachenko by unanimous decision at MGM Grand Conference Center. Two of the official scores were wider than the action appeared to indicate, though, as judges Tim Cheatham (116-112), Julie Lederman (119-109) and Steve Weisfeld (117-111) had it for Lopez by big margins.
Cheatham, Lederman and Weisfeld scored eight, 11 and nine rounds, respectively, for Lopez. Lederman scored only the 11th round for Lomachenko.
The scoring notwithstanding, in just his 16th professional fight, the 23-year-old Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) became the first fully unified lightweight champion in the sport’s four-belt era and its youngest such champion in any division. Lopez retained his IBF belt and won the WBA “super”, WBC “franchise” and WBO titles from Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs).
“Honestly, you’ve just gotta keep pressuring him, keep putting the gas on him,” Lopez told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after his historic victory. “And then all you gotta really do, man, is stick the jab, don’t really give him that opportunity to set up. And every time he did wanna throw, I had something ready for him, at least something [to] throw. So, it kinda stops his momentum. And, you know, on top of that, he’s been on a 14-month layoff. I knew it was gonna take a long time for him to catch up.”
Lopez also snapped Lomachenko’s 13-fight winning streak and out-boxed an opponent who was commonly considered one of the top three boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport. Before Saturday night, Ukraine’s Lomachenko, who was a 4-1 favorite, hadn’t lost since Mexico’s Orlando Salido defeated him by split decision in their 12-round featherweight title fight in March 2014 at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Lopez beat Lomachenko more convincingly than Salido. There is not a rematch clause in the contracts for their fight, thus it would be up to Lopez to grant Lomachenko a rematch.
Beyond the three judges, CompuBox credited Lopez for out-landing Lomachenko by 42 punches overall (183-of-659 to 141-of-321). According to CompuBox, Lopez landed more power punches (148-of-364 to 78-of-172), but Lomachenko connected on more jabs (63-of-149 to 35-of-295).
Lomachenko thinks he did enough once he got going to pull off the comeback.
“I think in the first half of the fight, yeah, he got more rounds than I did,” Lomachenko told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel through a translator. “But then in the second half of the fight, I took it over and I was much better. But I wanna go home to review the fight, to see it. I can’t comment much now about it. But I’m definitely not agreeing with the scorecards.”
Lomachenko didn’t throw many punches during the first half of their bout and gave away rounds to an aggressive, strong Lopez, whose speed seemed to neutralize him. Lomachenko mounted an impressive comeback during the second half of their fight, however, and at times made Lopez fight off his back foot.
Lomachenko landed plenty of flush punches during the final six rounds, but Lopez wasn’t noticeably hurt at any point.
Lomachenko and Lopez went at it throughout an action-packed 12th round. Lopez unloaded shots on Lomachenko during that final round, when he ignored the instructions of his father/trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr., and went after Lomachenko.
Referee Russell Mora called for a break in the action with just 10 seconds to go in the fight because an accidental head-butt opened a cut over Lopez’s right eye.
Lomachenko stood and traded with Lopez approximately 40 seconds into the 11th round. Lomachenko was aggressive again in that round and often kept Lopez on his back foot.
Lopez’s punch output slowed by then. Lomachenko landed a straight left with about 35 seconds to go in the 11th round that backed up Lopez.
Lomachenko landed a straight left hand in the 10th round, but it didn’t hurt Lopez. Lomachenko was the more active and accurate puncher in that round and clearly had mounted a comeback after giving away a lot of rounds in the first half of their fight.
Lopez landed a straight right hand below Lomachenko’s belt just before the end of the 10th round.
Lomachenko caught Lopez with a right-left combination just before the halfway point of the ninth round. Lomachenko continued coming forward in that round and threw many more punches than he had earlier in their fight.
Mora warned Lomachenko for head-butting Lopez 35 seconds into the eighth round. A left-right combination by Lomachenko caused Lopez to hold him just before the midway mark of the eighth round.
Lomachenko sensed Lopez was vulnerable, but Lopez fired hard right hands at him during the second half of that round. Nevertheless, the action during that eight round was better than at any other previous point in the fight.
Lopez hit Lomachenko with a hard right to the body about 1:35 into the seventh round. Lomachenko attempted to come forward more in the seventh round than in previous rounds.
Lopez placed Lomachenko in a headlock about 30 seconds into the seventh round. Lomachenko punched him twice while waiting for Mora to break them up.
Lopez let his hands go 30 seconds into the sixth round, but Lomachenko blocked those thudding punches. Lomachenko landed two jabs just before the halfway point of the sixth round.
Lomachenko connected with a short right hook with about 40 seconds to go in the sixth. Lopez didn’t land much in that sixth round, until he connected with two right hands in the final few seconds of that round.
Lopez landed a right and Lomachenko connected with a left simultaneously a little more than a minute into the fifth round. Lopez landed another right-left combination to Lomachenko’s body later in the fifth, which forced Lomachenko off the ropes.
Lomachenko remained cautious at the start of the fourth round, when he tried to keep his distance from Lopez. With just under a minute left in the fourth, Lopez trapped Lomachenko in a neutral corner long enough to unload a left hook, but it didn’t land.
Lopez’s right-left combination to Lomachenko’s body made him move away from Lopez with about 1:40 to go in the third round.
Lomachenko connected with a straight hand with just under a minute to go in the second round. Lomachenko also caught Lopez with a right-left combination just before the second round ended.
Lopez landed a right hand that moved Lomachenko backward early in the second round.
Lomachenko blocked two of Lopez’s right hands within the first 1:15 of the opening round. Lomachenko spent much of the first round on his back foot, moving away from Lopez’s right hand.
Lomachenko hadn’t boxed in 13½ months prior to opposing Lopez on Saturday night. He won the then-vacant WBC lightweight title in his previous bout by out-pointing England’s Luke Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) in August 2019 at O2 Arena in London.
Lopez ended a slightly shorter layoff. His last bout before Saturday night occurred December 14, when he stopped Ghana’s Richard Commey (29-3, 26 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Lomachenko and Lopez were supposed to meet May 30 at Madison Square Garden, but their fight was postponed 4½ months and moved to MGM Grand Conference Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.