In the immediate aftermath of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s sensational knockout of Masayoshi Nakatani on Saturday in Las Vegas, Teofimo Lopez’s father made a beeline for the ring.
It wasn’t clear exactly why the elder Lopez wanted to reach Lomachenko, and security stopped him well before he made it. But if you think about it, maybe he wanted to thank him.
Thanks to Saturday’s performance, a rematch between Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) and Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) just became one of the most sellable fights at 135 pounds. It actually might even be the most sellable, which is really saying something, considering the wealth of young talent at lightweight.
Lopez will still need to do his part in the coming months, when he’s expected to face George Kambosos Jr. in a bout that was supposed to take place on June 5. The fight was postponed after Lopez tested positive for COVID-19. Assuming Lopez makes a full recovery and defeats Kambosos, he’s likely to start promoting a Lomachenko rematch immediately.
And what a promotional build-up that will be. Lopez, 23, became the undisputed lightweight champion in October, when he defeated Lomachenko via unanimous decision inside a deserted MGM Grand Conference Center that served as the Top Rank Bubble. The victory capped off months of brazen comments made by Lopez and his father, in which they guaranteed an upset over the pound-for-pound great and then followed through.
There are a lot of different ways of looking at that first fight, and you can bet that every single one of them will be flushed out before the rematch. On the night of the loss, Lomachenko said he felt like he’d done enough to win. He later said the fight should have been declared a draw, and revealed he threw almost no punches in the first six rounds because of an injured shoulder.
At the very least, that excuse sounded plausible before Saturday. Now, it feels more like an honest explanation. Presumably healthy, and very motivated, Lomachenko looked like his old self within the first 90 seconds against Nakatani, when he expertly slipped to his right to avoid a punch and lunged forward with a lightning quick left hand.
Lomachenko’s performance solved a lot of potential problems for himself — and did the same for Lopez, and Top Rank. On the heels of his victory over Lomachenko, Lopez landed a terrific payday in an open purse bid earlier this year, but his next move beyond Kambosos would not have been obvious had it been anything other than a Lomachenko rematch.
Despite all the talent at lightweight, booking a fight between the likes of Lopez, Lomachenko, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia is far from a sure thing, due to the number of promoters and networks involved. Now, the best fight is also the easiest one to make, as Lopez and Lomachenko both fall under the Top Rank umbrella.
And if Lomachenko evens the score, in what promises to be a very successful rematch, imagine the interest in a trilogy.
So, yeah, it’s not unreasonable to think Lopez Sr. was rushing the ring to thank his son’s most recent adversary. Business is looking good for all parties after Saturday.