It is almost upon us, the most eagerly awaited match-up of our virus-ravaged year, a showdown for the undisputed lightweight title, Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez. And one of the intriguing sub-plots of this match has been the clash of personalities between the combatants, the unflappable Ukrainian vs the brash Brooklynite, two men who, to put it mildly, are not very fond of each other. Indeed, for reasons not entirely clear, young Teofimo decided from the outset that the gifted pugilist they call “Hi-Tech” merited his disrespect and disdain, insults never far from the lips of Lopez when anyone asked about his rival.
“He’s just an arrogant son of a bitch,” said Lopez back in August. “He’s a fucking diva.” And in the weeks since, similar rhetoric has been liberally dispensed by both Teofimo and his father and trainer, Teofimo Sr., as they doubled down on the disrespect.
Behind these nasty words lies a distorted, if somewhat widespread, perception of just who Vasiliy Lomachenko is as a boxer. From the beginning of his pro career, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has had his detractors, their criticisms inspired by the perception of special treatment when, in just his second pro bout, Vasiliy challenged for a world championship. To some, this was an insult to all the pro boxers who had toiled for years just to attain a world ranking, let alone a chance to fight for a shiny belt. Of course, what has been overlooked by such critics is not only Lomachenko’s incredible amateur record of 396 victories against a single defeat, but the sheer talent and superlative skill of the man many regard as, right now, the finest boxer, pound-for-pound, in the world.
And to those detractors and nay-sayers, and to Teofimo Lopez Jr. himself, we have a question: How can one dismiss a boxer as “a bitch” and “a diva” when he inspires a video such as we have here? When he is the muse for one of pugilism’s premier analysts and video auteurs?
When we first featured Lee Wylie’s tour de force, “An Ode To The Sweet Science,” we termed it a “love letter in video form to the ancient art of pugilism.” But take note, fight fans, of the boxer who inspired this “love letter.” Watch again one of Wylie’s great masterworks — perhaps his greatest — a video that spans the decades and features an “endless array of tactics, maneuvers and stratagems deployed by the true experts of prizefighting,” and laugh out loud at anyone calling Vasiliy Lomachenko — an alpha competitor who agreed to a pay cut to make Loma vs Lopez happen — “a diva.” No matter the outcome tomorrow night, here’s hoping, win or lose, in the end, young Teofimo gives credit, and respect, where it’s due. Check it out: