“Give me my damn respect,” said the New York native, nattily attired in a dark suit, white dress shirt and tie during a post-fight news conference at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The result secured Lopez plenty while vaulting him to the upper reaches of the sport in the company of such luminaries as Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford and Tyson Fury. It also allows Lopez to dictate terms of his next bout in becoming the first boxer in the four-belt era to unify at 135 pounds.
In winning by judges’ scores of 119-109, 117-113 and 116-112, Lopez (16-0, 12 knockouts) retained his International Boxing Federation title and wrested Lomachenko’s World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Council “franchise” championships.
Lopez also settled what he has called personal issues with Lomachenko, 32, dating from several years ago when his father and head trainer, Teofimo Sr., exchanged words with the Ukrainian southpaw, who is widely regarded among the top pound-for-pound fighters of his generation.
The heated confrontation compelled Lopez Sr. to promise his son would knock Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) off his perch in due time.
Lomachenko fired back verbal barbs of his own in the weeks leading to the fight, suggesting Lopez’s bluster would lead to his undoing once the two stepped into the ring for one of the more anticipated showdowns in recent memory.
“That’s a true champion right there,” the younger Lopez said. “Loma was a hell of a fighter. He knows what he’s doing, but his time is over. I told you guys. I’m smart when I’m in there. I’m going to take bumps and bruises. I mean that’s part of it, so I dig down deep in those last rounds for a reason.”
After commanding the center of the ring over the first half of the fight, Lopez withstood a valiant comeback in the middle rounds from Lomachenko, who, at a significant reach disadvantage, began getting inside to land body blows and connecting with combinations to the head.
Fighting in a virtually empty arena amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Lopez sealed the outcome with a flourish in the 12th round despite absorbing a shot that opened a nasty gash above his right eye in the closing seconds that required stitches in the locker room.
“My son was the better man,” Lopez Sr. said, with a championship belt slung over his left shoulder. “We did something that everybody thought we couldn’t do. We outboxed him. We gave him a clinic, you know. I’m just so glad, man, that everything that I said came into existence.”
The contract for the fight, which was promoted by Top Rank and broadcast on ESPN, did not include a rematch clause, per Lomachenko’s terms as the three-belt champion, thus leaving the two-time Olympic gold medalist at the mercy of Lopez and his team as to whether they would face one another again.
Lopez dismissed any notion of a rematch, citing a victory that left no doubt about his standing as the far superior fighter. He outlanded Lomachenko 183-141, according to statistics from CompuBox, and connected on 148 power punches, at a rate of 41 percent.
That’s the highest percentage of power punches landed against Lomachenko, extending a troubling trend since he moved up from junior feather and featherweight. Lomachenko, who fought nearly 400 times as an amateur, did not immediately indicate if he would consider dropping back down for future bouts.
Lopez Sr., meanwhile, is pushing for his son to move up to 140 pounds, although Lopez Jr. mentioned Devin Haney as a potential opponent at 135. Haney is the WBC regular champion, a lesser, more restrictive designation than the sanctioning body’s “franchise” champion belonging to Lopez.
Haney issued a challenge to Lopez via his Twitter page shortly after the fight, as did Ryan Garcia, another standout in the lightweight division.
“My team, everybody throughout this whole week, was talking about the fact that I’m going to be a big superstar after winning,” Lopez said. “I didn’t listen to that. I was promised a lot of things after beating [Richard] Commey and becoming world champion, winning my first world title.
“If it comes, it comes, and I’m thankful for it.”