Unified lightweight titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko faces fellow titleholder Teofimo Lopez Jr. in the main event of a Top Rank card Saturday night at the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas (ESPN and ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), the WBO and WBA titleholder and WBC “franchise” champion, puts his belts on the line against IBF titlist Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), in a widely anticipated matchup between the two best fighters in the division.
Lomachenko, 32, won the WBA belt in a seventh-round TKO victory over Jorge Linares in May 2018. Seven months later he added the WBO belt in a unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza. Lomachenko won the WBC belt in a decision win over Luke Campbell in 2019, but two months after that he was stripped of the belt by the WBC and instead named the organization “franchise” champ. WBC interim titleholder Devin Haney was promoted to full titleholder. The WBC initially said that the “franchise” belt wouldn’t be something to fight for, but recently reversed course.
The fight is one of the best matchups that could be made in boxing, but will not have fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Lomachenko says he won’t be affected by it.
“I think it’s just a ring and judges and TV. That’s it. And, of course, four belts,” Lomachenko said during a news conference Wednesday. “For me, I think it will be a chess match.”
Lopez echoed Lomachenko’s feelings about the lack of fans — one of the few things they agree on.
“A true champion can adapt to everything,” Lopez said. “It goes for both of us. He fought in arenas sold out. I fought in arenas sold out. My job and my thing are having all of these belts wrapped around me.”
Lopez, 23, scored an impressive second-round TKO of Richard Commey last December to win his belt and set up the unification fight against Lomachenko.
“Hard work pays off. Eighteen years in, and it’s just the beginning,” Lopez said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
In the co-main event, Arnold Barboza Jr. takes on Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) in a 10-round, junior welterweight battle. Barboza (24-0, 10 KOs) has won three of his past five fights by stoppage. He scored a one-sided unanimous decision win against Tony Luis in August at the Top Rank bubble.
Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) has won two fights in a row since suffering the only loss of his career challenging Maurice Hooker for the WBO world title in 2018.
Steve Kim recaps the fights as they happen in Las Vegas.
Fight in progress: Arnold Barboza Jr. vs. Alex Saucedo, 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Edgar Berlanga TKO 1 Lanell Bellows
Fight recap coming up …
Vargas shows speed, power in win over Castaneda
Josue Vargas put forth an impressive effort in handily defeating Kendo Castaneda in a junior welterweight battle. All three judges scored the fight for Vargas — 100-89, 98-91 and 99-90.
Vargas jumped out to an early lead by knocking Castaneda down with a left hand in the second round. Castaneda got up, dusted himself off, and kept fighting. But Vargas (18-1, 9 KOs) continued to control the action throughout with a steady attack.
In the middle rounds Vargas started to land right hooks to the body and quick combination punches. While Vargas got clipped occasionally by Castaneda (17-3, 8 KOs), he was never truly threatened in this fight. His superior boxing skills and quick movements helped him control this entire bout. Castaneda’s nose was bleeding for much of this bout, and while he went the distance, he was never really in the fight.
Vivas stops Moralde in Round 1
Jose Enrique Vivas needed just 76 seconds to stop John Vincent Moralde in what was scheduled to be an eight-round featherweight contest.
Vivas sent Moralde (23-4, 13 KOs) to the canvas early with a short left hook while the two boxers were exchanging on the inside. As Moralde got up, Vivas (20-1, 11 KOs) ramped up his attack by striking Moralde with a hard right hand over the top that stunned him, followed by a left hook to the body that had Moralde covering up on the ropes. At that point, referee Enrique Colon decided to wave the fight off.
Randall dominates Rivera
Quinton Randall defeated Jan Carlos Rivera by unanimous decision in a matchup of undefeated welterweights. After six rounds, Randall came out on top on all three scorecards, by scores of 59-55, 58-56 and 58-56.
Rivera (4-1, 4 KOs), an aggressive southpaw, didn’t hesitate to come forward to attack Randall (6-1, 2 KOs). While Rivera was able to pin Randall against the ropes multiple times, most of his punches fell short, allowing Randall to box effectively and counterpunch throughout the bout.
Tucker stays unbeaten with unanimous decision win
In the opening bout of the night, welterweight Jahi Tucker notched his second professional victory by pitching a four-round shutout of Charles Garner. All three judges saw the fight 40-36 for Tucker.
While the scorecards were clearly in favor of Tucker (2-0, 1 KOs), it wasn’t a scintillating performance. Tucker was the more active fighter and he consistently outworked Garner throughout the fight, but Garner (1-1) had his moments.
What this fight really showed was that Tucker, 17, still has a ways to go in terms of his professional development.
Still to come:
Title fight: Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez, 12 rounds, for Lomachenko’s WBO and WBA lightweight titles and Lopez’s IBF lightweight title