Boxing has been back, but the pound-for-pound elite fighters remain invisible so far
It has been four months since boxing began a gradual presentation of televised battles again. Yet the pound-for-pound elite fighters of the sport remain invisible.
Before the sport was suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the last notable boxing event was Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder's heavyweight title on February 22nd.
Expectations for another Fury Wilder fight remain after the TKO victim of the seventh round, Wilder, opted for the direct rematch clause set out in their contracts. Similar uncertainties exist about the next fight dates for Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao and Gennady Golovkin - three notable champions on the shortlist of top boxers.
For boxing fans, the absence of elite fighters on TV screens ends on Saturday night. Vasyl Lomachenko meets Teofimo Lopez in an easy title fight in Las Vegas. Lomachenko-Lopez, a fight that normally requires the pay-per-view tag, will be broadcast on ESPN instead.
The fight at the MGM Grand will include a "bubble" environment to comply with coronavirus guidelines, although approximately 250 spectators will be allowed.
"All I can say is that this contains the ingredients for a major event," said Bob Arum, president of Top Rank, who sponsors both fighters. "I think it would be inappropriate to try and run an event like this on a pay-per-view basis when so many people are really at risk and have no jobs."
Lomachenko, who many experts consider the sport's best fighter, is expected to pass his toughest test yet as an easy defending champion. Lopez, a former Davie resident and Florida Golden Gloves champion, views defeating Lomachenko as his breakthrough chance at elite level.
"When I got into professional boxing, I just wanted to fight the world champions against the best fighters," said Lomachenko, a 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion representing his native Ukraine. "Now I have a top fighter in front of me and I just want to improve who I am and improve my legacy."
Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) has won world titles in the featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight divisions. Lomachenko, 32, is currently recognized as the defending champion by three of the sport's four main sanction agencies. His attempt to become the undisputed champion requires the dethroning of Lopez, who owns the fourth light belt with a sanction body.
In the run-up to Saturday's fight, Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) repeatedly predicted that he would end Lomachenko's title reign with a knockout.
"I've heard this from a lot of boxers," Lomachenko said of Lopez's pre-fight boast. “Then you come in the ring and you forgot your words and you forgot what you promised. For me it's just trash talk and just words. We'll see what happens in the ring. "
Long before he won an easy title, Lopez saw the opportunity to remove Lomachenko from his seat and compare him to a takeover.
"I'm not trying to get under his skin, I'm just being spoken," said Lopez. “Come tonight if he wants to take it from me - great. I'm trying to take it out on him too. That makes it a good fight. At the same time we try to encourage the struggle.
"The fact that we face the likes of Lomachenko will likely be discussed for the rest of my career. I know in other interviews that I don't want to hear from him. But I know it will be a fight to be about has to speak because this guy is in the top 5 pound-for-pound lists. "
While Alvarez, Pacquiao and Golovkin have no scheduled bouts, other elite fighters will take Lomachenko's lead on their ring returns after the closure.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Welterweight champion Terence Crawford will fight Kell Brook on November 14th and welterweight teammate Errol Spence Jr. will fight Danny Garcia on December 5th. The fight will be Spence's first since sustaining serious injuries in a car crash in October.
Xander Zayas, who lives in Sunrise, will return to central Florida for his sixth professional match on Friday. Zayas will fight an unannounced opponent at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee.
▪ After a decorated amateur career, highlighted by several national championships, 18 year old Zayas turned pro last October and won his first five fights. Last month, Zayas scored in the first round against Orlando Salgado in the same round that he will fight on Friday night.
▪ Coming - Friday (12 noon, Telemundo-Ch. 51): Emanuel Colon versus Antonio Moran, 10, junior world champion weights; Xander Zayas against opponent TBA, 6, world weights.
▪ Saturday (10:00 pm, ESPN): Vasyl Lomachenko versus Teofimo Lopez, 12, for the uniform WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF lightweight titles.
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