The lightweight title unification fight involving Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. is tantalizingly close, and there are just a few small hurdles left to clear before we reach Saturday night.
Both fighters need to pass a final COVID-19 test and, of course, they need to make weight.
After years of tension building between the two fighters and their fathers, it has been rather contentious between Lomachenko and Lopez during fight week — and that was clearly on display during Wednesday night’s news conference as each fighter spent an hour on national television staring down the opposition.
However, despite the bad blood and at a time when both fighters are staying inside the same Top Rank Boxing bubble on the 12th floor of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, though, peace has been maintained.
Since arriving within an hour of each other Tuesday evening, there has been a concerted effort to keep both boxers and their camps apart. Both boxers have security assigned to them throughout fight week, and their rooms are in different sections of the floor.
“At this point we’re not really worried about emotions jumping in, or anything like that. There’s too much on the line,” said Carl Moretti, VP of Boxing Operations for Top Rank. “They have different schedules just for logistical reasons, but it’s not based on security.
“If they happen to see each other in the hallway or anything like that, there’s only so much you can do. I mean, we’re all on the 12th floor, but it’s a big 12th floor.”
Evan Korn, a publicist for Top Rank, says that the two fighters crossed paths inside the MGM Conference Center on Thursday, ”without incident.”
Both fighters have stayed busy during their time in Las Vegas. Though this fight will air on ESPN, it carries the stakes of a pay-per-view event, and the commensurate responsibilities. Both Lomachenko and Lopez have had plenty of media obligations to fulfill and other appointments related to this promotion.
While this fight week is anything but ordinary, most of the week is still playing out the same way for the fighters.
“It’s strictly business, it really doesn’t bother us,” Egis Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager, said Thursday morning. “We’re here in Vegas, not to go to the restaurants, not to go to the casinos and bars. We came here strictly for business, and to tell you the truth, even if there wasn’t a bubble, our lifestyle would be the same.”
Lomachenko’s team has always run a very tight, regulated, private camp that extends all the way into fight night.
“We stay in the room with the team, we’re focused, watching movies, watching preparations that ‘Papachenko’ filmed through the whole thing — he edited it,” Klimas said. ”Nothing changes. We have a schedule, meetings, we talk to media, we went to press conference, tomorrow is weigh-in.
”For us, the only thing that changes is we have to go through the testing, and we have bracelets. That’s the rule, that’s what we stick to.”
Any free time Klimas has had is then spent on the phone conducting business with his other boxers, including Oleksandr Usyk, who faces Dereck Chisora in two weeks in a high-stakes heavyweight clash.
Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. were each raised very differently by their fathers.
However, Klimas did get a moment with Teofimo Lopez Sr. while in the bubble.
“All of a sudden, I see Senior going through the whole room and yelling, ‘He’s scared! He’s scared! I can see he’s scared!'” Klimas recalled. “I mean….who’s scared? Your son’s scared, or Lomachenko’s scared? I don’t know, or you’re scared? So basically for us, listen, it’s an agenda. It’s what we came for, plus it’s a very close step for Lomachenko’s dream, and we go here to achieve Lomachenko’s dreams.”
The brash and outspoken father of Lopez, who says the bubble hasn’t been an issue for Teofimo or their camp either, does have a history of creating drama — especially when it comes to Lomachenko. But he insists that he’ll be on his best behavior until the fight happens
“I’m not going to do more of that because I know that I have to stay poised,” Lopez Sr. said. “This guy’s not going to get away, and I’m not going to f— it up. I got to make sure that my son is healthy, that he gets in there and does what we’ve got to do.”
That doesn’t mean he’s willing to back down from his boasts or predictions by even a little bit, though.
“Man, he’s going to destroy him,” Lopez Sr. promised. “I’ve never seen him this confident in my life. It’s been a great camp.”
Great camp or not, one of the biggest concerns coming into the fight for Teofimo was his weight. However, as of Thursday night, that seems to be on point.
“He’s already on weight, we’re good,” claimed Lopez Sr., clarifying that all that’s left to shed is five pounds of water weight. “He’s made weight better than the [Richard] Commey fight.”
Working with Perfecting Athletes, his water intake and focus on hydration is a key focus.
“We cut it to a gallon-and-a-half yesterday, because he was drinking two gallons, every day,” said Lopez Sr., who put his son through some conditioning drills Wednesday night that included him running fly patterns as his father tossed footballs to him inside the MGM Grand. Lopez didn’t look like a fighter struggling to make weight.
“He’s going to even eat breakfast before the weigh-in,” Lopez Sr. said. “So we’re good.”