He did his usual backflip in the midst of the ring. Then he lay there and did several snow angels, right in the middle of that winter wonderland known as Las Vegas.
As he did so, blood droplets peppered the canvas, coming from a 12th-round cut in his right eyelid.
You saw everything about Teofimo Lopez right then, as if he hadn’t shown you enough.
Lopez was not going to talk his way past Vasiliy Lomachenko, the 32-year-old holder of the three lightweight belts that Lopez didn’t hold. He did not become the unified champ through slapstick and one-shot power. He did not charge Lomachenko in those early rounds when the Ukranian was getting his engine warm, and he used his three-inch reach advantage to protect himself and frustrate the most poised man in boxing.
Later, Lomachenko found himself so far behind that he entered the danger zone, and at times he rocked Lopez with jabs and uppercuts. But the kid has a chin to match his mouth, and when he got a chance to fight the first 12th round of his career, he understood what that meant. Lopez staggered Lomachenko and was ready for a finishing crescendo when Lomachenko accidentally head-butted him in the eye and brought loose the blood. It flowed well, thanks to a forceful heart.
“He hadn’t fought in 14 months,” Lopez said. “I knew he’d probably get off to a slow start. With him you gotta keep pressuring him, press the gas, stick the jab and don’t give him the opportunity to set up. Every time he wanted to throw, I had something ready for him.
“But at the end, I knew he was coming. I can bang, too. I’ll take one to give one.”
“I spent all week with him,” said super-middleweight Edgar Berlanga, who scored his 15th one-round knockout (over Lanell Meadows) in his first 15 fights. “We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were chopping it up all week, talking about the future. There’s a new generation coming in boxing. My brother (Lopez) took a leap of faith. He’s 23 years old and he’s an undisputed champion.”
Lomachenko was the decisive favorite, because of experience and intangibles and the sneaking suspicion that Lopez wasn’t quite ready for the adult table.
Ignored was the fact that Lopez was younger, bigger and, as it turned out, quicker, with a longer reach. Lomachenko’s only response was a resume. It couldn’t even raise a paper cut on Lopez.
Lopez won the first seven rounds on every judge’s card. In the third, Lomachenko only landed two punches. Lomachenko finally shelved his apparent strategy of letting Lopez beat himself when the eighth round arrived, and his pressure finally put Lopez in a discomfort zone. But by then Lopez had banked too many rounds.
Judge Julie Lederman gave Lopez a 10-point victory, and Tim Cheatham favored Lopez 116-112. Steve Weisfeld had it 117-111.
If you like analytics (and who doesn’t?), Lopez piled up 148 power shots, a high for any of Lomahencko’s opponents.
“We did something nobody thought we could do,” said Teofimo Lopez Sr., father and manager. “We outboxed him. It was a matter of hitting and not getting hit. We just made the best boxer in the world look like nothing. He (Lomachenko) had 370 amateur fights and we beat him at his own game.
“We got a thing called the pyramid. We can hit you and you can’t hit us, and once you get inside us, you’re gonna pay. Then he went for broke, going crazy, hitting my son with his head, trying to make the fight dirty. My son could have taken him out but he didn’t want to, and I liked that. He just ended up giving him a whuppin.’.”
In case Lopez Sr. hadn’t made himself clear, he yelled “Blowout!” when Teofimo came to the stool after the seventh round.
Senior also said Junior would most likely graduate to the 140-pound division, which is loading up by the second. Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez will unify that one, and Arnold Barboza Jr., of El Monte, moved into the line of succession with a solid decision over Alex Saucedo.
It’s also possible that Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis will become super-lightweights, too.
Lopez joked that he wanted the equally loquacious Haney, whom he called the “two-time e-mail champion of the world,” but then admitted, “I just like messing with people.”
The messing will continue. That’s part of being undisputed.