(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

This Saturday night all the belts are on the line at the 135-pound division when Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez step in to the ring to create a lineal title. A young lion and a top-tier pound for pound boxer, looking to make a statement in the most anticipated fight left on the calendar. Lomanchenko has the skill, experience and punch rate to dominate whereas Lopez is a counter puncher looking to score the lights out shot to end things abruptly. Which man will prevail come Saturday in the main event on ESPN?

Since taking a very tough fight in his 2nd bout as a pro, Vasiliy Lomachenko has been on the rise and many believe he’s the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world. Clearly, Canelo Alvarez among a few others has something to say about that, regardless he’s great fighter. Loma has stepped up to the plate a variety of times at featherweight, junior lightweight and in most recent years lightweight. Coming off a close loss to Orlando Salido, Loma jumped right back in the fire versus Gary Russell Jr. Nicholas Walters, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Jorge Linares were all quality names that he made quit or forced the issue after getting knocked down to stop Linares.

Sure, it’s not a murders row of opposition per say but for modern day boxers with only 15 bouts you can’t take anything away from Loma. That does include not completely writing off his sole loss to Salido, but until he meets a similar style we won’t know how he does. It’s worth noting that Lomachenko made some adjustments and ended up hurting Orlando late in the fight. So many great items to point out about Loma but I’ll try to keep it brief. With every fighter there are pros and cons, the only con that seems to stand out about Lomanchenko is the 135-pound division is not his best weight size wise, power punching, and absorbing punches.

It should be noted that Loma did compete at 132 in his brilliant amateur career. The pros are footwork, angles, IQ, defense, rapid-fire punching, and the ability to make adjustments on the fly either to a game plan or turning a punch in mid-throw. Scoring points with his active punch rate has won him the majority of rounds in his career and probably the reason he wins rounds on Saturday. The best fighter he has faced is Rigondeaux but we have to add a layer of depth given Rigo is now a 118-pounder and challenged Lomachenko at 130.

Teofimo Lopez has a ton of potential to be a crossover star from his flashy knockouts and back flip celebrations to his big mouth that’s not afraid to speak exactly what’s on his mind. Teofimo is explosive-counter puncher with second to none reaction time who can end the fight with both hands. Left hooks or straight right hands whether lead or counter can make this a short night for Lomachenko or anyone else at 135. Teofimo at times is a counterpuncher to a fault, meaning he can get caught up with landing the one hitter quitter instead of scoring points via pot shots from the outside. That is something he will have to change even if it’s just a tick up in workrate with a jab to the stomach. Against Nakatani, Lopez kept getting caught in exchanges and the jab was giving Teofimo fits on the way inside.

This podcaster expects to see the first round or two to have a feel out vibe because Lomachenko will be smart and Teofimo isn’t a super fast starter generally. The first 4-6 frames will be crucial for Loma not to get hurt or knocked down as he takes note of Lopez’s style to exploit as the rounds go on. If Lomachenko can make Teofimo have to get desperate to land a big shot in the second half of the fight it would be ideal. If Teo can be active enough to land scoring punches it will help him tremendously in the form of winning rounds. Loma is a master a scoring points thus stacking up rounds and if Teofimo can be closer to even in any given round then his power punches will win him the closer frames.

This fight will show how good Teofimo is overall but especially with his footwork and if he can adjust on the elite level when his first gameplan isn’t working. As a super live dog ranging from +300 to +350, most folks will put a flyer out on Teofimo regardless who they think will win. Plus, you can always back it up with Lomachenko winning. Clearly a point’s win is more likely for Loma. A knock down or two (obviously a KO) lends itself to being the path to victory for Teofimo. All and all let’s hope we get a back and forth fight that warrants a rematch and a large pop for ratings on ESPN.

My Official Prediction is Vasiliy Lomachenko by Majority Decision.

Side Note: Keep an eye out for Barboza Jr. vs. Saucedo & Berlanga vs. Bellows on the undercard.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.com. Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio.