Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Lomachenko vs Lopez: The silence and shouting of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez’s fathers at core of sons' fascinating fight
"His father raised him to be where he's at today, my father raised me to be where I'm at today"
Last Updated: 12/10/20 3:14pm
There is something special about a father's words that can mould his son.
When Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez contest three major belts in the lightweight division in a fight pitting styles, generations and cultures against each other, they each know it has been the guidance of their contrastingly unique fathers that brought them to this point.
One will be ferocious at ringside, the other silent, each with a differing relationship with their son. The journeys of Anatoly Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Sr reveal the truth behind the two champion boxers inside the ring.
'Papachenko', as they call him, was a former PE teacher who laid the foundations for his son to become the best boxer on the planet.
Without uttering a single word, Anatoly Lomachenko nodded when asked by Sky Sports if this obsessive process began before Vasiliy was born.
Before becoming the trainer who delivered multiple gold medals for Ukraine's Olympic team, two of which belonged to his son, Anatoly boxed briefly as an amateur himself. His only similarity to Lopez Sr is that they each passed their own gloves onto their offspring.
"I was six years old. I've seen a video of myself wearing gloves," Lopez Jr exclusively tells Sky Sports. "It was always in me."
Lopez Sr was a street guy, a hustler, who left Honduras for Brooklyn, New York, then after a spell in jail took his family to Miami.
"My father was a limousine driver," Lopez Jr says, fooling nobody.
Lopez Sr clung onto a flailing amateur boxing dream until the day that he left his son in the gym, to be supervised by the trainer, as he shot off to drive his limousine.
"By the time my father came back, I'd learned three punch combinations," Lopez Jr now grins. "I was a quick learner. My father realised - it was too late for him, so he devoted his life to me."
In Ukraine, Anatoly's methodology to build his son into a boxer was cutting edge - exercises to improve hand-eye co-ordination and, famously, years spent learning to dance so his fast feet could then translate into the boxing ring. It eventually yielded a phenom.
Anatoly described it to Sky Sports as "a metric style, a universal style."
Vasiliy added: "My father can explain and teach only 50 per cent. But you need to be born with a chip [on your shoulder]. A Loma-chip."
In Miami, Lopez Sr watched YouTube tutorials on how to become a boxing trainer and screamed instructions to his talented boy. There was nothing clever or pretty about it. But who could argue with the results? Lopez Jr won national amateur titles - he became the only boxer to win an Olympic trial not to be selected to represent the USA at Rio 2016, so he represented Honduras instead.
"As my coach? The sky is the limit for him," says Lopez Jr.
While the anonymous Anatoly Lomachenko enjoys worldwide acclaim, the brash Lopez Sr rubbed people up the wrong way and, if not for his son's talent, might have burned too many bridges.
And this is the fundamental difference between these fathers and their sons.
Lomachenko's mother was a gymnast and he sold ice creams at the seaside in his only real job before boxing took over.
His mother has always supported her son's cause: "Of course, yes. I love my family," he told Sky Sports.
Lopez Jr has carried the burden of a family in turmoil into the ring, every punch delivered in anger with extra spite because his personal life was torn.
His family disapproved of his new wife and, when they got married, only one member of the Lopez clan was in attendance.
"He's seen me at my best and my worst," Lopez Jr admits.
Heartache has bonded the father and son duo who brazenly believe they can ruin the reputation of boxing's pound-for-pound supremo Lomachenko.
Lopez Jr can't imagine this path with anyone else by his side: "No I can't. We've had our trials but we work well together now. We have learned.
"I can't see myself being where I am now without him."
Fathers teaching their sons to fight is nothing new but remains a fascinating insight into those who follow in the family footsteps - Floyd Mayweather Jr, Chris Eubank Jr, Conor Benn, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr - with varying success.
"The bond," is how Lopez Jr describes it.
"But it gets difficult at times, I will say that. It's not sunshine and rainbows every day, and I speak for every father and son duo in sports."
Lomachenko once told Sky Sports: "I didn't separate my father and my coach. Sometimes, of course, we have problems and arguments. But we will always stay as family."
Lopez Jr continues: "I have an 'on' and 'off' switch. As my father I respect him but we go back and forth.
"The bond is different. I'm not saying other coaches don't protect their fighters but you trust more in your father - you know he will make sure you're OK.
"Diego Corrales' father stepped in when he fought Floyd Mayweather."
This rivalry was started by the bolshiness of Lopez Sr.
He began ranting and raving at Lomachenko, who must have wondered what on earth was going on, two years ago - the gist of it was "my son will beat you!"
Days later Lomachenko outpointed Jose Pedraza but, on his undercard, the show was stolen by a 21-year-old kid called Teofimo Lopez Jr who viciously knocked out his opponent in just 44 seconds.
Lopez Jr has his father's spite when he talks about Lomachenko now: "He really thinks he's a god in this sport. I don't like him and I have my reasons why.
"He feels disrespected? He should understand that I don't like how he carries himself.
"We were at one of his fights. A reporter was talking to him, asking him questions, and he just didn't care. He stared straight forwards and said one word. He didn't want to be there.
"That is disrespectful. Afterwards I saw the other person, they were annoyed. That's messed up."
But does Lopez Jr recognise their similarities?
"We turned nothing into something," he says about Lomachenko. "That's surreal. Everything I dreamed of is here. The same for him.
"I can't say I had the hardest upbringing. We had food on the table but was it lobster? Absolutely not.
"You've got to be hungry in this sport. How badly do you want things? What is your purpose in this?"
Lomachenko recently told Sky Sports: "I understand just one thing. Whatever you say, you must prove it in the ring. That's it."
The palpable excitement for this fight is because the genius of Lomachenko should be tested by the sheer gutsiness of the opposition corner - Lopez Jr is nine years younger, naturally larger and has more KO power.
They have no common ground except for their fathers' guidance.
Lopez Jr says about the Lomachenkos: "I love it. I don't know how they are in person but they have their mind-set. It's good to see a father and son duo.
"Two father and son duos fighting each other is a moment to remember.
"His father raised him to be where he's at today, my father raised me to be where I'm at today.
"For my family, this will be a night to remember."
The path towards the boxing ring is arduous for any father and son combo, but the Lopez duo seem to have battled so much more - with each other, with the rest of their family, with life itself.
They saved each other, it is suggested.
"My father never gave up on me, and I never gave up either," Lopez Jr smiles.
The greatest examination of their bond will be 'Papachenko' and the fighter he created.
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