There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about when it comes to boxing this year. The Covid-19 shutdown of sports has kept boxing on hold for much of the year so far. And, while fights are beginning to trickle back on the schedule, most of the major stars are not yet committed to coming back.
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez was one of the few points of hope in boxing. The master vs. the young lion. And, although it was pushed back out of necessity, there seemed to be little doubt that it would happen. It was even given a tentative October 3 date.
But now there’s major doubt about it happening.
According to reports, the 23-year-old Brooklyn native turned down a take-it-or-leave-it final offer of $1.2 million to face Lomachenko. It was, reportedly, more than double his previous highest purse. Lomachenko, meanwhile, accepted $3.25 million for the bout– an amount under his guarantee base salary with ESPN/Top Rank.
When news of this snag in plans hit the media, Lopez took to social media to defend his position.
“How you mad at me and I’m just tryna feed my family,” he asked via Twitter.
“The fight is going to happen,” the young fighter would follow up a few days later. “Stuff like this sometimes takes a little longer to happen and that’s why it’s called “negotiating” for a reason. Dumb asses!”
Dumb or not, the media and the public ate this news up and spit Lopez out. The boxing world tore into Lopez. Bob Arum, promoter to both Lopez and Lomachenko, also seized on the opportunity to do some self-damage control.
“The contract we offered them is already more than double his highest purse and they started talking all this crazy stuff,” Arum told Yahoo! Sports. “They were talking numbers based on a $3 million live gate and close circuit. It’s crazy! They’re saying, why should they be affected by the coronavirus?
“Loma has a contract and he’s already given us relief. He’s fighting for less than his contract says because he gets it. I’m not in the business to lose money. If they turn down a record contract for him, nothing I can do. On to the next.”
The realities facing this bout are very clear. There will be no audience. Ratings are down across the board. PPV may or may not be an option, but the hard, cold truth is that sales will not be all that impressive in this current economic climate. There just won’t be a ton of money in this fight right now, with the world reeling from a pandemic. It’s not fair to either fighter, but none of this Covid stuff is “fair.”
There’s no shame in trying to get as good a deal as possible. The shame for Lopez is in making all of this public and wrecking his reputation before it’s even really made. Truthfully, nobody outside of hardcore fight fans even knows who Lopez is. The Lomachenko fight should be seen as the springboard to bigger things, not as a one-shot cash-out. There’s a ton of money to be made in the open seas of a stacked lightweight division, but not if he crashes his boat on the rocks before setting sail.
And, worst of all, this “negotiating” is utterly unrealistic in the present tense boxing scene. Arum and Lomachenko will, indeed, move “on to the next.” Lomachenko has many options. The Lopez fight would’ve been nice, but losing it won’t hurt the Ukranian one bit.
The world will not weep for Lopez– the kid who lost out on his big break.