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Teofimo Lopez says he’ll walk the talk against Vasiliy Lomachenko

The unblemished record is supposed to be sacred in boxing these days. It’s supposed to be something that fighters cherish, behold and protect at all costs. Especially early in their careers.

IBF lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez doesn’t care.

Yes, he’s unbeaten. And, yes, WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko will be the most formidable opponent he’s faced. But the reward of victory outweighs the risk of loss for the brash Lopez, a 23-year-old from Brooklyn, New York.

“Back then, Muhammad Ali, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, the list can go on and on. Those guys fought each other regardless of their record to become the best,” Lopez said. “They didn’t care. They just wanted to put on a show for the fans, and they wanted to show and prove to themselves that they’re the best in their division. That’s what it comes to.

“I don’t really look at it as a risk. I’m not coming in with the mindset of losing.”

Lopez (15-0, 12 knockouts) is putting his unblemished record on the line Saturday against the almighty Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) in their lightweight unification title fight inside the MGM Grand’s Grand Ballroom on an ESPN-televised card. A victory would serve as a coronation of sorts. Validation that Lopez indeed is the future of boxing.

A loss would … well, he isn’t thinking about that.

“I truly believe that I’m built different and that I’m different on many aspects,” Lopez said. “What can’t Teofimo do? What can I not do? … You guys still haven’t see anything yet.”

Lopez is fighting in Las Vegas for the first time since his professional debut in 2016. He began boxing at age 6 and flourished under the tutelage of his father and trainer, Teofimo Sr., who actually sparked the rivalry with Lomachenko nearly two years ago by confronting him in a hotel lobby.

The younger Lopez backed up his father’s bravado by continuing his ascension and winning the IBF crown from Richard Commey on Dec. 14 via knockout. He continued to call out Lomachenko, throwing oral jabs outside the ring the way he fires conventional jabs inside it.

“I’ve seen the way (Lomachenko) carries himself outside of the sport … I’ve just never liked him,” Lopez said. “Come Oct. 17, I can’t wait to put hands on this man.”

Lopez is among the most powerful punchers in the 135-pound division, capable of inflicting significant damage with both hands. He isn’t as refined or experienced as Lomachenko, but is bigger, stronger, longer and certainly more boastful.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum compared Lopez to Ali, noting that fragments of his gregarious, outspoken personality resemble that of the late, great heavyweight champion.

“Teofimo is cut from the same cloth. Ali backed up his talk just the way Teofimo did,” Arum said. “When a young man, a young athlete, is so loquacious, a lot of people tend to resent, and that’s really the fallback that’s happening with Teofimo. … Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s how he performs in the ring.”

And Lopez is predicting victory by knockout.

“I want more. Job’s not done. That’s how I look at it,” he said. “I don’t want to look at what I’ve done in the past. I’m looking ahead.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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