VASILIY LOMACHENKO vs Teofimo Lopez is the unmissable boxing blockbuster no British broadcaster wants you to watch.
Ukraine’s double Olympic champ and three-weight king bids to become the undisputed lightweight boss by snatching the IBF title from the New Yorker on October 17.
The rival fighters – separated by nine years – have the perfect blend of skill and power, intriguing similarities and bad blood to make it a classic.
But the lack of British combatants, the 4am start time and the Covid-19 recession have scared off Sky Sports, BT Sport, Channel 5 and every other TV firm offered the UK rights.
Frank Warren and BT Sport have a close relationship with Lomachenko’s Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and his ESPN platform, but have opted out.
Eddie Hearn – who is set to roll out three heavyweight pay-per-views before Christmas – has correctly pointed to the financial climate, his loyalty to his own stable and suggested the twilight clash might only attract around 30,000 super-dedicated UK fight fans.
Growing combat streaming site Fite.TV have swooped in and snapped up the action, Brit fans can stay up late – or get up early – to catch the clash for £9.99.
And only after the 9st 9lbs battle is over will money men at the mainstream channels know if they have dodged a bullet or missed the bus.
The ingredients suggest a fight for the ages – the pound-for-pound ruler against the dangerous upstart – at a time when the sport needs it most.
WBC, WBA and WBO ace Loma only needs Lopez’s red strap to have cleaned out the division, he will then drop in weight to attempt the same legendary achievement at super-feather or feather.
Lopez, still fuelled by the robbery he suffered at the 2016 Olympics, has talked and fought his way into the Las Vegas fight bubble and could take over arguably the most exciting class in the hurt business.
Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis are three more sub-26 sensations who have talked about dethroning Loma, but only Lopez has walked the walk so far.
And not many outside Lopez’s team – headed by his father/trainer/hype man Teofimo Sr – would have fancied his chances before his last bout.
But the 23-year-old's brutal December demolition of Richard Commey, inside just two sensational rounds, confirmed the Brooklyn wonderkid as a man on a mission.
Both champions are trained by their fathers and both have achieved excellent things inside just 15 fights, in another life or profession they could have been friends.
But Lopez took the decision to goad and insult his way into Loma’s mind, months before he gets the chance to try to jab and hook inside his watertight guard.
Softly-spoken Loma – who beat valiant Hull Olympic winner Luke Campbell in London last time out in August 2019 – has kept his cool for all of his 15 previous bouts.
But at least one of Lopez’s barbs has touched a nerve as the kayak-paddling, ball-juggling, genius has used his steadily improving English to swear vengeance on his challenger.
Lopez will not just stop at words in his effort to bully Loma. The only blemish on the 32-year-old's career to date is a loss in his second pro bout when he bid for a featherweight world title.
Orlando Salido bulked up over the championship weight, so couldn’t even win the belt, and fouled and bullied his way to a shock points win to show that the little master is not completely invincible.
But Loma will once again try to be the mini-maestro, in front of him will be a young bull whose almost pathological self-belief has started to sway expectations.
Lomachenko remains the clear favourite – with odds as stingy as 1-4 – while Lopez is the longshot value bet around 3-1.
Has the Olympic legend who left the amateur code with a 396-1 record – having avenged his single defeat twice for good measure – gone up too high in weight and opponent quality?
Can bad boy Lopez succeed where experienced world champions like Gary Russel Jr, Anthony Crolla, Jorge Linares and Guillermo Rigondeaux have failed?
Will the suits inside the boardrooms who have tightened their Gucci belts and passed the buck be gloating over their champagne breakfasts?
Or will Fite.TV’s impressive decision to shell out on the showdown leave the establishment with egg on their face?
Thank the heavens we have the internet to find out, it will give the adult websites a rest during lockdown at least.
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