Does Rocky Martinez stand a chance against Vasyl Lomachenko?
By Hector Franco
This Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Roman “Rocky” Martinez will defend his WBO 130-pound championship against Vasyl Lomachenko. This fight is a rarity in the sport of boxing. There aren’t many championship bouts where the champion coming would be considered a huge underdog against a fighter with a record of 5-1. Lomachenk is no ordinary fighter.
The 28-year-old Ukranian fighter is one of the most accomplished amateurs in boxing history. He amassed a record of 396-1 as an amateur. Within his tenure as an amateur, he won the Gold Medal at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. Looking at his amateur record, it would seem he was destined for greatness as a pro.
Lomachenko and his team decided to come out of the gates fast when they decided to go into the professional ranks. In just his second bout as a professional, he challenged veteran, Orland Salido. The bout was for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Salido ended up winning a close decision against Lomachenko. There was some controversy as Salido came into the ring as a welterweight. This gave him an advantage in the ring. With only one pro fight underneath him, it was impressive that Lomachenko was the one pushing the fight in the last rounds. Afterwards, Lomachenko was able to get redemption of sorts by receiving another shot at the title that Salido ended up vacating against Gary Russell, Jr. Against Russell, Lomachenko was able to dominate round after round with a varied attack that featured a strong emphasis on body punching. Lomachenko ended up winning a wide decision. In just his third pro fight he became a world champion in the professional ranks. Since then Lomachenko’s career has been very quiet.
After the Russell fight, Lomachenko’s career has run the same course of most professionals. He has been relegated to fighting on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley fights against overmatched opponents. On top of the drop in competition, he hasn’t been a very active fighter. The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist only fought twice in 2015. For a fighter with less than ten fights, you would think that he would be more active. This leads us to Saturday night against Rocky Martinez. After failed attempts to make a fight with fellow Top Rank promoted star, Nicholas Walters, Lomachenko and his team decided to take on the rival of his former conqueror.
Rocky Martinez has had an up and down career, to say the least. After losing his title to Ricky Burns in 2010, Martinez went through a phase of close decision victories and draws in fights where it looked like he clearly lost to most observers. This included his title winning effort against Miguel Beltran in 2012 for the vacant WBO 130-pound championship. His bout with Juan Carlos Burgos that was ruled a draw was the most egregious of decisions. The Puerto Rican fighter would then meet with Mikey Garcia in late 2013 where he was dominated and stopped in the late rounds.
In 2015, Martinez was able to revitalize his career with a series of fights with Orlando Salido. Salido was the favorite going into their bout in April of 2015 even with the fight taking place in Puerto Rico. Rocky surprised many by scoring a pair of knockdowns on the Mexican and winning a clear unanimous decision. Their rematch, however, brought memories of the past as most observers had Salido winning clearly in a bout that was ruled a draw. With what’s become the norm now with Orlando Salido, both bouts were fight of the year contenders. Now at 33 years old Martinez gets to headline his first major bout in New York City.
The odds are definitely stacked against Martinez in a bout with Vasyl Lomachenko. He may be the more experienced professional fighter, but his disadvantages in skill and technique are vast. Martinez isn’t known as being the biggest puncher in the 130-pound division. He does pack a punch and has the capability to hurt Lomachenko. This may be his only chance in this fight. Fans can expect Martinez to put on a performance living up to his nickname “Rocky” as he always gives it his all in the ring. Against Lomachenko, however, he may have been put in a position where effort is his only chance at victory.
(Featured Photo: Associated Press)