Three reasons Lomachenko should stay at 130-pounds
April 11, 2017
After last Saturday the entire boxing world is a buzz regarding WBO 130-pound champion Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs). For three fights in a row, Lomachenko has dominated and stopped three top ten 130-pound fighters putting him near the top of many fans and pundits rankings for the best fighters in the world. The two-time Olympic gold medalist’s last three opponents were Roman Martinez (29-3-3, 17 KOs), Nicholas Walters (26-1-1, 21 KOs), and Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs). All three fighters were former world champions that were taken apart with ease by the Ukranian. This is a good list of fighters, but it isn’t murderer’s row. The boxing world may need to pump the brakes on Lomachenko before crowning him the best fighter in the world.
The talk surrounding Lomachenko after the win over Sosa has been a move up to the lightweight division to face fighters like Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) and Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs). These fights would be great fights where there is a strong possibility that Lomachenko could lose. The hyperbole behind these fights has been pushed by the network Lomachenko plies his craft in HBO.
When listening to the broadcast this weekend on HBO comparisons to fighters like Pernell Whitaker (40-4-1, 17 KOs) and Willie Pep (229-11-1, 65 KOs) were made by Max Kellerman who has a penchant for comparing fighters at every opportunity. It wasn’t just Lomachenko who HBO fawned over on that night as Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs) was crowned the best cruiserweight since Evander Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) by HBO after just one title defense.
This narrative of comparisons to great fighters of the past is acceptable looking at Lomachenko’s application of his craft. Listening to HBO, it would lead you to believe that Lomachenko thoroughly cleaned out the 130-pound division. This simply isn’t true. Let’s look at three reasons why Lomachenko should wait on moving up to the lightweight division to stay at 130.
The plan for Lomachenko’s next fight according to his manager Egis Klimas is to move up to the lightweight division to face WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs). Flanagan is a good fighter that can make for a big event in the UK, but there are other champions at 130-pounds that are just as good.
Recently crowned IBF lightweight champion Gervonta Davis (17-0, 16 KOs) may be too young for Lomachenko, but WBA lightweight champion Jezreel Corrales of Panama (21-1, 8 KOs) has the right style and temperament to test the Ukranian. In 2016, Corrales traveled to Japan twice to defeat long-time reigning 130-pound king Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20 KOs). Before being upset by Corrales, Uchiyama made ten defenses of his title with some highlight reel knockouts including a win over Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs).
Miura is still a top contender in the 130-pound division and will challenge WBC 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs). In January Berchelt, stopped Francisco Vargas in 11 rounds (23-1-2, 17 KOs) in one of the best fights of the year thus far. Berchelt is just 25 years of age and in the prime of his career. If he comes out with a victory over Miura a fight with Lomachenko could be intriguing.
Lomachenko has accomplished many things in his short career but unifying a division is not one of them.
Lomachenko has one blemish on his professional record to Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs) back in 2014. In only his second professional fight Lomachenko challenged for a world championship and only narrowly lost by split decision to a fighter who was vastly bigger than him. Looking at Lomachenko’s amateur record, you can tell that he does not like losing. The Ukrainian amassed an astonishing record of 396-1 as an amateur with his only loss coming to Albert Selimov in 2007. This loss was avenged twice.
In Salido’s last two fights against Roman Martinez and Francisco Vargas that were scored draw’s a case can be made for Salido winning both matches. This would have made him a unified champion at 130-pounds. The Mexican veteran has many miles on the odometer of his career but would still be a worthy adversary for Lomachenko. At the very least a fight with Salido is an opportunity to show the boxing world that Lomachenko's one loss was just a matter of circumstance rather than ability.
Lomachenko’s tenure as an amateur has already been secured. In the professional ranks, he can do the same at 130-pounds. Most fans and pundits would agree that Lomachenko might reach his limit as far as moving up in weight when he reaches the lightweight division.
The 130-pound division has a rich history with fighters like Alexis Arguello (77-8, 62 KOs), Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2, 86 KOs) and Azumah Nelson (39-6-2, 28 KOs) established a legacy in the weight class. Most recently the two most well-known and most accomplished fighters of this era have fought at 130-pounds.
Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) and Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) both competed in the division winning world titles against elite competition. Mayweather fought in the division when he was known as “Pretty Boy.” At 130-pounds is where Mayweather laid the foundation for his legacy amassing a record of 27-0 with 20 knockouts with eight title defenses.
The popular move in this era for fighters is to win one world championship in a division and then move to the next. It’s rare for a fighter to stay in a division and unify titles while defeating all the top fighters.
Lomachenko has stated that he wants to fight more than twice this year. If fights with Salido and the other champions at 130 aren't made, it would be a shame. It’s possible that at 29, Lomachenko has a set age in which he wants to retire from the sport and thus will not allow him to plant a foothold in every division he fights in. At least at 130-pounds Lomachenko can plant his flag as one of the best to ever compete in the division rather than just making it a pit stop.
(Feature Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)