Are these fights next for Vasyl Lomachenko?
By Hector Franco
William Shakespeare one said, “All the world is a stage.” Last Saturday night in New York City, Vasyl Lomachenko put on a performance that will change the way boxing fans view him. Before his fight with Rocky Martinez, there were many fans on the Lomachenko bandwagon. His performances against the likes of Gary Russell, Gamalier Rodriguez, and Romulo Koasicha were impressive enough. The fight with Martinez brings him to another level. This could have been a case of having the perfect opponent in front of him. This may be the case, but a fighter still has to go in the ring and perform. What you do when the lights are on is what’s most important in sports.
Unlike other HBO staples like Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev who have scored multiple knockouts on HBO, it wasn’t until last Saturday that Lomachenko had his highlight reel knockout. Boxing is a sport that is about “hitting and not getting hit”, but it's also entertainment. For a boxer to put skill, technique, form and a spectacular knockout all together is rare. There is now a real buzz within the boxing industry surrounding Lomachenko. Fans now wait for what Lomachenko does next. With the lawsuit between Al Haymon and Top Rank ending it seems that the possibilities for Lomachenko are extensive.
Lomachenko still holds the WBO championship at featherweight where many exciting fights exist. Fights against the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Lee Selby, Gary Russell, Abner Mares and Jesus Cuellar would all be welcomed. If these match ups could be put together it would be a great sign for fans that Al Haymon and Top Rank are willing to work together. Even fights with up and coming contenders Joseph Diaz and Oscar Valdez would be challenges for Lomachenko. Featherweight has much to offer to Lomachenko. There is an issue with Lomachenko staying at featherweight. Just one weight class above gives him just as many options with an arguably equal amount of quality opposition.
The Super Featherweight division is one of many divisions this year to step into the spotlight. Following the lead of weight classes such as Cruiserweight and Super Welterweight, the 130-pound weight class could be the most exciting division in boxing. This is the perfect weight class for Lomachenko to carve his legacy. For a fighter who had more Gold Medals than losses as an amateur, winning is nothing new.
130 pounds has a variety of styles available to Lomachenko. With a record of 396-1 as an amateur, Lomachenko has seen all styles of boxing. Fighters like Javier Fortuna and Jose Pedraza would give the Ukranian a challenge. He would be facing fighters who fight off of the backfoot who utilize a jab. Both fights would also be unification bouts as Fortuna holds the WBA title and Pedraza holds the IBF title. A rematch with Orlando Salido would be welcomed as it could be argued that Salido could have won the WBO and WBC 130-pound titles in his last two fights. WBC Champion Francisco Vargas deserves a break to rest his body from the sport of boxing, but a bout between him and Lomachenko would be exciting. Not only is Vargas a fighter, who isn’t afraid to brawl in the ring, he is a former Olympian for Mexico as well.
With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, many are putting into perspective how great a career the heavyweight had. One of Ali’s biggest accomplishments was being the true meaning of a World Champion. Ali fought all over the world. At 130, Lomachenko has opponents who are draws on the other side of the globe. Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura would be huge fights in Japan that could put up to 50,000 at the Tokyo Dome. Even if Lomachenko and team felt uncomfortable going to Japan, these fights would still be attractive in the United States. Recently Dominican fighter, Jezreel Corrales traveled to Japan and dethroned Uchiyama by knockout. Corrales who was willing to travel to Japan may be willing to face Lomachenko in a unification bout. Finally, the long awaited bout with fellow Top Rank stablemate Nicholas Walters would be highly anticipated. Walters hasn’t fought since his draw last December against Jason Sosa. He needs to step back in the ring sometime this year as he still hasn’t fought or had a fight scheduled in 2016.
It has been rumored that Lomachenko and his team want to make history by moving up to 135 and winning a world title. This would make Lomachenko the only fighter in boxing history to win 3 titles in 3 divisions with less than ten professional fights. This would be a great accomplishment. The Lightweight division,however, in comparison to Featherweight and Super Featherweight doesn’t offer much for Lomachenko besides a world title. Fights with the Anthony Crolla-Jorge Linares winner and Rances Barthelemy are good match ups. Are they as good as the fights available at 130 or 126?
Whatever Lomachenko decides to do next he has certainly created a new aura and excitement around his career. Let’s hope that he fights more than twice this year. The momentum and buzz are in Lomachenko’s favor, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.
(Featured Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)