Who will be Vasyl Lomachenko's biggest challenge?
April 10, 2017
This past Saturday in Oxon Hill, Maryland at the newly built MGM National Harbor arena Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) successfully defended his WBO 130-pound championship against New Jersey’s Jason Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs). The fight was stopped after nine rounds when Sosa's corner decided he had taken enough punishment. The two-time Olympic Gold-Medalist put on a performance for fans to fawn over on YouTube for the next few years.
With less than ten professional bouts under his belt, Lomachenko is already thought of as one of the best fighters in the world. Fans are now left wondering as to who will test Lomachenko next. The one loss on Lomachenko’s record was against longtime veteran Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs) in 2014. It’s been three years since the two met in the ring and with Salido having fought in more wars with Terdsak Kokietgym (62-5-1, 41 KOs), Roman Martinez (29-3-3, 17 KOs), and most recently Francisco Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) he may not be the same fighter he was when they first met. Also, Lomachenko seemed to be on his way of stopping Salido in their first bout and has vastly improved in getting used to fighting as a professional. In fact, Lomachenko’s manager Egis Klimas doesn’t see the point in having a rematch.
There are still some fights available for Lomachenko at 130-pounds, but if the goal for Lomachenko is to win three titles in three different weight classes at ten professional fights a move to the lightweight division awaits.
This past weekend WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) won a unanimous decision over Petr Petrov (38-5-2, 19 KOs) in Manchester, England. Flanagan would be a real test for Lomachenko for his first fight in the lightweight division. The UK fighter is a technically skilled fighter with a good jab that could test Lomachenko’s ability to deal with a boxer who uses lateral movement. The plan according to Lomachenko’s manager Egis Klimas is to face Flanagan next.
Although Flanagan would be a decent name to add to Lomachenko’s ledger the two fighters in the lightweight division that could challenge him and bring him the most notoriety with victories are WBA and Ring Magazine lightweight champion Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) and WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs). In March, Linares went to the UK and handily defeated Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision in one of the best performances of his career. The Tokyo-based Venezuelan has only been stopped due to getting caught early or cuts in his three losses, the challenge for Lomachenko would be to defeat someone that can rival him in hand speed.
A fight with Garcia is the one fans are looking forward to the most with Lomachenko. Garcia is undefeated with an 83 percent knockout ratio and is one of the most technically sound fighters in all of boxing. Lomachenko’s ascent up the boxing world came at the same time Garcia was taking a hiatus from the sport due to promotional issues with Lomachenko’s current promoter, Top Rank.
Garcia was willing to wait two and a half years to get out of his contract with Top Rank. This past January, Garcia showed that the layoff didn’t affect his ability inside the ring as he brutally stopped Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1, 15 KOs) in the third round to win the WBC lightweight championship. The relationship between Top Rank and Garcia could potentially halt a fight with Lomachenko.
Garcia is a three-division champion who holds a dominant victory over Lomachenko’s conqueror Orlando Salido. This added factor is another reason why a potential match up between the two is so intriguing. Garcia is Lomachenko’s toughest challenge that is the most realistic.
Other champions have been talked about for Lomachenko such as 140-pound kingpin Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs). Both men would be significant challenges for the Ukranian and are on the same promotional stable in Top Rank. Crawford and Pacquiao both fight in higher weight classes and Lomachenko who moved up from the featherweight division not because he couldn’t make the weight but to find fighters to step in the ring with him is not a big 130-pounder. The lightweight division may be as high a weight class, Lomachenko can fight in as a professional.
Unlike most of the fighters in this era, Lomachenko is out for more than just a paycheck. Legacy is just as important as what he makes in each fight. Whether it be Salido, Flanagan, Linares, or Garcia next, Lomachenko will be in constant search of his next biggest challenge.
(Feature Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)