LOMACHENKO THE RISING STAR
By TOM WATT on May 7 2015
As fall-out from the ‘Fight of The Century’ continues to rumble on it is easy to forget that there was a performance last Saturday night in Vegas that could showed the fans exactly what the sweet science is all about and his name was not Floyd Mayweather.
There was another fighter on the bill that night who exhibited almost arrogant levels of class of skill that can make even the most game of opponents look below average, Vasyl Lomachenko – the best amateur Boxer of all time (with a record of 396-1) put on a Boxing master class as he dismantled the highly-respected Gamalier Rodriguez on the way to a KO win defending his WBO World Title.
Lomachenko is a two-time Olympian and two-time World Amateur Champion, his amateur record speaks for itself and with such an amateur pedigree it is of no surprise that the Ukranian star was touted to become a big name in the sport. After winning a World Title in only his 3rd professional fight (having come up short in his 2nd in a rough fight against Orlando Salido) the hype-train continued and wins over Gary Russell Jr and Chonlatam Piriyapinyo (52-1 going in to the fight) have further cemented this.
On Saturday night it took Lomachenko no longer than two rounds to work out his opponent and from the third round onwards it was only a matter of time before his hands were raised as the victor. He perhaps could have applied the ‘killer-instinct’ a little earlier, as was pointed out by World Class Trainer Robert Garcia in an interview with EsNews. Garcia went on to say he believed Lomachenko would be a top 5 pound-for-pound fighter if he was able to develop that instinct. Even as he is though Lomachenko is a man to be feared in the Featherweight division and Garcia still believes he is one of the top 10 active fighters in the World.
On Saturday night Lomachenko showcased his style and ability to perfect effect, he controlled the distance in ways that very few fighters can do and the way he was able to fire off combinations whilst evading punches from Rodriguez was nothing short of beautiful to watch. As his confidence grew so did the combinations and the fight began to be somewhat of an exhibition in pure-boxing. By rounds 7 and 8 it was hard to see a fighter of the level of Rodriguez being subjected to the embarrassment of the gulf in class that was developing as he was picked off at will and seemingly unable to trap Lomachenko on the ropes or even get in close enough to land. When Rodriguez went down in the 9th he knew that the fight was beyond his grasp and reluctantly admitted defeat. Lomachenko moved to 4-1 and the question now is where does he go next?
The showdown everyone has been clamoring for is Lomachenko v Walters. The undefeated Jamaican and reigning WBA Champion possesses a strong jab, heavy hands and excellent defensive skills and would certainly cause the Ukrainian problems. Having knocked out Nonito Donaire in October 2014 Walters is now one of the hottest names in the division and a showdown between himself and Lomachenko seems almost certain, however with the depth of the division it may be that these two continue to dominate before setting up a unification fight in the future – right now this wouldn't be a PPV fight but in a couple more years it almost certainly would be.
Elsewhere in the division, the hard-hitting Evgeny Gradovich defends his IBF World Title against Lee Selby in London at the end of this month so the winner of that contest could be well placed for a shot at Lomachenko although may decide to take an easier voluntary before taking on the master technician. Other big names such as Abner Mares, Jhonny Gonzalex and Nonito Donaire would all offer big-money fights and I am sure will have been/are being considered by Top Rank and Team Lomachenko for fights now and in the future.
As good as those fighters are, with the speed, accuracy and boxing brain that Lomachenko possesses, once he works them out within a few rounds it will likely be the same story that we saw on Saturday night.
The biggest question mark around Lomachenko is how to market him – other top amateur fighters like Cuba’s Rigondeaux and Lara have struggled to become household names because of their reluctance to engage in a toe to toe war and their seemingly ‘boring’ styles – without the fan-base they have struggled to get big-money fights with the ‘high-risk & low reward’ excuse being carted out every time they are avoided. On the other end of that scale is another technical, defensive fighter, the man that headlined Saturday’s show, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather – a genius when it comes to marketing himself and his brand. I’m not saying I want Top Rank and Lomachenko to start throwing money around and buying up cars like the rest of us buy dinner but if the likes of GGG, Lara and Rigondeaux prove anything, it’s that skill is only half the battle when it comes to sitting atop the Sport and Lomachenko still has a long way to go before he is headlining at the MGM himself. Until then though he will have one loyal fan here watching as he continues to improve.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
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