Lomachenko Dares

Photo courtesy of Top Rank

Lomachenko dares to be great.

By Igor Frank

At the age of six Vasyl Lomachenko asked his father/trainer what is better to be a world champion or an Olympic champion. Olympic Gold was the most coveted prize in the sport according to his dad. “That’s what I want,” thought young Vasyl. He won it all!

Vasyl won a gold medal at the World Amateur Championships in 2009 and two gold medals in the Olympics; the first one in 2008 in Beijing, China and the second one in London Games in 2012. Lomachenko was awarded Val Baker Trophy for the most outstanding boxer of 2008 Olympics. As an amateur the Ukrainian fighter amassed a mind boggling record of 396-1, with the only loss to Albert Selimov that was avenged twice subsequently.

When he turned professional in 2013 Lomachenko only asked his American promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank one thing- he wanted to fight for a title immediately. He had to settle to do it in his second professional fight against a rugged veteran featherweight champion from Mexico, Orlando Salido. The young pro from Ukraine learned the difference between amateur and professional boxing in the ring at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas on March 1st, 2014. Even though his first bid for a title against Salido ended in a split decision loss it was a great learning experience. Fans learned a lot about the young star from Ukraine as well.

Salido, who didn’t make weight for the 126 pounds championship contest, was at least 15 pounds heavier than Vasyl on fight night. He launched a vicious body attack from the onset with a great number of punches straying south of the border. Lomachenko never complained. He weathered the storm, readjusted and took control of the fight in the championship rounds, but it was a little too late.

Pundits believe that Lomachenko learned more from that one fight than his next opponent, Gary Russell Jr learned in a span of five years as an undefeated professional.  The talented American dismissed Lomachenko’s skill set prior to their encounter, but was thoroughly outclassed when they met in the ring in June of 2014 to battle for the WBO featherweight title that Orlando Salido relinquished when he couldn’t make weight. Lomachenko impressed everyone that warm summer night at Stub Hub Center in Carson, California with his fluid footwork, ring generalship and variety of punches. He is fun to watch.

Most boxing folk are hoping for an eventual showdown between Vasyl and a fellow two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, Guillermo Rigondeaux. Two of the most decorated amateurs of our time, two beautiful boxers facing each other in the ring- for boxing fans it will be equivalent to Showtime Lakers facing Boston Celtics in a game seven for all the marbles. I feel goose bumps just thinking about it.

Vasyl is not thinking about Rigondeaux right now. The loss to Salido does not sit well with ambitious champion. "Who would I like to fight some day?” asked Lomachenko during his media work out in Oxnard California on Monday. “Getting Salido back into the ring would be something I would like to see.”

For now though, Lomachenko (4-1,2KO’S) is scheduled to defend his WBO featherweight title against Romulo Koasicha (25-4,15KO’S) from Mexico on November 7th in Las Vegas on the undercard of a welterweight clash between Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios. HBO will televise both fights live from the Thomas and Mack Center. On paper this fight looks like a mismatch, but Vasyl is not looking past this weekend. "Every fight has challenges,” said Lomachenko, 27.  “I looked at some video of my opponent who fought Lee Selby.  In the middle of that fight my opponent did a transition and fought with a different type of style against Selby.  These are the situations you must deal with on the night of a fight.”

Those who appreciate the finer points of the sweet science are just happy to see the star from Ukraine in the ring, regardless of the competition. That is probably a reason why Vasyl and his promoter are not having an easy time securing big fights for him. “I want to bring something new to boxing,” said the ambitious champion. “I want to be known to fans and appreciated as a 'boxer-painter' in regards to speed, footwork, and punching power -- an art form inside the ring.”

Picasso in the squared circle. Stay tuned for his next master piece.

Contact Igor Frank at axident@pacbell.net or via Twitter(Fightmonger)