Two-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko has established himself as one of the most dominant fighters not just in the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division, but one might argue in the entire sport. Of course, Lomachenko will go down in history as one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time compiling a mind boggling record of 396-1 during his amateur career.
It was as an amateur that Lomachenko became a two-time Olympic champion winning a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing games as a Featherweight and earning a second gold medal at the 2012 London games as a Lightweight. With such a decorated amateur career, it was certainly understandable how the mouths of both Boxing fans and experts alike could water over the thought of a fighter of Lomachenko’s pedigree setting his sights on the professional ranks.
In October 2013 Lomachenko made his professional debut by scoring a fourth round knockout over Jose Ramirez. Following his first pro fight, Lomachenko put forth a determined effort in losing a hard fought twelve round split decision to former world champion Orlando Salidio in March 2014 in what was Lomachenko's first attempt at a professional world championship. What is perhaps more incredible than the fact that Lomachenko fought for a world championship in only his second pro bout, despite being at a disadvantage in terms of professional experience as compared to the seasoned veteran Salidio was Lomachenko nearly pulled off a victory even though Salidio, who was stripped of the WBO Featherweight world championship on the day before the fight for being two pounds over the 126lb. Featherweight limit and had a significant weight advantage over Lomachenko by the time the two fighters squared off in the ring.
Despite the loss however, Lomachenko would bounce back three months later in his third pro fight to win the then vacated WBO Featherweight world championship with a twelve round majority decision over Gary Russell Jr. Following three successful defenses of his Featherweight world championship, Lomachenko successfully moved up to the Jr. Lightweight division to win the WBO Jr. Lightweight world championship with a knockout of Roman Martinez in June of last year.
The victory over Martinez in what was his seventh pro fight set up Lomachenko's encounter with former WBA Featherweight world champion Nicholas Walters last November where the Jr. Lightweight world champion Lomachenko frustrated Walters, a fighter known for his punching power into quitting after seven rounds. After what should be viewed as one of the most significant and impressive performances of his career, Lomachenko’s next title defense came on April 8th in Oxon Hill, MD against WBO number two rated Jr. Lightweight contender Jason Sosa.
The bout followed what has become a familiar pattern for most of Vasyl Lomachenko's professional fights in his career thus far. The champion Lomachenko using his overall Boxing skill, lateral movement, and hand speed to control how the fight was fought. Lomachenko's systematic approach gradually took a toll on the “Game”, but over matched Sosa ultimately resulting in Sosa’s corner stopping the fight to prevent their fighter from further punishment after nine one-sided rounds.
The win for Lomachenko earned him his second successful defense of the WBO Jr. Lightweight world championship. In the days since Lomachenko's latest dominating victory, I have thought about what possible route Lomachenko might take for his next fight. Although Lomachenko is twenty-nine years old and per his amateur background is considerably more seasoned than a fighter with a pro record of 8-1, with 6 Knockouts would suggest, there are some who remain skeptical of Lomachenko's standing in the sport.
The source of the skepticism in this observer's eyes stems from the fact that Lomachenko was catapulted into a world championship bout in only his second professional fight, one where despite a valiant effort, he came out on the short end of what could be described as a controversial decision depending on one's perspective. If one is objective however, they would admit that despite the loss to Orlando Salido, Lomachenko has proven to be a fighter with exceptional skill who has made the most of the opportunities that have come his way even with one fight going against him. After all, not many fighters are in a position to challenge for a world championship within their first ten professional fights, let alone being able to become a world champion in two weight classes.
As far as potential options which may be available to Lomachenko in the near future, this observer has thought of two possibilities which I feel would be both logical and potentially lucrative. Option number one would be a potential rematch between Lomachenko and Orlando Salido, who coincidentally happens to be the current WBO Jr. Lightweight contender and would thus be in a position to be named as Lomachenko's next mandatory challenger by the World Boxing Organization (WBO). The obvious storyline of a rematch between the two would be the classic question of “Repeat Or Revenge?” Given the competitive nature of the fight between the two as well as the elements of controversy that emerged both before and during the bout, I believe both Boxing fans as well as Lomachenko himself would welcome a second encounter between the two.
The second option, which I believe may be more likely would be for Lomachenko to move up five pounds to the 135lb. Lightweight division. Although the possibility also exists that Lomachenko may look to unify the Jr. Lightweight division, one might argue beyond possible physical benefits that could be available to a fighter by moving up in weight without as much of a physical toll by trying to get down in weight to a weight limit that might have an adverse effect on a fighter physically is that there are theoretically more lucrative opportunities as a fighter moves up the weight scale.
The opportunity for Lomachenko to possibly challenge for a third world championship in as many weight classes is likely one that the two-division world champion would consider. After all, if one combines both his amateur and professional victories, Lomachenko has emerged victorious in over four hundred bouts against two defeats. Lomachenko has already made history in being able to win two world championships in two different weight classes in under ten fights as a professional. A chance to potentially make more history has to be appealing.
If Lomachenko continues to win and more specifically dominate the competition as he has been doing in recent times regardless of which weight class he chooses to compete in, he could very well have another title bestowed upon him. The mythical title of best pound for pound fighter in the world. Whether or not Lomachenko is eventually among the pound for pound elite is a question that will be answered in time, but one thing is certain, if his recent dominance continues as he moves up in weight, the skepticism that some have with regard to Lomachenko will gradually cease.
In this observer's eyes based not only on his amateur greatness, but also his dominance since embarking on a professional career, we just might be witnessing the genesis of the next all-time great fighter. As is the case with fighters who eventually go on to become legendary figures in the sport, part of the fun for Boxing fans as well as experts is to see how the careers/stories of those fighters evolve over time. Vasyl Lomachenko's story will likely be no exception.
“And That's The Boxing Truth.”
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