Boxing has never seen a fighter quite like Vasyl Lomachenko. The two-time Olympic gold medalist compiled an amateur career of 396-1. He had arguably the greatest amateur career in the sport’s history.
His development as a professional has also been unprecedented. Even for elite talent, a professional career usually develops with some amount of caution. In just his second fight Lomachenko fought Orlando Salido, a veteran of 55 professional bouts and one of the sport’s roughest, most savvy brawlers. Salido did not even attempt to make weight and came to the ring with a huge weight advantage. He attacked Lomachenko’s body with a fury, his punches consistently landing below the belt.
The UKranian star dropped that fight by split decision. I definitely score the fight for Salido. But I was stunned by the fact that the still green Lomechenko did not wilt under such a rough-housing attack. Instead, he got better as the fight went along. You could see him learning under fire. In the late rounds of the fight, he took control.
Since that minor set back, Lomachenko has been nothing short of brilliant. He has won nine straight fights and the last seven by stoppage. This has been against high level competition–opponents with a combined record of 252-12-11. Five have held some variety of alphabet-soup title and three were undefeated.
On Saturday night, Lomachenko moves to the lightweight division to face Jorge Linares, who holds the WBA trinket at 135 pounds. If Mikey Garcia is now going to campaign at 140 pounds and above then Linares has to be recognized as the best fighter in the world at 135 pounds. Expect him to be Lomachenko’s toughest opponent since Salido.
But also expect Lomachenko to dominate once more. Linares has a true size advantage but I do not see him having any answer to Lomachenko’s uncanny footwork, agility and control of distance. The biggest question I have is how Lomachenko’s power will carry up to lightweight.
In the end, I think Lomachenko will simply need to face biggest opponents to get a true challenge. The biggest superfight out there for him would be a clash with Garcia.