Sunday 11th December 2016,
Balltribe

Featherweight: A Division in Need of Big Fights

Vasyl Lomachenko

WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko will fight on the undercard of Timothy Bradley vs. Brandon Rios this Saturday night in Las Vegas. While I’m always excited to see the rising Ukrainian star in action, his opponent for this bout is a serious disappointment.

Romulo Koasicha is quite possibly the worst opponent Vasyl Lomachenko has faced yet in his short career. It’s laughable that this guy is even receiving a shot at a world title. At 25-4, his record looks decent on paper, but he has not defeated a single opponent that justifies treating him like a ranked contender. As recently as April 2013, he lost to a fighter with a 10-6 record.

Normally I would consider it an opponent like Koasicha entirely reasonable for a fighter with just five professional fights, regardless of how talented he is. But Vasyl Lomachenko has set a different standard for himself. With two Olympic gold medals and a record of 396-1, he’s arguably the greatest amateur fighter of all time.

As a professional, he jumped almost immediately into the deepest waters he could find, challenging rugged veteran Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight belt in just his second bout. Salido didn’t even try to make weight for that fight, relinquishing his belt on the scales in order to purchase the advantage of being much heavier in the ring come fight night. He gave Lomachenko a crash course in “veteran tactics,” pounding the novice professional with repeated low blows and shoulder bumping him in the clinches.

Lomachenko lost the fight, but was impressive in doing so. Rather than folding like so many promising amateur standouts have done when faced with a rough-housing pro, Lomachenko made smart tactical adjustments and won the latter rounds. I’d like him to win in a rematch with Salido.

In his third fight, Vasyl Lomachenko captured the vacant WBO belt by defeating previously unbeaten Gary Russell Jr in a competitive bout. Russell rebounded from that loss to capture the WBC belt from Jhonny Gonzalez by stunning Round 3 stoppage earlier this year, showing that he is indeed a top star at 126 pounds.

But this will be Vasyl Lomachenko’s third fight since winning the belt, and nobody he’s fought during that time has been an exciting opponent from the perspective of American fans. He has looked great in these fights, and again, for most boxers in their fourth and fifth professional fights, the grading curve would be much lower, and we would be focusing purely on how terrific Lomanchenko has looked. But when you are repping one of the alphabet-soup titles, the expectations are higher.

This will be one of only two title defenses Lomachenko makes this year, and it will be one of only six world title fights in the featherweight division as a whole. In what Universe does it makes sense for Romulo Koasicha to be receiving one of only a handful of featherweight title shots?

The featherweight division has about as much exciting young talent as any weight class in boxing. There are tremendous fights to be made there. A rematch between Vasyl Lomachenko and Russell Jr. to unify their two belts would be outstanding. Lomachenko vs. former WBA champ Nicholas Walters would be a super fight. Either Lomachenk or Russell vs. Leo Santa Cruz, who looked tremendous against Abner Mares earlier this year, would be another major fight at 126 pounds. IBF champ Lee Selby of England is another great young talent.

It’s way past time to start throwing the big dogs at 126 pounds into the same kennels, to see which one is left howling at the end.

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