Vasyl Lomachenko headed to bigger and better things in 2018
As Vasyl Lomachenko turned pro in the fall of 2013 – fresh off a prodigious amateur career that saw him win more Olympic gold medals (two) than he had losses (one) – no one was as bullish on his prospects as Top Rank CEO Bob Arum. Now it’s only obvious that any promoter would be high on his or her clients but, in hindsight, perhaps the veteran promoter wasn’t so far off on his claims.
Fast forward to 2017, Lomachenko, after an early hiccup against Orlando Salido (who also fought this past weekend and ironically had his career come to a close) – has since won major world titles at featherweight and super featherweight. His latest outing last Saturday night was perhaps his most dominant performance, as he made Guillermo Rigondeaux capitulate after six rounds at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
What was thought to be a chess match was a one-sided exhibition dominated by the Ukrainian. Coming into this match-up of two-time gold medalists, some wondered if there was simply too much skill in that ring to really get a good fight.
Well, it turned out that Lomachenko simply had too much skill for the smaller Cuban southpaw. It was rather stunning to see such a skillful practictioner of the Sweet Science be made to look so impotent and ineffective. In just 11 fights in, Lomachenko, 10-1 (8), has firmly established himself as one of the premier prizefighters in the sport. Could it be that he has actually exceeded Arum’s lofty expectations?
“I know he was one of the great fighters, ever, based on his amateur career and how high up that would go up in the pros. I had no idea, so it’s not an appropriate question to ask if he exceeded my expectations,” said Arum on Monday, while in Australia for the Jeff Horn-Gary Corcoran bout (which will be televised in the early morning hours on ESPN).
“I knew he would be great and I’ve never seen performances like he’s put on.”
So the question is, what’s next for “Hi-Tech” in 2018?
“Let me tell you exactly where it’s at,” said Arum. “After the fight – and I have a very good relationship with the kid, the father, with (manager) Egis (Klimas), and I said ,’What’s your immediate plans now?’ He says, ‘We’re going to take off a month into the New Year,’ and I said, ‘Well, don’t think about anything.’ A week before we have a call with everybody, we’ll figure out what to do.
“Obviously now that we don’t have to go on bended knee to geniuses to open up dates, he and (former two-division champion Terence) Crawford are our featured fighters and they are going to get special treatment, as far as dates are concerned. So I’m looking for him to fight as many times as he wants to fight.”
(And yes, Arum just took another not-so-veiled shot at the fine folks over at HBO Sports.)
Not only did Lomachenko put forth a critically acclaimed performance against Rigondeaux, it did very strong television ratings and played to a sold-out crowd of over 5,100. Tickets on the secondary market were going for two and three times face value prior to the event.
In his previous bouts, Lomachenko headlined at the Cosmopolitan at Las Vegas, the MGM National Harbor, near Washington D.C., and the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. It’s clear that he has outgrown the small rooms. Top Rank is now ready to expand his horizons and his reach.
Arum explained, “The Garden said to us, ‘Give us all possible dates. We’re going to clear out the building because we want him to fight in the big building,’ because, based on the response they had from the Ukrainian people and others, he’s going to sell out the big building.”
That remains to be seen because boxing is about athletic competition. It’s not a concert – which can be one-man shows. Unfortunately the politics and alliances that exist in boxing prevented Lomachenko from ever unifying at 126 pounds. At super featherweight, there is a strong group of other champions, led by WBC beltholder Miguel Berchelt.
“They’re all possible. We’re going to make offers to everyone that makes sense. On Berchelt’s side, we’re friendly obviously with Fernando Beltran (the head of Zanfer Promotions). He works very closely with us. We’re going to look at everything,” said Arum.
Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, has thrown out the possibility of WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares, who has to take care of business on January 27 against Mercito Gesta. But again, Golden Boy is the main content provider for HBO, while Top Rank is now partnered with ESPN.
For Lomachenko to fulfill his prophecy as a legendary boxer, he will need worthy dance partners. He’s made pretty good fighters look feeble; can he do it to the game’s blue-chippers? Can the divisions within in the sport be overcome somehow to make these match-ups a reality?
“I love the fights with Linares and (WBC lightweight titlist Mikey) Garcia,” said Arum. “The question is, who would he not like to fight? And the answer is ‘No one.'”
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