Two-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko's future is limitless

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Vasyl Lomachenko might very well be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, even though his bout against Miguel Marriaga on Saturday will be just his 10th professional bout.

Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, sets impossibly high standards for himself in his athletic career and his personal life.

“Vasyl won’t accept second-best,” manager Egis Klimas said.

Lomachenko watched WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia’s rout of Adrien Broner on Showtime last week in a non-title super lightweight bout. Garcia won handily and was widely praised for a brilliant performance.

Coming off a devastating knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin, it was the kind of performance that probably vaulted the undefeated Garcia into the pound-for-pound top 10.

While Garcia impressed just about everyone else, Lomachenko wasn’t all that effusive in his praise.

“His trainer Robert Garcia, Robert Garcia mentioned that Mikey is a fighter A-class,” Lomachenko said. “I hadn’t seen anything during that bout that showed me he was a Class A outstanding fighter. Yes, he won the fight. Yes, he did everything to win the fight, what he needed to be [done], but I haven’t seen anything outstanding and I haven’t seen him being an A-class fighter.”

Few other than Lomachenko and Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who reached a settlement to release Garcia from a promotional deal after a bitter lawsuit that idled Garcia for nearly two years, were anything other than highly impressed by Garcia.

Pressed for a reason, Lomachenko provided his own definition of an elite performance.

“I call someone a Class A fighter if he goes into the ring with his opponent and he finds a way he wants to fight and he makes the opponent fight the way he wants to fight,” Lomachenko said. “And, in a period of 12 rounds, he cannot be tired, or slowing down.

Vasyl Lomachenko might very well be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

“What I saw, particularly in that fight, I saw the same and the same and the same things, nothing special. On top of that, he got tired and it wasn’t a fast [pace]. Basically, his whole fight was slow, no speed, and he still got tired. I don’t think that should be called A-class.”

Lomachenko’s résumé is proof that he’s an A-class fighter. Top Rank president Bob Arum got a bit carried away and has referred to Lomachenko as the greatest fighter he has seen since Muhammad Ali. Given Arum has promoted fights for more than 50 years and that covers a lot of ground.

Nine fights into his career, Lomachenko’s already a two-division world champion and his future is limitless.

He was 396-1 as an amateur and is 8-1 as a professional. That one professional loss is one that, in many ways, still gnaws at him.

Lomachenko, in his second pro fight on March 1, 2014, in San Antonio, lost a split decision to Orlando Salido in a bout that was supposed to be for the WBO featherweight title. Salido missed weight by 2 ¼ pounds and then pulled out a split decision win.

It was a fight that could have gone either way, but Salido’s experience carried him through. There are many experts who believe Lomachenko deserved to win, and the consensus is that Lomachenko would win in a rout if they were to meet again.

Lomachenko is asked constantly about Salido, largely because of a smart social media campaign by Salido’s manager, Sean Gibbons, who has cleverly kept Salido’s name in the news.

Lomachenko is tired of hearing Salido’s name and snarked at a reporter who asked why he even bothered discussing Salido when he’s seemingly gone on to far bigger and better things.

“I don’t need him at all, and all the people who really understand boxing know that,” Lomachenko said. “I’m asked about him all the time, so I answer questions. Every interview, it’s all I hear: Salido, Salido, Salido. Why do you want to see that? Don’t you know what will happen.

“If you want that fight, my promoter will do it. But I have my own thoughts. I want to fight the best.”

He should roll through Marriaga, who is a featherweight moving up to junior lightweight. But given that Top Rank has a long-term deal to air its bouts on ESPN and Lomachenko is going to be a big part of that, duBoef said it isn’t always going to be the most dangerous challenger available.

“When you reach the frequency of bouts [Lomachenko wants] in a year, you can’t always have the biggest fight,” duBoef said. “So if we accelerate the frequency [with which he fights] and he becomes more aware to everybody out there, you’re right, you may just have a real solid tough guy like a Marriaga in front of you, then all of a sudden, you get to a bigger fight that comes along and things like that happen. Then a title unification may come along, like another solid top-five contender, so we can’t be so selective all the time. We would like to hit two paths: One is to get the best matches for Vasyl and Egis, and two is to keep the frequency going. We don’t want his career to stop because the right match isn’t there.”

Lomachenko said he’s not looking to move up in weight yet because he wants to try to unify the belts, and mentioned potential matches with IBF champion Gervonta Davis and WBA champion Jezreel Corrales.

He is not, however, a fan of the numerous championship belts.

“You win a fight and they give you a belt, just one belt, you can’t call yourself a champion,” Lomachenko said. “A champion is the guy who goes out there and wins all the belts, beats all of the guys. If you win a belt, you have a title, but you are not a champion. You have to hold all of them to be a champion. That’s what I want to do.”

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