Still decompressing after defending his WBO featherweight crown in Las Vegas on November 7th, Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko held court amongst a sea of reporters (including Tha Boxing Voice), fielding a series of questions regarding the current state of the featherweight division and potential future foes.
Possessing a wry smile, some salacious details regarding his future emerged.
Accompanied by his manager (and translator) Egis Klimas, Lomachenko made clear he would not back down from any challenges, especially from that of super featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux. He also stated that he feels he’s only getting sharper in the professional ranks.
However, a fascinating theory emerged when Lomachenko was asked who in particular he wants to fight, “I think the champion has to be one, my goal would be to unify all the titles, right now we have one weight class and four different champions, it’s kind of bizarre, there should be one champion in every weight class”.
What struck me straight away was the facial expression and mannerisms Lomachenko displayed discussing the subject of multiple world champions in a single weight class. It’s almost as if he views the alphabet soup situation as comical and not becoming of a true champion. A translator was practically not necessary to decipher his thoughts on the subject
To understand Lomachenko’s (5-1, 3KO’s) disposition, we first need to understand his background. Hailing from Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, Lomachenko is one of the most decorated amateurs in boxing history. Compiling an almost obscene record of 396-1 (the single defeat avenged twice) with three world amateur titles — including defeating Félix Verdejo, Oscar Valdez, and Abner Cotto — and two Olympic golds, “Loma” has simply grown accustomed to dominance. Although we can question whether there is “politics” involved in the amateur fight game, there are no promoters, managers, and television networks to prevent fights from materializing. Simply put, Lomachenko is used to cleaning out a division from top to bottom and being king of the hill.
Backed by one of the world’s most successful promotional outfits in Top Rank and advised by a powerful manager (the aforementioned Klimas), “Loma” has the proper support system to lead him to superstar status. However, achieving the goal of “undisputed” featherweight champion might be harder than any fight he’s had in the ring. Let’s see why.
First off, according to general standards, only Sugar Ramos (1963) and Vicente Saldivar (1964) have ever been recognized as “undisputed” featherweight champions. Eusebio Pedroza , Salvador Sanchez, Azumah Nelson, Naseem Hamed, Alexis Arguello are just a few Hall of Fame featherweights that never held the defined “undisputed status”. That should give us an indication of how difficult this feat is.
In modern times, not only do you need to capture four separate belts, you need to navigate through a sea of politics that would garner you the simple opportunity to get in the ring with a fellow belt holder. With pending lawsuits and network television disputes, the likely chance Lomachenko can unify, let alone become undisputed, is next to zero. However, let’s push the politic stuff aside and forecast “what if” scenarios amongst current 126-pound titleholders.
Leo Santa Cruz, WBA “Super” Champion (31-0):
Wow, what a fight Lomachenko vs Santa Cruz would be. Engaged in a lawsuit with Santa Cruz’s manager Al Haymon, this fight isn’t happening anytime soon. But let’s have some fun. Who wins this awesome matchup? Santa Cruz, coming off a career-best performance against rival Abner Mares, is an offensive juggernaut. He throws punches in bunches, is super relaxed in the ring, and possess a sturdy chin. This would be a tough assignment for Lomachenko, but I think Vasyl pulls this one out in a decision. Too slick, better footwork, and more experience.
Lee Selby, IBF Champion (22-1):
The Welshman Selby turned heads and looked great in knocking out Aussie Joel Brunker and capturing his belt versus Evgeny Gradovich, but only lukewarm in first defense against veteran Fernando Montiel. As with Santa Cruz, Selby is advised by Haymon, so this fight won’t materialize. But if Lomachenko did face Selby, he’d make rather easy work in a wide decision or stoppage. Not to say Selby isn’t talented, but there isn’t any evidence in his record to leave me to believe he can handle Lomachenko’s diverse skill set.
Gary Russell Jr., WBC Champion (26-1):
As the other champions in this weight class, Russell is advised by Haymon, and Top Rank (Lomachenko’s promoter) is not engaging in business with his fighters at this time. Ironically, Lomachenko did face Russell to win the vacant title by majority decision in 2014 (in a purse bid situation). In my opinion, if they did have a second go around, it would present Lomachenko with his toughest test amongst the pool of reigning champions. Russell is also a highly decorated amateur who never really upped his level of competition till facing “Loma” and performed very well despite the loss. Russell responded from defeat in strong fashion, annihilating Jhonny Gonzalez to win his hardware. I’d love to see these southpaws duel again, as their skill levels are off the charts. Right now I’d give “Loma” the slight edge in a rematch, but that’s a fight that can go either way.