Two time Olympic gold medalist, Vasyl Lomachenko came to United States in 2013 to pursue his version of American dream. Surprisingly young amateur star from Ukraine wasn’t looking for money. Vasyl wanted to win a title in his very first bout as a professional, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished so far. A compromise has been reached with top American promoter, Bob Arum. Vasyl was promised a title fight on his second professional showing if he were to beat a veteran Mexican, Jose Ramirez in his pro debut. Disposing of Ramirez in four rounds, Vasyl got his wish on March 1st, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas challenging veteran Mexican champion, Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title. Salido lost the title on the scales prior to the fight, because he could not make the contracted weight. But Lomachenko couldn’t quite reach his goal. He lost a hard fought twelve round battle to Salido via split decision.
In hindsight Lomachenko’s daring plan to become a world champion right away could have been a mistake. Or was it?” It was a huge learning experience, nothing else,” replied Lomachenko when I interviewed him about that fight after he finished his training session on Monday outside of CMC pro boxing Gym in Marina Del Rey.
“I am not looking for an excuse,” continued Lomachenko:” But we came into the ring in different weight categories. It was 57 kilograms title fight. His weight at the fight was 68 kilograms. It’s two different weight classes during the fight.” It did look like featherweight Lomachenko was fighting a welterweight veteran Salido in the ring that night. But what surprised most insiders was the way the fight unfolded. Most believed that speed and skills of Lomachenko would win him early rounds and experience and caginess of Salido would take over in the latter part of the bout. It went completely the opposite way. Salido dominated early to middle rounds using his weight and strength advantage going almost exclusively to the body of Lomachenko. Vasyl showed a great resolve and stamina and took over the fight in the final rounds and had Salido in trouble late.
“My goal was to save strength for middle and the end of the fight,” explained Lomachenko:” At the beginning I basically was watching and adapting and learning what my opponent was doing. Salido is an experienced veteran. He did his job. He didn’t care about my strategy. He knew what he needed to do to win by any means necessary. But his weight wasn’t a big issue. I was preparing in sparring for weight difference. That’s why I can’t say it was the main problem.” Whatever the problem was Vasyl seemed undeterred.
W.C. Fields once said:” If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Vasyl gets a chance to try it again. He is to face undefeated American Gary Russell Jr (24-0,14KO’S) for the same vacant WBO featherweight title on June 21st, 2014 at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. Showtime will televise this bout live along with two other good scraps. Robert Guerrero returns to the ring against Japanese Yoshihiro Kamegai in a twelve round welterweight contest and Devon Alexander is returning to the ring following a crashing defeat at the hands of Shawn Porter. Alexander is to face veteran Jesus Soto Karass in a ten rounds or less welterweight bout.
Lomachenko didn’t want to talk about his upcoming challenge against Russell Jr. But action speaks louder than words. The man is not looking for a tune up fight to boost his confidence. He wants to become a world champion and he is not looking for an easy opponent. He is to face a very dangerous, undefeated foe, Garry Russell Jr.
One of the most successful amateurs of present time, could Vasyl achieve similar success in the professional ranks? Twenty five year old Ukrainian star definitely feels lucky. “At this moment, aside from the fact that I love boxing,” said Lomachenko:” Obviously I can’t deny that it is my job. With the help of boxing I currently support myself my family and my relatives. That’s what I do for living. That is my profession, but of course I love it.”
A student of the game Vasyl loves to watch boxing as a fan. “I especially love mega fights,” said Lomachenko:” When two strong, top fighters meet. It is a blessing for me as a fan. Diego Corrales and Castillo fight is forever stamped in my memory, because all the will to win was on display. Any fan involved in boxing a little knows about this fight.” Could Lomachenko and Russell Jr. put a stamp in memory of boxing fans on June 21st? Stay tuned.