By Ivan G. Goldman
Bob Arum is once again investing heavily in Olympic Gold, putting on a razzle-dazzle publicity campaign for a fighter who has yet to face pro competition.
This time it’s Vasyl Lomachenko, a Ukrainian who took first in the 2008 and 2012 Games competing in featherweight and lightweight divisions respectively. But this time the strategy has a new twist. Lomachenko’s pro debut won’t be in a little four-rounder against a minnow plucked from a bait bucket. He’ll fight a ten-rounder against Jose Ramirez, a featherweight who’s ranked seventh by the WBO. Arum looks awfully impatient on this one, although word is that it’s Lomachenko who demanded to rush things. He seems to think he can waltz into pro territory and become a champion without much fuss. It may be fun to watch him try. If Lomachenko was in such a hurry, one wonders why he waited fourteen months after winning Olympic Gold to turn pro. Does it take that much time to remove your headgear?
Mexico’s Ramirez, 25-3 (15 KOs), now holds the alphabet gang’s “International” title, which isn’t really a title in the generally accepted sense, but still requires those defending or challenging for it to pay a fee to the bandits who invented it. Lomachenko and Ramirez, both 25, will fight it out Oct. 12 on the undercard of the pay-per-view Timothy Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez show in Las Vegas.
Olympian Lomachenko follows in the Top Rank footsteps of another featherweight, Zou Shiming, the two-time Olympic medalist from China who is 32 years old and competing in an age division where fighters don’t generally stay fresh. Arum has already invested plenty in Shiming, who needs to show something soon, because more birthdays are on the way and he has scored zero kayos in a four-rounder and a six-rounder. Zou is penciled in on the undercard of the Nov. 23 show in Macau headlined by Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios.
Arum has a well-crafted plan to use Shiming as a lever to open up China for big-time boxing, assisted of course by Pacquiao, who is lured by the smaller tax bite taken by China. It’s too soon to say how the Shiming strategy will work out. Kayos against solid opponents would help, but if potential fans in China don’t know much about boxing anyway, it’s hard to know how much he would actually have to accomplish in order to be an ongoing draw.
Lomachenko’s original opponent, Jonathan Oquendo, 23-3, (16 KOs) dropped out after claiming a knuckle injury. He also complained about the size of the purse and declared that if he failed to score a kayo there was no way he could win a decision in China. Top Rank was scheduled to thrust its Ukrainian feather into the media moss pit Wednesday with a gym workout in Los Angeles.
Adding to the Lomachenko hype, another bout on the Oct. 12 card pits former WBO featherweight champion Orlando “Siri” Salido, 39-12-2, (27 KOs) against Orlando Cruz, 20-2-1 (10 KOs), for the vacant WBO featherweight title formerly held by Mikey Garcia. Cruz, who came out of the closet as a gay man, could become the first openly gay world champion in boxing history.
Word is that if Lomachenko gets past Ramirez, his second bout will be against the winner of Salido-Cruz in a challenge for the WBO title. Publicists might eat it up, but will fans? That depends on how the Ukrainian looks against Ramirez.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.