By: Kirk Jackson
Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko improved his professional record to 9-1 (7 KO’s) defending his WBO super featherweight title against Miguel Marrioga 25-3 (21 KO’s) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Ca.
This event broadcasted across the ESPN network, as Top Rank Promotions attempts to emulate the Premier Boxing Champions formula; this was the first of two high-profile airings this August.
“I never saw anything like this. He’s unbelievable,” said Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum to ESPN.com.
“Not only does he have the knowledge, he has the skill set that I’ve never seen before. Fast, reflexes, everything and he really entertains. Who else did that? Muhammad Ali.”
Let’s not forget in the past, Arum echoed the same sentiments about Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Being referenced to any of the four aforementioned legends is a great compliment either way. However, in light of Lomachenko’s brilliant performance, questions remain.
Although some ESPN analysts and other pundits are quick to announce Lomachenko as the No. 1 pound-for-pound best boxer in the world, Lomachenko enthusiasts conveniently leave out or overlook Andre Ward, Terence Crawford, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Keith Thurman and Mikey Garcia.
Crawford by the way happens to fight on the very same network of ESPN Aug. 19.
After conquering the lightweight division, capturing the WBO, The Ring and lineal lightweight titles, Crawford moved up to super lightweight and aims to unify the division by attaining all four titles from the sanctioning bodies.
A feat only accomplished in the recent alphabet era by Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins.
Ward defeated another fellow pound-for-pound fighter Sergey Kovalev in back to back bouts over the course of seven months.
He is the unified light heavyweight champion of the world and prior to that, won the “Super Six Tournament,” virtually cleaned out a stacked super middleweight division and ruled that very same division with iron fists.
Rigondeaux dominates opponents with skill and bends their will as Lomachenko does. The Cuban born star dominated the super bantamweight division for just over half a decade and easily dismantled Nonito Donaire, who at the time was considered the best fighter in boxing pound-for-pound.
Thurman is regarded by most as the best fighter in the best division as of now. Historically, the welterweight division produces great fighters and great matches.
Thurman added another trinket to his collection capturing the WBC welterweight title while defeating undefeated two-division champion Danny Garcia in the process.
Mikey Garcia is a two-division champion, recently embarking on his third division while soundly defeating four-division champion Adrien Broner in the process. Garcia is undefeated, highly skilled and wants to fight Lomachenko.
Determining the best fighter pound-for-pound is not an easy task.
The measure of skill is subjective and up for interpretation. But the professional accolades and accomplishments undoubtedly favor Ward in this instance – and the same can be echoed for virtually every other fighter considered on the mythical pound-for-pound list.
For the Lomachenko contingent, this isn’t intended to bash the Ukrainian star. He is clearly one of the best talents in boxing and one of the best fighters.
But it is a disservice to the sport and other top level fighters who proved their worth over this past decade, to prematurely crown Lomachenko pound-for-pound king. He still has to add on to his resume before he takes the throne.
Furthering our focus on Lomachenko, what is next for him?
The narrative promoted for Lomachenko is he is so skilled, so transcendent with ability, there isn’t a fighter with desire to face him. That’s the perception, but not necessarily reality.
It sounds good from his perspective to state there is a lack of competition or willing volunteers – and then to put on performances as he did against Marrioga.
But if we really analyze the situation, there’s other layers to look at.
Marriaga is not ranked within the top 10 of the junior lightweight division. Marriaga is also coming off a sound defeat against Oscar Valdez via unanimous decision this past April.
Prior to the fight against Lomachenko Marriaga was ranked 27th according to Boxrec. Lomachenko’s opponent prior to Marriaga, Jason Sosa, is not an elite fighter at any stretch as well.
It’s one thing to look amazing against standard competition, but it’s another thing to do so against the very best of the division.
There’s an argument there are willing combatants ready to fight Lomachenko; Garcia, Rigondeaux, Gary Russell Jr. and a few others.
Russell Jr. has been quoted as saying, “I don’t care if he [Lomachenko] loses his next 10 fights, before my career is over he’ll have to see me again. The people didn’t see the Gary Russell that they’re used to seeing.”
— Guillermo Rigondeaux (@RigoElChacal305) June 28, 2017
These are valid options and Garcia mentioned key points in regards to Lomachenko’s issue in regards to finding suitable opponents.
An argument can be made in Lomachenko’s favor in regards to guys not wanting to fight him, is if we look at the risk vs. reward element and the value Lomachenko brings in regards to money.
This is a dilemma Floyd Mayweather faced early in his career. The same notion can be argued for Marvin Hagler and Rigondeaux currently.
As Garcia alluded to, there is the question of drawing power. Can Lomachenko draw crowds or sellout arenas? What are his ratings television wise, is there pay-per-view potential? What is the budget looking like?
Lomachenko’s last HBO affair against Jason Sosa was an average of 832,000 viewers tuning in to watch Lomachenko defend his WBO world super featherweight title as the main event of HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader.
Lomachenko has comparable numbers to Rigondeaux if that is of importance.
— Guillermo Rigondeaux (@RigoElChacal305) August 6, 2017
More people have access to ESPN so in theory, this recent showing against Marriroga should enhance Lomachenko’s brand.
If Lomachenko’s handlers are having such difficulty finding guys to fight him, what are they doing to resolve the issues behind it?
When it comes to negotiation, are they submitting low-ball offers? Nicholas Walters mentioned that issue in the past, as did Rigondeaux.
Orlando Salido mentioned the same. For those keeping track, Salido is the only man to defeat Lomachenko in the professional ranks.
Although chasing a rematch with Salido may appear hollow, because with every day passing is another day closer to retirement for the battle-worn veteran Salido. Lomachenko mentioned a lack of interest in a Salido rematch, as it appears to be a moot point.
Networks, promoters, budgeting, all appear to be the key issues with Lomachenko vs. better quality opposition.
If these are the issues behind the scenes, then we may never see the match-ups we want to see. That means everything the fighters and promoters are saying is essentially lip service.
The well informed boxing fan would love to see Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia or Lomachenko vs. Rigondeaux.
An eventual showdown with Gervonta Davis or Terence Crawford sounds fascinating as well.
Unfortunately, the well informed boxing fans can’t dictate which match-ups will transpire and when. We can only hope extraordinary talents such as Lomachenko is afforded the opportunities to continually showcase his skills at the highest level.