What’s next for Vasyl Lomachenko?
By: Jordan Seward
Vasyl Lomachenko created history last Saturday in Madison Square Garden by becoming a two-weight world champion in just his seventh professional fight.
The Ukrainian, who had an illustrious amateur career before he turned pro, delivered a brutal fifth-round knockout of Rocky Martinez to strip away and claim his WBO super-featherweight belt.
Lomachenko (6-1) has now won world titles at featherweight and super-featherweight. The Ukrainian gold medallist won his first world title when he handed Gary Russell Jr (27-1) his first and only career defeat, with a majority decision victory to claim the vacant WBO world featherweight title. Although this was his second bite at the cherry.
Orlando Salido (43-13-4) was due to make his first defence of the WBO world featherweight belt against Lomachenko in the Ukrainian’s second professional fight but Salido came in over weight and was subsequently stripped of the belt. The much bigger Salido slugged his way to a split decision victory and is the only blemish on Lomachenko’s professional record to date.
The transition from amateur boxing to professional boxing can be a difficult one, but the Ukrainian was undoubtedly ready to make the leap way before he actually did. Before turning pro, the double Olympic champion achieved just about everything that can be as an amateur and boasts an incredible record of (396-1), the only loss coming to Albert Selimov. This sort of amateur pedigree stands a fighter in very good stead to progress on to the professional ranks and Lomachenko is testament to that.
Lomachenko nurtured in the amateur ranks and bought over his speed, skill and power to the professional game seamlessly, it was there for all to see, but questions hung over his head after the defeat to Salido. Many suggested he wasn’t ready to fight at world level and needed more time as a professional before fighting for a world title. How wrong they were. If it wasn’t for Salido coming in over the 126lb limit the story could’ve been different. Not that it mattered as he claimed the very same belt a fight later and hit back at his critics by beating a 24-fight veteran in Gary Russell Jr and winning a world title in just his third professional fight.
And now, at just 28-years-old and seven fights in, it seems Lomachenko is destined to replicate the success he had in the amateurs in the professional game. The Ukrainian is already unquestionably one of the biggest rising stars of modern boxing and has proved he is the real deal in the professional ranks. The only thing left to ponder, is who’s up next for Lomachenko?
It all depends on what weight division he wants to operate in, there’s huge fights out there for him at featherweight and super-featherweight. A unification fight with the IBF world super-featherweight champion Jose Pedraza (22-0) makes sense and would certainly appeal to an American audience. Guillermo Rigondeaux (16-0) is a name being bandied about as he returns to the ring after eight months out against James Dickens (22-1) on the 16th July.
The Cuban shares two Olympic gold medals with Lomachenko and has stated in the past he would fight the Ukrainian at 126lbs. It would be interesting to see who would come out on top of this super fight with the speed and power of Lomachenko and the defensive control and swagger of Rigondeaux.
Even a fight at lightweight is a possibility. Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0) has fought in America in his last two fights and has just won the WBC world lightweight title and could be a potential next opponent for the skilful Lomachenko. If he hasn’t already cemented his position among the world’s top pound for pound fighters, becoming a three-weight world champion in just eight fights surely would.