By: Sean Crose
How quickly we forget. There was a time not all that long ago when boxing fandom was perpetually informed that Vasyl Lomachenko was perhaps the greatest fighter ever. That’s ever. And, to be sure, the Ukrainian was absolutely, positively one hell of a boxer. Just ask Guillermo Rigondioux, or Nicolas Walters, or Jason Sosa or Miguel Marriaga, all four of whom quit on the stool while facing the man called “Hi Tech” due to his advanced training methods and ability to turn opponents like a faucet. Times, however, have changed, and so has Lomachenko’s reputation.
He’s older now, of course. And although 34 is no longer old in the boxing business, it’s not young, either. Lomachenko also lost his last major fight, a close battle with the then surging Teofimo Lopez. It was a bout Lomachenko could conceivably have avoided or put off indefinitely. He agreed to fight the bigger, younger Lopez, however, and was defeated in close but decisive fashion. Now, two years and two fights later, Lomachenko is preparing for his first match in almost a year when he takes on the undefeated Jamaine Ortiz this Saturday night at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden.
Should Lomachenko win as he’s expected to this weekend, there is a very good chance he’ll soon be battling undisputed lightweight champion Devan Haney. Both fighters are ambitious, after all, and both fighters perform under the same Top Rank promotional battle. With that being said, Lomachenko may well walk into a match with Haney as the underdog. Haney is bigger, younger, and extremely skilled. On top of that, lightweight has never been Lomachenko’s best division. Junior lightweight appears to have been more suited to the man’s size. Of course Lomachenko won’t have to worry about Haney should he be upset by Ortiz on Saturday night.
Although not particularly well known, the 16-0-1 Ortiz defeated the popular former titlist Jamel Herring last spring in what proved the be the final fight of Herring’s career. The 26 year old Ortiz is also considerably younger than the 16-2 Lomachenko. On top of that, Ortiz is an inch taller than his high profile foe, and has a notably longer reach. Still, this is Lomachenko we’re talking about here. He may have been overrated, but there’s no doubt the man is an all time great. Is he still at or close to his prime, though? That’s something the world may find out this weekend in New York.
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