By Charles Jay
Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine, known as one of the top amateur boxers in the world pound-for-pound, opened up things in his quest for an Olympic medal with an easy victory over Wellington Arias of the Dominican Republic, and he is serving notice to the rest of the lightweight field that he is perhaps the most serious competitor for Olympic gold.
Lomachenko is aggressive and skillful, and was way too much for the less experienced Arias, scoring standing eight counts in the first and second round, shutting out Arias in the second, and surging to a 15-3 victory.
Next up he’ll face unseeded Felix Verdejo Sanchez of Puerto Rico, who shined again on Thursday with a 16-7 victory over Tunisia’s Ahmed Mejri. The winner of that fight will move on to the medal round.
Lomachenko was the 2008 gold medalist in the featherweight class, winning the Val Barker Trophy, and is also a former winner at the World Amateur Championships. He’s a southpaw who really wreaks havoc. He is rated #2 by AIBA, and he is considered by most ringside observers to be not only better than the guy who occupies the #1 slot, Domenico Valentino of Italy, but possibly the best boxer in the entire Olympics. Indeed, he earned the #1 seed in this tournament.
There have been comparisons to a lot of fighters, including Manny Pacquiao and Kostya Tszyu.
In another significant lightweight bout from the afternoon session, Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan, who is rated #8 by AIBA and is the fifth seed, started to assert dominance in the second round and registered an impressive 16-8 victory over Jai Bhagwan (#12 AIBA) of India. Zhailauov had to win by the “countback” procedure in his opening round bout, but this time he left no suspense to the outcome, winning by a hefty seven points in Round 2, essentially providing the difference.
Next up for Zhailauov is a bout with Cuba’s Yasnier Toledo Lopez, who is the fourth seed. Toledo, the former Pan Am Games champ, won a 14-10 decision over Qiang Liu of China. Vazgen Safaryants of Belarus, who is the second-seeded lightweight, will be in action in the evening session as he takes on Soonchul Han of the Republic of Korea. Then there is Valentino, who is the third seed, who will step in against Great Britain’s Josh Taylor in the evening as well.
The big question is whether any of these high seeds have what it takes to seriously challenge Lomachenko and his imposing level of intensity. If that performance against Arias was any indication, that is going to be a tall task indeed.