Friday, March 24, 2023  |



Vasyl Lomachenko talks Rigondeaux, Santa Cruz and cash-vs.-competition

Vasyl Lomachenko (L) punches Gary Russell Jr. on his way to winning a world title in his third pro fight. Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Vasyl Lomachenko (L) punches Gary Russell Jr. on his way to winning a world title in his third pro fight. Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Vasyl Lomachenko had arguably the most decorated amateur career in boxing history, with an outstanding record of 396-1 and gold medals in both the 2008 Beijing and the 2012 London Olympic Games. On May 2 he will make the second defense of his WBO featherweight title on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard in a bout that could open the pay-per-view telecast.

If it appears Lomachenko’s promoter, Top Rank, is rushing the 27-year-old’s professional career along too quickly, it’s OK, because this is exactly how the boxing prodigy and his father/trainer envisioned it all along.

“We asked them for the big fights and Top Rank has done that for me,” said Lomachenko (3-1, 1 knockout, not including six wins in the World Series of Boxing). “Who else would have gotten me a world-title shot in only my second pro fight?”

Lomachenko’s professional debut began on a big stage when he fought on the Timothy Bradly-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard, knocking out Jose Ramirez in four rounds. caught up with Lomachenko as he begins preparing for the big May 2 bout, in which he will face Puerto Rican challenger Gamalier Rodriguez knowing full well the entire boxing world will be watching.

Vladimir Lik: Congratulations on being added to the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard. Tell me how you first found out you would be on that card.

Vasyl Lomachenko: My manager, Egis Klimas, told me that I was going fight on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s next fight before we even knew who his opponent was going to be or even the location. It just so happens they made the deal for Manny to fight Floyd Mayweather so Top Rank made sure I will be on the undercard.

VL: This will be your second time appearing on a Manny Pacquiao undercard. Your last fight was on the Pacquiao-Chris Algieri undercard in Macau. What do you think the difference will be?

Lomachenko: I know with this fight I will a part of boxing history so I am extremely excited and very grateful to be included on this big show. I already started training and will move my camp to Oxnard, California, this week and will stay there until it’s time to go to Las Vegas.

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

VL: You hurt your hand in your last fight. How does your hand feel now?

Lomachenko: My hand feels good now. It has fully healed.

VL: Tell me about your opponent on May 2.

Lomachenko: I am fighting Gamalier Rodriguez. He is ranked No. 1 [by the] NABO. He is a very good boxer and has won like 17 fights in a row. It should be a good fight.

VL: Have you watched any of his fights or do you have plans to?

Lomachenko: Ye,s I definitely will watch as much as I can. I think it’s important to watch a lot of video of your opponent because you might see something you can take advantage of or spot some mistakes that can give you an advantage.

VL: There are some people who say your career is being rushed too fast and maybe you don’t deserve these type of opportunities. How do you respond to that?

Lomachenko: It absolutely doesn’t matter to me what people say. There will always be critics and some of them have nothing better to do than to criticize, but I’m a boxer. My business is boxing and to be the best boxer I can be.

VL: The criticism was loud when you lost to Orlando Salido. What do you think about that fight now?

Lomachenko: I don’t want to think about that fight. I don’t like to look backwards. The only thing I will say is that I would welcome the opportunity for a rematch. I am very sure the result will be different this time.

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

VL: What if anything did you take away from the loss that made you better?

Lomachenko: Surprisingly, I really don’t think about that fight at all. What I do believe is that to beat the champion you have to do it convincingly. You have to beat him in a way that no one can question it. There shouldn’t even be any debates about it. I didn’t do that against Salido. You know, maybe I did beat him, who knows, but it doesn’t matter now because I didn’t do it convincingly. I can say all I want that I beat him, but the truth is since it wasn’t obvious then it didn’t really happen.

VL : Do you think your lack of professional experience hurt you? There were some low blows that looked like they bothered you.

Lomachenko: Of course. I don’t want to criticize the referee but maybe if he would have warned him a few times then perhaps the fight would go another way. As the Russian saying goes, there’s no point to throwing punches after the fight is over.

VL: You had a tremendous amateur career. What was the best moment for you?

Lomahcenko: The most memorable moment for me in boxing was when I won my first gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After the finals they awarded me the trophy for most outstanding boxer of those Games. It’s the biggest moment of my life and I will always remember how I felt that day. It’s my biggest win.


Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

VL: You decided not to turn pro after winning the gold medal. Why?

Lomachenko: Well, It wasn’t my decision alone. My father, who is also my trainer, helped me with the decision. His argument overruled mine and we decided to wait. My father said it was too soon and I wasn’t ready yet so I listened to him.

VL: Would you have turned pro if it was up to you?

Lomachenko: I can’t say for sure, but I was strongly considering it. My father made some good points though.

VL: What were some of those points?

Lomachenko: My father knows a lot about boxing and he said the body doesn’t stop developing until 25 years of age. At the time I won the gold medal I was only 20 years old and still needed to mature physically.

VL: How did you get started in boxing?

Lomachenko: I can say I started as a baby because my dad was a trainer and he was always training people. My mother used to bring me around when I was in a stroller so as soon as I started walking I started training and running around the gym.

VL: When did you know you would make boxing you career?

Lomachenko: When I was 6 years old I asked my father what’s better, to be a world champion or to win the Olympics. He said the Olympics were better because they happen only once every four years and every top athlete from around the world prepares for this one moment. That day I made the decision that in this case I will be an Olympic champion. That was my motivation from day one. I started and was getting better and better then realized that it’s getting closer to reality.

VL: Tell me your thoughts on Guillermo Rigondeaux?

Lomachenko: I think he’s a good boxer, a strong boxer. He also had a great amateur career. He’s a very smart fighter. Very technical too.

VL: I had a chance to ask Rigondeaux about a potential fight with you and he said he’s not considering you and won’t fight you unless you come down to his weight class.

Lomachenko: Well, then that’s his problem. As far as I know his people called me to fight him. We never reached out to him. For me, I don’t think it’s nice to talk about someone smaller than me. At that time I wasn’t going to tell him to come up to my weight. I didn’t really have any professional experience at the time so who was I? Now that I’m a world champion and things are different I feel like I have a say. If he wants me come down to his weight or to some catchweight then I am not interested.

VL: Why not meet in the middle at a catchweight?

Lomachenko: I believe in official weight categories. I respect the belts in all the weight classes. The categories are there for a reason. He keeps saying everyone is afraid of him and no one wants to fight him at 54 kg (122 pounds). Well here I am at 57 kg (126 pounds). If you are the best, as you say, and you cleaned out the division then come on up 3 kg and fight me. I don’t think 3 kg is that big a deal to come up. We have boxers like Manny Pacquiao who fought in eight different weight classes. I just don’t see the problem for him to come up. He thinks he’s the best, pound for pound. Who has he really fought besides Nonito Donaire? Tell me.

VL: Did you watch his last fight against Hisashi Amagasa in Japan?

Lomachenko: Yes, I watched him get knocked down twice. What did he really show?

VL: So you will never come down in weight?

Lomachenko: No. I will never come down. I already came down to my current weight class in the Olympics. How much can I really go down? Lets say even if I physically can do it so then what? I will have no strength, no power. It’s up to him at this point. If he wants to fight me and prove he is the best then he will come up, but I can’t force him. If he does then I will be very happy to fight him. It would be an honor.

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

VL: Let me ask you about another possible opponent. What are your thoughts on Leo Santa Cruz and his level of opposition thus far?

Lomachenko: I never saw him fight. I only saw highlights. Boxing is a sport and a business but to some people boxing is only a business. For me I can say it’s a sport. I love boxing for the sport of competing against the best. I want to fight the fighters who will challenge me. I have shown that I only want big fights. Unfortunately it’s not always possible. Other people just see this as a business. That’s why I respect the amateurs. In the Olympics, you have 70 fighters come from around the world and everyone fights each other until no one is left. You have first place, second place and third place. Professional boxing is very different.

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

VL: Let’s talk about the Gary Russell fight. Why do you think you dominated that fight so easily?

Lomachenko: In the ring a fighter can only do what his opponent allows him to. Russell had very easy opponents that were handpicked for him. How can you judge a boxer based on beating those guys? Then he fought me, someone who knows and understands boxing and look at the result.

VL: There are very difficult times in your native Ukraine right now. How is it affecting you?

Lomachenko: The war is in a different area from where I live, but I am very sad about all the Ukrainians and also the Russians who died for this war. This war is a political one and it’s very, very bad.

VL: Perhaps your next fight can help distract the Ukrainian people back home and they can focus on something positive.

Lomachenko: Of course, and we have Wladimir Klitschko to help us with that. I’m not on that level yet. You don’t become famous in Ukraine unless you are on television 24/7.

VL: Have you considered moving to the United States?

Lomachenko: No, that’s not something I’ve considered. Who knows, if things get really bad back home, one day I may be forced to move and the United States would be my first choice.