Thursday, June 08, 2023  |


Bob Arum: ‘Vasyl Lomachenko is the greatest amateur in boxing history’

Fighters Network
Vasyl Lomachenko (L) digs a body shot into Gary Russel Jr.'s side. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Vasyl Lomachenko (L) digs a body shot into Gary Russell Jr.’s side. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

LAS VEGAS – The Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight resembled the magnitude of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in more ways than just two rival cable networks coming together to make the fight a reality. They also share a common thread in the undercard.

On June 8, 2002, before Lewis and Tyson made their way to the ring, a young Manny Pacquiao defended his IBF junior featherweight title by knocking out Jorge Eliecer Julio in the second round. The boxing world took notice, and a year and a half later came the breakout TKO victory over Marco Antonio Barrera.

Now Pacquiao is the star attraction this Saturday and Vasyl Lomachenko will appear on the undercard looking to make a bigger name for himself.

But Lomachenko (3-1, 1 knockout), who will take on Puerto Rico’s Gamalier Rodriguez, is no ordinary young fighter on the rise. In fact, Lomachenko is a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine who also won the WBO featherweight title in only his third professional fight by out-boxing the lightning-quick Gary Russel Jr.

At Thursday’s press conference for the undercard leading up to Saturday’s big main event, Top Rank’s Bob Arum pulled out a contract and signed Lomachenko to a five-year extension.

According to Lomachenko’s manager, Egis Klimas, the original two-year deal Lomachenko signed with Top Rank was about to expire and both sides felt it was the right time for an exception.

Beaming from the dais, Arum spoke proudly of Lomachenko, sounding like a grandfather talking about his grandson.

“Vasyl Lomachenko is the greatest amateur in boxing history,” Arum said. “He is every bit as talented as both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and he will be a superstar very soon.”

Lomachenko will open the pay-per-view telecast on Saturday, which will only be followed by a Leo Santa Cruz bout and then the Mayweather-Pacquiao main event.

“I feel honored they chose me to open the pay-per-view telecast,” Lomachenko said in his native Russian. “This will give me an opportunity to showcase myself to more people who never saw me fight.”

Lomachenko has fought on the biggest stages in the world including the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 games in London. His last fight was on the Pacquiao-Chris Algieri PPV in Macau.

“I don’t think about the pressure,” Lomachenko added. “I know I need to look good and I will try but I will also just be myself. I prepared for this fight. Sometimes I even over-train because I want to ensure I am ready, but I know I am ready and I feel strong.”

Lomachenko is fully aware of the number of households who will potentially be tuning in on television and the star power in attendance, but looking for the knockout is not something he believes in.

“Every fighter knows if you go in looking for the knockout you probably will end up not getting it and maybe even make a mistake that can hurt you. I will fight my fight and if I hurt him and he can’t continue, then so be it.”

Lomachenko is such a student of the sport that he wishes more people paid attention to the science of boxing and not the business part.

“I wish for people to appreciate two sportsmen in the ring and appreciate the sport, not the politics behind the sport. The business and politics will always be there but the essence of the sport of boxing is beautiful. I want everyone to focus on that.”

Both Top Rank and HBO hope to have the same meteoric rise to stardom for Lomachenko as Pacquiao did 13 years before him.