Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Vasyl Lomachenko: I need better opponents to be No. 1


LOS ANGELES — Ask Vasyl Lomachenko whether he should be regarded as the No. 1 fighter in the world pound for pound and he’ll respond unequivocally: no.

“I can’t call myself the pound-for-pound fighter until I beat a few champions,” he said through manager Egis Klimas at a press conference Wednesday to promote his August 5 fight against Miguel Marriaga in L.A. “If I fight Mikey Garcia or (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, after these fights, we can sit down and talk about pound-for-pound fighter.”

The problem is that no such opponent is on Lomachenko’s dance card, which is particularly frustrating for a fighter who already has proved that he’ll fight anyone, anytime.

Lomachenko, THE RING’s No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter, was supposed to face Orlando Salido a second time on August 5, which would’ve been compelling given Salido’s victory in the first meeting, but the fight fell apart and Marriaga stepped in.

The Colombian, while a hard puncher, will be Lomachenko’s second consecutive so-so opponent. The Ukrainian stopped Jason Sosa in April.

“I’m frustrated, of course,” he said.

So who would be first on his wish list? Garcia. Then Rigondeaux. And his dream would be to take part in a tournament like the Super Six World Boxing Classic or the new World Boxing Super Series, in which elite fighters face other elite fighters in succession.

The showdown with lightweight titleholder Garcia is realistic if he beats Adrien Broner at junior welterweight on July 29, as Garcia has also expressed interest in fighting Lomachenko.

Rigondeaux, the brilliant but unmarketable boxer, has also called out Lomachenko on social media and in other forums. Lomachenko isn’t convinced that the Cuban really wants to tangle with him, though.

Rigondeaux would have to move up two weight classes to fight Lomachenko, who had a message for his potential rival.

“If you really want to fight me, you know exactly the procedure,” he said. “Talk to your manager, talk to your promoter, as I’m doing talking to my manager and Bob Arum. Talk to them. If they can negotiate the fight, then we’re going to go fight.”

At the moment, Lomachenko (8-1, 6 knockouts) is stuck with Marriaga, who has lost wide decisions to Nicholas Walters in 2015 and Oscar Valdez in his last fight.

The matchup probably will suit Lomachenko well in his debut on Top Rank’s new series on ESPN if he wants to make a splash. Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) is expected to come directly at him, which should make for an entertaining fight. That could build excitement.

The victory won’t do much for his dreams of being recognized as the best fighter in the world, though.

“I don’t want to fight fighters who are like my sparring partners,” he said. “I want tough opponents, I want one of the best fighters in the division I am in at [a given time]. I want to become No. 1 pound for pound without any doubt.”

Salido’s deadline: Lomachenko is almost ready to wash his hands of Salido, with whom he has negotiated for a rematch unsuccessfully more than once. He said he wants to fight the 36-year-old Mexican again within a year or give up on the idea of avenging his split-decision loss in his second pro fight.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was asked how disappointed he was that he is fighting Marriaga instead of Salido.

“It would be more interesting to fight Salido than Marriaga,” Lomachenko said. “I’m already tired [of Salido]. I don’t want to think about that. Already three times we were trying to get that bout and not a single time [did it happen]. I was told this bout was already 100 percent. I was already thinking about the fight and then again it didn’t happen.

“I want to fight him as early as possible or people will say I beat an old man. That won’t be good for me.”

Language issue: Lomachenko appears to have similar talent to that of the many stars who Arum has promoted over the years. One thing is different, though: Lomachenko doesn’t speak English, which Arum says makes it more difficult to market him in the U.S.

That problem could be solved soon, though.

“I had dinner with him and his manager last night and he conversed with me in English,” Arum said. “He’s reluctant to speak English with the press. You have to speak English to be a big star. I don’t think anyone out there can beat him until he gets up to 140 pounds and faces a guy like Terence Crawford, who would give him a hell of a fight, but he has to speak English.

“Manny Pacquiao didn’t become a star until he got better in English. Lomachenko really has progressed with his English. He’s just such a perfectionist. He doesn’t want to speak to the press or television until it’s perfect.”

Lomachenko seems to understand most of the questions he is asked but responds in Russian.

“I want to speak the language, I want to speak fluently with the media without Egis, without translators,” he said. “As you know my schedule is very tight. It’s not easy to sit down and learn English.

“… Yes, [being a perfectionist] is one of the reasons I don’t speak English. If you come to Russia, you might learn one or two words. If you want to say the exact meaning of something, it takes longer.”

High praise: Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler was asked whether Lomachenko reminds him of a specific fighter from the past. He served up a gem.

“I think you’d have to go back as far as Willie Pep,” he said of the late Hall of Famer, who last fought in 1966. Pep was known as a quick-handed, sublime boxer. “He was a gifted, athletic guy who used his reflexes and instincts. We haven’t seen a fighter with Lomachenko’s style in quite a while.”

What’s in a name: Lomachenko said the first syllable of his name – Lom – translates to crowbar. That’s appropriate given what he does to his opponents. He said the rest of his name doesn’t mean anything.

Michael Rosenthal is in-chief of THE RING Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @mrosenthal_ring

Michael Rosenthal is editor-in-chief of THE RING Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @mrosenthal_ring