Vasiliy Lomachenko to return Aug. 25 in L.A. area, likely vs. Ray Beltran in unification bout
NEW YORK — Vasiliy Lomachenko is the king of the lightweight division after only one fight at 135 pounds, and soon, he’ll look to unify titles.
The fighter’s promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, told reporters Saturday that Lomachenko will return August 25 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, in another fight televised on the ESPN platform. The likely opponent: WBO lightweight titleholder Ray Beltran, who would also be making the first defense of his 135-pound belt.
The Mexico native won the strap with a thrilling razor-thin decision victory over Paulus Moses in February. It was a bloody battle for the vacant title, and Beltran needed time afterward to recover from a few gashes suffered around his eyes.
Now, he’s lined up for a career-high payday against Lomachenko, who stopped Jorge Linares in the 10th round on Saturday to win the RING/WBA lightweight championship. Another unification showdown — one with Mikey Garcia — looms as one of the biggest fights that could be made in boxing — but that seems unlikely for 2018.
Garcia is set to unify titles against Robert Easter Jr. on July 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, about a month before Lomachenko returns to the ring.
Garcia went through an ugly divorce with Arum and Top Rank, and the hall of fame promoter admitted any negotiation would be messy. So Lomachenko will probably unify with Beltran, who will be a massive underdog, with a plan for the three-weight champion to fight once more before 2018 is over.
“That’s why I came to this weight class, and that’s what I’ll be looking for — to unify titles,” Lomachenko (11-1, 9 knockouts) said at the post-fight news conference, with reigning manager of the year Egis Klimas providing translation.
” … Right now, it’s going to be much easier to get opponents for me because they see I’m also human being. I just made easier job for my promoter.”
Lomachenko was referring to the shocking knockdown Linares scored in Round 6, when the 32-year-old Venezuelan took one step back and fired off a straight right hand that landed on the button. It was the first time Lomachenko’s been on the canvas since an amateur fight in 2007, and the scene, if nothing else, provided a glimpse of the Ukrainian’s vulnerability.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who won titles at 126 pounds and 130, had never faced a fighter the size of Linares. His next foe could be even bigger.
Beltran, the rugged 37-year-old who trains in Hollywood, California, is a big, strong 135-pounder who would need to employ a non-stop pressure style to have any chance against Lomachenko.
Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) is a limited fighter compared to the athletically gifted Linares, but THE RING’s No. 3 lightweight packs a more devastating punch, and he’s naturally bigger, too. Beltran and Loma shared an ESPN doubleheader in August 2017 in Los Angeles, and now, they seem destined to meet one year later in the same area.
“I feel like Ray has never walked away from any challenge and if that fight is to be made … we’ll certainly have no issue with it,” Beltran’s longtime manager, Steve Feder, told THE RING on Sunday evening. “It’s going to come down to the numbers. Ray fought 12 rounds with Terence Crawford, who is a welterweight now, and he’s the only guy Terence couldn’t get rid off.
“Ray is a very, very strong 135 (pounds). He’s a big 135. As far as strength is concerned and the power of one shot, I’ll always give the edge to Ray over Linares. This is a street fight, we’re not going to do what Lomachenko wants us to do which is attempt to box with him.
“It will be about taking it to the streets, it won’t be the sweet science. Ray has a lethal left hook, if he lands that on anybody the night changes. You can pepper (Beltran) all night long, he just has to hit (Lomachenko) once. If Ray sneaks in his left, it’s going to be a whole lot more damaging (than Linares’ knockdown-producing straight right hand).”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger