If you like watching history being made, find a way to watch the undercard of the Timothy Bradley v Juan Manuel Márquez welterweight title fight in the early hours of Sunday morning. The greatest fighter you’ve probably never heard of will make his pro debut in a featherweight contest against the respected Mexican, José Luiz Ramírez.
After a stellar amateur career in which he tasted defeat only once in 397 fights (he avenged that contentious loss twice by the way), collected two Olympic Gold medals, and was awarded the prestigious Val Barker Trophy, Vasyl Lomachenko is ready to announce himself to the prize fighting world. It will be an extraordinary debut for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is scheduled to be a 10 round fight – pretty much unheard of for a first timer. Secondly, it is against a boxer with only two defeats to his name after 28 encounters and is ranked 7th in the division by WBO – hot prospects usually enjoy a much easier baptism. Thirdly, Lomachenko is quite simply a bit special.
Bob Arum, who has seen his fair share of fighters in his 50 odd years in the game, is on record as saying the 25 year old Ukrainian is the finest to emerge from the amateurs since Sugar Ray Leonard and is a better prospect than either Mayweather or De La Hoya. Up there with Sugar Ray and better than Floyd? Praise does not really come much higher.
Trained by his father Anatoly, Lomachenko has all the slickness of an exceptional amateur combined with the speed, aggression and punching power of a top ranked pro. Take a look at his training routine in which he repeatedly punches a tennis ball attached to the front of his cap by a piece of elastic cord to get an idea of the precision of this guy’s blows. It calls to mind Maradona doing keepy-uppies with golf balls or Bradman hitting a ball against a wall with a cricket stump to enhance their accuracy with the real thing. Unfortunately for Ramírez, his head is substantially bigger than a tennis ball.
As the Klitschko brothers slowly jab and hold their way out of the sport, this kid is tailor-made to keep his country on the boxing map. In fact, given his attacking style, Lomachenko is likely to electrify fans in a way neither Vitali nor Wladimir ever managed. Universal stardom beckons.
Though not (yet anyway) brash outside the ropes, he lists Ali and fellow Val Barker Trophy winner Roy Jones Jr. as his biggest influences inside the ring. Like those two greats, Lomachenko does not appear to be lacking anything in the confidence department. Rather than being fazed at the challenge of facing someone of the calibre of Ramírez first time out, he is actually a little disappointed not to be fighting for a world title on debut. Win on Saturday night and that’ll come of course. Probably in his second fight. Possibly against the winner in the battle of the Orlandos (Cruz and Salido) who also clash in Vegas this weekend.
Lomachenko states that he is here to make history. A world champion in two professional fights? That should just about do it Vasyl.