Vasyl Lomachenko laughed when asked if he thinks he will be able to duplicate his amateur accomplishments in the professional ranks.
“No. That would be impossible,” he said.
The two-time boxing gold medal winner from the Ukraine finished his amateur career with a record of 396-1. And yes, he did avenge that one loss – twice.
Does he ever think about glorious accomplishments as an amateur?
“No. It’s in the past. It’s history. I’ve moved on,” Lomachenko said.
Lomachenko is eager to start building a similar lofty career as a pro. To call him precocious would be an understatement. He has had either seven or only one pro fight, depending in which record keepers you go to, yet he is stepping into the ring against a proven veteran, Orlando Salido, for the WBO featherweight championship.
That would be as laughable as going 396-1 as a pro, if Lomachenko was just another guy. But he’s not. His extensive amateur career, his outstanding boxing skills and his insanely grueling workout regimen makes him a legitimate threat to beat Salido when the two meet in the 12-round world title match on the undercard of the Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.-Bryan Vera rematch at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Saturday night. The bout will be broadcast on HBO.
Lomachenko, 26, doesn’t lack for confidence.
“I did a lot of work. I went to a lot of tournaments and the two gold medals can prove that I’m ready,” he said.
There is some question as to whether this is just the second pro fight for Lomachenko. He did have six matches in the World Series of Boxing, a tournament where the participants didn’t wear head gear, used pro weight gloves and were paid – all things that would eliminate a boxer from being considered an amateur. Those fights aren’t listed on BoxRec. But FightFax and the Association of Boxing Commissions, which uses FightFax as its official keeper of records, considered them pro matches.
Whatever the case, fighting for a world championship with under 10 pro matches on your record is an amazing accomplishment – if you can pull it off.
Two boxers have challenged for a world title in their pro debuts and both failed. Heavyweight Pete Rademacher was knocked out by Floyd Patterson in the sixth round in 1957. Light flyweight Rafael Lovera was knocked out in the fourth round by Luis Estaba in 1975. Lovera finished his career 0-1. He never fought again.
The fastest guy out of the gate is Saensak Muangsurin of Thailand, who won the WBC 140-pound championship via eighth-round KO over Perico Fernandez in 1975 in his third pro bout.
When Lomachenko signed with Top Rank last August he wanted to fight for a world championship in his pro debut.
“He pushed for it,” said Carl Moretti, Top Rank Chief of Boxing Operations. “We were like, ‘I get it. I get it. What about seven fights?’ He was like no. He really wanted to do it in the first one.”
They compromised on the second fight after he knocked out Jose Ramirez in the fourth round in his debut last October.
Moretti said he was sold on Lomachenko as the real deal after watching him against Ramirez and watching him work out. He said Lomachenko defeated the three top prospects in their company – Felix Verdejo, Oscar Valdez, and Jose Ramirez – in the amateurs.
Everyone in boxing is curious to see how Lomachenko does against Salido, who has been in against some of the top featherweights in the sport, including Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero when they were featherweights and Mikey Garcia, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Manuel Lopez more recently. Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs) has beaten Lopez twice.
Lomachenko is unfazed, but he expects a bruising fight.
“He’s a very tough fighter. He’s a very good fighter. It’s going to be a big battle. He’s not going to give away his championship belt,” Lomachenko said.
Lomachenko was born in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine but now lives in Marina Del Rey, Calif. His father was a boxing coach in the Ukraine and first took him to the gym when he was four years old. It was the beginning of a precocious nature in the sport that he has yet to shake. It wasn’t long after that when he had his first fight. And before he knew it he was on his way to an outstanding amateur career that saw him win gold medals at the Beijing Games in 2008 and the London Games in 2012.
With all that Olympic glory for Ukraine, it has been painful for Lomachenko to watch from halfway around the world as the government in his home country has collapsed following violent clashes with opposition parties. One of the leaders of the opposition is former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, the head of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform. Klitschko has been calling for democratic reforms, including an alliance with the European Union as a way to secure the economic and political future of Ukraine. He also called for the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who has been removed by Parliament and is in hiding.
Lomachenko is very careful to tiptoe around political questions.
“I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what’s happening,” Lomachenko said. “I try to stay out of it. Too bad a lot of innocent people are dying.”
He said he doesn’t really know the Klitschkos, though he is proud of what they have done in boxing and how well they have represented Ukraine.
“They’re from a different time (era) and from a different part of the country,” he said. “I met them at the Olympic Games. I don’t really have a friendship with them.”
Perhaps Lomachenko can be as dominant in boxing as the Klitschkos have been. It’s a plan. And his quick start out of the gate may be the wave of the future.
“The days of finding an amateur and giving him 25 or 30 fights before getting him into a championship is over,” Moretti said. “Nobody has four years of putting into anybody and hoping he wins a championship. The business doesn’t work like that anymore.”
Former junior welterweight champion Dmitriy Salita is tapping into the resurgent Brooklyn boxing scene as a promoter. His Star of David Promotions company has a show at the Millennium Theater in Brighton Beach on Thursday night. The show will feature Steven Martinez, once one of the hottest prospects in NYC, against Rahman Yusubov. Steve Bujal, a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion, is fighting Elvin Sanchez. Shawn Cameron, an Iraqi War veteran who will be fighting for wounded warriors, and Marco Suarez are fighting in separate bouts.
The bouts are being broadcast on Universal Sports Network.
“Boxing is always alive and well in NYC,” Salita said. “Now it’s bigger and better. Boxing is consistently at Barclays. The neighborhood where the fight on Thursday night is happening is a neighborhood hub and transportation center. And it’s a classic New York City card because you have people from all different backgrounds fighting for neighborhood bragging rights.”
Video / HBO