Lomachenko’s lack of size will keep him at 135
By Chris Williams: WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) had to struggle last Saturday to defeat the bigger WBO champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 3 judges had Lomachenko winning the fight by the scores 117-109, 119-107 and 117-109. It was not an easy fight for Lomachenko. You could see that by looking at how marked up his face was afterwards. Lomachenko was hit early and often by Pedraza, and by the end of the fight, the Puerto Rican fighter still looked fresh and unmarked. You couldn’t say that about Lomachenko.
Afterwards, Lomachenko had the look of someone that had taken a bad beating by Pedraza. The way that Lomachenko had to labor to a victory over a guy that was wiped out by Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis just last year, suggests that he’s not gong to be able to move up to 140 and 147 to seek out additional fame and fortunate. It’s too bad. Lomachenko won’t be able to increase his popularity to any great extent if he chooses to stay at lightweight .
Boxing great Manny Pacquiao realized that it was a dead end for him to stay at the lower weight classes, which is why challenged himself by moving up to 147 to face the best. Although the 5’5 1/2″ Pacquiao is considerably shorter than the 5’7″ Lomachenko, he’s blessed with far more punching power and hand speed. As much as Top Rank promoter Bob Arum likes to compare Lomachenko with Muhammad Ali, he’s not that kind of talent. What Pacquiao did in winning world titles in eight divisions would lead some to compare him to the great Ali, but not Lomachenko in winning world titles in just three weight classes.
Lomachenko has a small frame and short arms, which will put him at a distinct disadvantage if he were to move up to light welterweight or welterweight. Lomachenko clearly knows his limitations, since he’s not even talking about wanting to fight at 140 or 147. It would be nice if Lomachenko did want to chase glory in those weight classes, but he’s not that type of a risk taker. It took Lomachenko all this time just to move up to lightweight after starting out his pro career in 2013. Lomachenko got a late start to his career after fighting in the amateur ranks for a long period, finishing with a 396-1 record.
Lomachenko says he wants a fight against WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia in 2019, but that’s a pipe dream on his part. Lomachenko fights for Top Rank on ESPN. Mikey is with Premier Boxing Champion and fights on Fox and Showtime. For Garcia and Lomachenko to fight each other, the fight would need to be televised/streamed on ESPN and Fox/Showtime. That’s probably not going to happen. It’s not a big enough fight with the casual boxing fans for there to be money to be made for more than one network. If Mikey fought Lomachenko on ESPN PPV, it would be a nice payday for the two of them. The same goes for if Lomachenko came over to Fox or Showtime to face Mikey. But it’s not likely to happen.
“Maybe next year we can make a fight with Mikey Garcia,” Lomachenko said in dreaming about a fight with Mikey.
Lomchenko sounds out of touch with reality in talking about wanting to fight Mikey Garcia in 2019. It’s not going to happen, and it’s a waste of breath for Lomachenko to even discuss that fight. Mikey is on the other side of the fence with him managed by Premier Boxing Champions boss Al Haymon, and there’s not going to be a fight between him and Lomachenko. Instead of talking about fights that have no chance of ever happening, Lomachenko should tell Top Rank he wants to fight their Nebraska star Terence Crawford at 147. That’s a fight that Top Rank can make easily. They can also match Lomachenko against WBC light welterweight champion Jose Ramirez, WBO 140 lb champion Maurice Hooker or welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Those are all fights that the boxing world would love to see from Lomachenko.
If Lomachenko wants to become a star, he’s going to need to do what Mikey is now doing in moving up to welterweight to challenge one of the talented champions in that weight class. Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) will be challenging International Boxing Federation welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on March 16 on Fox pay-per-view. Mikey understands what he’s up against in moving up two weight classes to face the much bigger and stronger Spence, but he doesn’t care. Mikey is an old school fighter in the Sugar Ray Robinson (174-19-6, 109 KOs) mode, and he’s not afraid to test himself against bigger fighters. Robinson started his career out at lightweight in 1940, and he quickly moved up all the way to middleweight to get bigger fights in his 10th year as a pro. Robinson was unbeatable until he moved up to middleweight. He didn’t care that he suffered occasional losses at middleweight. He was always willing to fight the best. Mikey is the same way. He’s willing to put himself in situations where he’s the smaller guy in order to get the bigger fights, and help shape his legacy. What we’re seeing from Lomachenko is the opposite. He’s choosing to stay at lightweight where he feels comfortable, and not put himself at risk of losing occasionally.
The thing is, Lomachenko could accomplish much more with his career if he put himself in situations where he would lose periodically. By moving up to 140 and 147 to fight the best, Lomachenko would broaden his career by fighting a wider variety of popular fighters, some of which he which he lose to, but many that he could still beat. Evander Holyfield could have stayed at cruiserweight his entire career and dominated that division for many years, but he chose to move up to heavyweight to fight giants like Lennox Lewis, George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. The weight difference from where Holyfield was fighting at cruiserweight to him fighting at heavyweight against 250 lb. fighters was astronomical. Holyfield didn’t care. he was willing to to face the best, and put himself in situations where he was the smaller guy. We’re not seeing that same risk-taking philosophy from Lomachenko. He’s comfortable at lightweight, and he doesn’t want to move up in weight like Holyfield, Pacquiao and Mikey.
Lomachenko will struggle even at lightweight to hold on at the top for a long time unless his promoters at Top Rank baby him, and keep him away from the giants in the division like Robert Easter Jr. and Luke Campbell. Lomachenko is lucky that the 5’9″ Terry Flanagan has moved up to 140. That would be a real nightmare for Lomachenko.
It’s disappointing to think that Lomachenko has now reached the zenith of his short five-year pro career, but that’s what it appears is the case. Lomachenko has bottomed out with his rise in weights, and he’s showing resistance to move up in weight any higher than where he’s at right now at lightweight. In other words, Lomachenko doesn’t want to step out of his comfort zone. He’s fine right where he’s at in the lightweight division after having moved up from super featherweight .
The immediate future for Lomachenko in 2019 will see him likely facing the winner of the Richard Commey vs. Isa Chaniev fight for the IBF lightweight title in 2019. After that, Lomachenko is expected to face Miguel Berchelt, who Top Rank co-promotes. That’s a fight that Lomachenko should have taken before he moved out of the super featherweight division. Those fights won’t do much to raise Lomachenko’s profile in the boxing world. The days of fighters hoping to increase their popularity by unifying the division are gone. It doesn’t work. Look at Crawford. He unified the 140 lb weight class, and his popularity failed to rise. The reason for that is titles are no longer that important due to the way sanctioning bodies have watered down the divisions with the massive amount of titles they’ve created. The only way to become popular in this day and age is for fighters to take on the biggest names possible. The way to make that happen is for fighters to move up or down in weight to get the biggest fights. The fighters have to be willing to take on guys that are bigger than them if they want to increase their popularity. Mikey Garcia is willing to do that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Lomachenko wants to take the same risk. If Lomachenko wants to be great, he has to follow Mikey’s lead and move up in weight.