Vasyl Lomachenko to fight next on April 12
By Chris Williams: Vasiliy Lomachenko won his second title at lightweight in capturing the WBO 135 lb belt last Saturday night, and he’ll be fighting next on April 12 against an opponent still to be determined at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The idea is for the 30-year-old Lomachenko to face the winner of the fight between Richard Commey (27-2, 24 KOs) and Isa Chaniev (13-1, 6 KOs). Those two will be scraping it out for the vacant International Boxing Federation lightweight title on February 2 on the undercard of the rematch between WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez and Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev on ESPN at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.
if the 30-year-old Lomachneko can win the IBF title by beating the Commey-Chaniev winner, then he’ll have three of the four titles at lightweight. Lomachenko and Top Rank could then look to ratchet up the pressure on World Boxing Council lightweight champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) to try and force him to make the unification fight with him in 2019. Even if Lomachenko wins three of the four titles at 135, it’s still a long shot that Top Rank will be able to get Mikey to agree to a unification fight. Anything is possible though. Mikey is moving up to welterweight to challenge IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. on March 16. Mikey might not care about fighting Lomachenko in a unification fight. He’s with a different manager in Al Haymon, and he fights on a different network on Premier Boxing Champions on FOX and SHOWTIME. As long as Mikey is with a different network than Lomachenko, it would seem unlikely that the two will face each other. Lomachenko would need to be content with holding three of the four titles at lightweight, because he won’t be able to force Mikey to fight him. Lomachenko could get all the belts he wants if he were to move up to 140. There would be nothing stopping Lomachenko from fighting all the champions at light welterweight. However, Lomachenko would risk getting not only beaten by the top 140 fighters, but also knocked out. As such, Lomachenko is in a situation where he may have reached his ceiling at lightweight, and will need to stay at that level or take a career risk by moving up in weight to 140 and 147 the way that Mikey Garcia has done.
Lomachenko now holds the WBA and WBO 125 lb titles, and he wants to capture the IBF belt from the winner of the Commey-Chaniev fight. Lomachenko’s goal is to unify the the entire lightweight division by winning all four titles. It’s an admirable goal, but not one that will further his popularity to any great extent. Other than Mikey Garcia, most of the fighters in the lightweight division are not hold household names, even among the hardcore boxing fans.
Lomachenko staying at lightweight to potentially spend the next two years trying to unify the division would seem like a waste of time on his part, but it appears that he doesn’t want to take a risk of moving up to 140 and 147 to face bigger, stronger and in some cases faster fighters than himself. Lomachenko is apparently content at staying at lightweight and fighting the little known opposition in this weight class. Although there plenty of fights for the pound-for-pound king Lomachenko at light welterweight and welterweight, he’s not expected to move up to those weight classes in order to further his career.
Lomachenko is the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, but he might not stay there if he were to take fights against the top 140 and 147 lb fighters. There are clearly guys that would use their size and power to beat the 5’7″ Lomachenko. The downside of Lomachenko staying at 135 is few casual boxing fans are interested in that division due to the small size of the fighters, and the lack of attention the division gets. There’s no guarantee that Lomachenko will ever be a big star in boxing aside from with the hardcore fans if he stays at lightweight.
Lomachenlo can unify the lightweight division, but it likely won’t register with the casual boxing fans. They won’t care. You can argue that Lomachenko unifyhing the lightweight division is nerd stuff that only the ultra-hardcore boxing fans would care about. In order to hit home with the casual boxing fans, Lomachenko needs to fight popular guys like Mikey Garcia, Regis Prograis, Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman. Those are the type of fighters that Lomachenko needs to be facing for him to get noticed by the casual boxing fans.
Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) came into last Saturday night’s fight against WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) as the WBA lightweight champion at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lomachenko was able to out-box Pedraza and beat him by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 117-109, 119-107 and 117-109.
“We think Lomachenko’s brand as a fighter is growing, but he has been predominantly an East Coast fighter, and we want to bring him back to the West Coast and help build his brand even more,” Top Rank president Todd duBoef said to ESPN.com.
Lomachenko’s fight with Pedraza brought in good ratings last Saturday night on ESPN, but it’s unclear whether that’s due to him being recognized by casual boxing fans or simply a case of his fight being televised on a channel that has a lot of fans watching all the time. In other words, having Lomachenko fight on ESPN will bring in a lot of fans in a passive way. Since fans of all types are watching ESPN all the time, they can’t help but to see his fights. The real question is are the fans true boxing fans or simply casual fans flipping to ESPN in order to watch other sports like basketball, football or soccer? We don’t know. Lomachenko’s fight with Pedraza pulled in an average of 2.013 million viewers on ESPN. The card brought in 1.865 million viewers.
What’s interesting is the co-feature bout between World Boxing Organization super bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe and Emanuel Navarrete brought in better ratings than the Lomachenko vs. Pedraza fight did in peaking at 2.118 million viewers. When you see something like that, it suggests that the casual boxing fans weren’t tuning in to see Lomachenko per say. Navarrete defeated Dogboe by a 12 round unanimous decision in an exciting fight from start to finish. Navarrete was the star of the show with his performance, and this was his first fight on ESPN. This is a guy that Top Rank and ESPN need to keep an eye on, as his style of fighting is very fan friendly. It doesn’t matter that Navarrete isn’t a pound-for-pound king or a former 2-time Olympic gold medalist. He can flat out fight, and he’s entertaining to watch. Navarrete didn’t bother trying to be technical last Saturday night. He was trying to take Dogboe’s head off with every shot, and it was an exciting match.
In the first fight of the televised portion of the ESPN card, lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez looked sensational in stopping Mason Menard in the 1st round. The fight was over with in 44 seconds of round 1. Lopez is another fighter that ESPN and Top Rank need to keep an eye on. He’s an exciting fighter with loads of talent. Lopez is a future world champion in waiting. The Lopez-Menard fight brought in 1.8 million viewers. Those are excellent ratings for an undercard fight.