2015 has been a disappointing year for the great Ukrainian, writes John Dennen.
WE have learned some things this weekend. But we haven’t learned anything new about Vasyl Lomachenko. Defending his WBO featherweight title from Romulo Koasicha, Lomachenko did exactly what we knew he could. He was patient, examined the man in front of him, pattered him with light shots from different angles to study his response and as the fight progressed unleashed the heavier artillery. His footwork bamboozled the Mexican, completely outmaneuvering Koasicha at times and once Lomachenko decided to finish him with body shots the Ukrainian was ruthlessly accurate.
But Lomachenko should be further on from the likes of Koasicha. It was essentially a repeat of his showcase against Gamalier Rodriguez on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard in May.
Lomachenko is a hugely impressive boxer. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him more than most – I was ringside to see him win his second World championships gold medal in Azerbaijan, his second Olympic gold in London, box against Sam Maxwell in York Hall of all places. I even got to see his pro debut at the Thomas & Mack centre, his world title defence against Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo in Macau and the Rodriguez bout at the MGM. But even my admiration for the great man has faded, slightly, since he won his world title in just three professional contests.
That Piriyapinyo fight was exciting. Despite hurting one hand Lomachenko hunted for the knockout using just his right. But Rodriguez and Koasicha, who accounted for 2015 activity, brought little extra out of him. He is too good for them, so good in fact that he should already be unifying world titles and looking to move up the divisions. (Given that he won his second Olympics at lightweight and boxed in the World Series of Boxing at 61kgs, I don’t see why he can’t move up to both super-feather and lightweight and win titles there.)
After Piriyapinyo he said from then on he only wanted major fights and to unify titles. That hasn’t happened. Maybe the politics of boxing has complicated the task. Many of the other featherweight champions are represented by Al Haymon, for instance Lee Selby, the IBF titlist, and Leo Santa Cruz, the WBA titlist, while Lomachenko is with Top Rank. Plus, he has already fought and beaten Gary Russel Jnr, who went on to win the WBC featherweight title.
Is Guillermo Rigondeaux then the answer to the problem? Like Lomachenko the Cuban was a tremendous amateur, he won world titles in quick time too and is as talented, if not more so than the Ukrainian. For those who know their boxing it is almost the ultimate match up and I’d have no complaints if it did get made. But I’m not sure if it would gain the headlines a fight like this deserves. Rigondeaux, since his outstanding victory over Nonito Donaire, has been becalmed. He is yet to fight in 2015. If Nicholas Walters can’t make featherweight anymore, Donaire could be an appealing foe for Lomachenko. Although (like Rigondeaux), Donaire is a super-bantamweight, it would pit a seasoned pro against a legendary amateur. Nonito has been in good form this year with two inside the distance wins already, a third fight coming up in December and he looked sharp against Anthony Settoul last time out. Donaire has the name recognition Lomachenko needs, Lomachenko has the world title the Filipino wants.