Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Olympic star Lomachenko is unleashed on the pros


Vasyl Lomachenko’s gloves and gear are crammed into a large brown paper bag, and he wears the blue-and-yellow gear of the Ukrainian Olympic team when he arrives at the famed Wild Card Boxing Club.

His father and trainer, Anatoly, clicks the stopwatch around his neck while Lomachenko does everything from standard bag work to a two-man wheelbarrow crawl around the canvas. Later, Lomachenko puts on a cap with a small ball attached by a springy cord. He jabs the ball repeatedly away from him, treating it like a speed bag in an astonishing display of coordination.

As anybody who saw the most accomplished amateur boxer of his generation in the ring in Beijing or London could attest, Lomachenko has an inimitable style. When the two-time Olympic gold medalist makes his pro debut tomorrow night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, he will continue to do things in a way no other fighters could imagine.

“If everything works out the way we hope, this kid will be the hottest thing in all of boxing,” said Top Rank founder and chief executive Bob Arum, his star-struck promoter. “I’ve seen some things I’ve never seen in my life. He could revolutionize the way things are done.”

Instead of several short warm-up fights to build his experience and confidence, Lomachenko will debut in a 10-round bout with Jose Luis Ramirez (24-2-2), a respected Mexican featherweight. Instead of a gradual move toward the top, Lomachenko is contractually guaranteed a 126-pound (57.2kg) world title shot in his second fight if he wins his first.

No fighter in Arum’s near half-century of promotion has moved so quickly — not even Leon Spinks, who had to wait until his eighth pro fight to upset Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1978.

After dominating the headgear-and-punch-scoring amateur version of the sport for several years, Lomachenko sees no reason he should wait. In fact, he insisted upon it when he interviewed Western promoters this summer.

Lomachenko did not want a seven-figure signing bonus. He wanted a title shot in his very first time in a pro ring — and he missed by only one fight.

“I want to make history,” Lomachenko said through his adviser and translator, Egis Klimas. “I don’t want to be just a regular great fighter. I want to be the best.”

Assuming Lomachenko wins his debut this weekend, he is likely to return in New York in January for that title shot. He would face the winner of Orlando Salido’s bout for a vacant title against Orlando Cruz tomorrow night, or maybe WBA champion Nicholas Walters.

“He did the smart thing,” Arum said. “Because now, based on his performance, he’ll be making relatively huge money, and he’ll have earned it instead of making us pay him at the start.”

Anatoly said he started his son in boxing at four years old, but pulled him out of the gym at nine and put him in a dancing school for four years. At 13, Anatoly put the gloves back on his son and honed the footwork skills gleaned from dance.

Lomachenko mastered the amateur sport during his two Olympic runs, but he did it in a crowd-pleasing, big-punching style that seems well suited for the pro game.

“He’s very quick, and he’s very heavy-handed,” Arum said. “He’s everything you want in a professional boxer.”

If Lomachenko is as good as the boxing world expects, it is not tough to imagine him following in the footsteps of the Klitschko brothers or Manny Pacquiao as a fighter from a pugilistic outpost who became a worldwide figure on the strength of his sheer talent.

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