SAN DIEGO, August 4, 2017 – The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles provides a fitting stage for WBO junior lightweight champion and two time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl “High Tech” Lomachenko. The Ukrainian knows how to put on a a show. With every fight, he offers an operating system upgrade with a few new bells and whistles.
Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) will make the second defense of his title against Miguel “Escorpión” Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) from Arjona, Colombia. The fight will air as the main event live on Top Rank’s ESPN Boxing at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT, airing also on ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app.
Lomachenko has made among the smoothest transitions from amateur boxing in a generation. It’s not always a given. Many amateurs have solid fundamental skills. What they sometimes lack is a killer instinct and showmanship, skills that cannot be taught, only encouraged and developed. Lomachenko is blessed with both.
Nevertheless, Lomachenko gives full credit to the team around him for fully developing his talents. “If I don’t have my team, my father, psychologist, manager, I am not the world champion, I am not who I am now … It’s hard work, for the whole team. One team one nation, that’s it.”
Lomachenko dominated previously undefeated former WBA featherweight champion Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters of Jamaica so thoroughly, Walters quit in his corner after seven rounds. Lomachenko delivered another strong performance against former world champion Jason “El Canito” Sosa in April. Lomachenko’s control was so complete, he began entertaining the crowd and himself, playing matador with cape gestures. It was just short of taunting.
Lomachenko is quickly learning English, and he seems to enjoy the attention and in showing off some of his Cirque du Soleil skills, doing knuckle handstands, juggling, and turning back flips. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum believes he’s the best boxer on all levels since Muhammed Ali.
Lomachenko’s fight in April against Sosa was the second most watched fight on premium cable this year, second only to the Pacquiao vs. Horn fight. Fans should welcome seeing him again. Instead, the distinct sound of grumbling rumbles across social media, criticizing Lomachenko for not fighting a more significant opponent. Naysayers need an attitude adjustment.
Lomachenko has the same problem as many dominant boxing champions. Until they develop a bigger fan following, there isn’t enough money to make the risk vs. reward ratio worthwhile for big name opponents. No one minded losing to Floyd Mayweather for a multi-million dollar purse.
Then the chicken and egg problem pops up. Fans sneer at lesser opposition and snub those bouts. This is a mistake. It’s not the fault of Lomachenko (or Gennady Golovkin or Terence Crawford) they’re avoided. All three are smart enough to take the best opponent offered and stay busy. They get a paycheck, exposure, and the opportunity for the kind of work in the ring they can’t duplicate in the sterile atmosphere of the gym.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum hears it all the time, and he won’t have it. He lectured the boxing media and fans at the final news conference on Thursday. “UFC has taught us, a loss is not a death sentence. If a guy loses, but he loses heroically and gives 100 percent, people want to see them fight again and you can bring them back again.
“He (Miguel Marriaga) lost a fight to Valdez but he fought a close, courageous fight. So now when you’re looking for someone to put in with Vasyl Lomachenko, we remember the performance he had. He didn’t get the decision against (Oscar) Valdez, but everyone gave him the props for a great performance. That’s what we’ve got to do more and more in boxing. We cannot write them off when they lose a fight, esp. when they lose courageously,” declared Arum.
Few give Marriaga much chance of winning, but the opportunity exists and he’ll provide solid work. He understands his position. “If hey chose me as an opponent, it’s for a reason. I think Ive shown what I can do as a fighter. My last opponent, I had a great fight with Oscar Valdez, and that’s why I have this opportunity now.
“Things don’t always go as we expect,” warned Marriaga. “I have a great team and we are prepared for a win this Saturday. It will be a great win for Colombia, it’s difficult but It’s not impossible to be a great fighter like Lomachenko. Colombia’s expecting that world championship and I’m trying to bring it to them Saturday.”
Marriaga’s two losses were to a far better version of Nicholas Walters, and in March to Oscar Valdez. Marriaga was giving Valdez all he could handle and was close on many cards before he was knocked down in the tenth round.
Lomachenko assesses Marriaga’s performance against Valdez. “It’s a very interesting fight, very close fight. Marriaga is a true warrior, I think he just a little bit missing his physical conditioning.”
Lomachenko says his training never changes no matter who he faces. “I train very hard, I always prepare for my fight, I always prepare the same. I always have the same training camp. It doesn’t matter, top guy or easy guy. That’s why, dedication, yes. I never think about this, I just try to do my dream, I try to go to my dream.”
The dream used to be the Olympic gold medal. Now the dream is to be the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world. What does “High Tech” think it will take? “I think I need a couple champions, I think it’s maybe all champions at 130, After this fight, after I fight these guys, I will be number one pound for pound. For me it doesn’t matter, if you can’t get fights at 130, I will move to 135.”
Sparring partner Julian Bautista says of Lomachenko, “When you spar with him and go to someone else, it’s not the same … He takes you into deep waters, and then he drowns you. You gotta be ready at all times with him, and stay sharp.”
Whoever Lomachenko faces, fans look forward to seeing a performance which will entertain and impress.
On the televised undercard. Ray Beltran of Mexico (33-7-1, 21 KOs) former two-time interim WBA super featherweight world champion Bryan Vasquez (36-2, 19 KOs) in the 12-round co-featured event for regional NABO & NABF lightweight titles. Beltran, a longtime sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao, hit road bumps due to problems outside the ring including a pop for performance enhancing drugs. Since then, Beltran has buckled down, fueled by the desire to win and secure his green card to stay in the United States where he’s lived for most of his life. He has the results to show for it including a spectacular knockout win in May against Jonathan Maicelo in a title elimination fight.
Beltran says despite the stakes, his immigration status doesn’t affect him in the ring. “I don’t feel no pressure, you feel pressure when you have doubts. I have no doubts in my head. I’m a positive person you know, I believe in what I do, I’m confident in my training and my performance in gym. It’s a lot of motivation for me, because I’m not just fighting for the opportunity for my citizenship, but also the opportnity for a world title, there’s a lot on the table for me.”
Beltran admitted he’s made mistakes, and learned from them. “I think the biggest trouble a boxer has in his personal life. I had the sparring partner mentality. I had a lot of personal problems in my personal life that reflected on my performance in the fight. The main thing that makes me better is that I’m hungry, I’m still passionate, I love boxing and that makes the difference.”
Vasquez, who hadn’t secured a fight in nearly a year agreed to come up one weight division for the bout with Beltran. “No one gave me the opportunity at 130, so I’m going to take advantage of it. Before I was training and working another job. Right now I’m just training. I have the support of my family and my whole country behind me, I’m going to take advantage of that.”
Laughing, Vasquez added, “I hope that he doesn’t hit as hard as people say, but I can also hit, and I can take a punch.” It’s the recipe for solid boxing entertainment.
All fighters made weight on Friday, Lomachenko at the 130 pound limit, Marriaga at 129.8.
In addition to the televised bouts, the entire card will air on the ESPN app and TopRankTV.com online starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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