Vasyl Lomachenko’s next title belt will come from his footwork
Before the pummeling comes the footwork. That’s where it all starts. That’s how Vasyl Lomachenko frustrates his opponents into quitting on their stools.
It begins as a ballet that transforms into a beatdown. That’s how Lomachenko unleashes his destruction. It starts with his footwork.
“I think footwork is one of the most important things to becoming a great fighter,” Lomachenko said through an interpreter this week. “That’s where everything starts.”
The lightning-quick southpaw from Ukraine will put his artistry on display again Saturday night when he moves up in weight to challenge Jorge Linares for the WBA lightweight championship at Madison Square Garden. In what is just his 12th professional fight, a victory would give Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) a world title in a third weight division after winning gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. ESPN will televise beginning at 8 p.m.
Lomachenko, 30, is going up from 130 to 135 pounds to take on the best lightweight in the world in Linares (44-3, 27 KOs), who has won his past 13 fights and hasn’t lost since 2012.
“Fans from around the world have been waiting for Jorge and me to fight,” Lomachenko said. “We appreciate the work Top Rank did to put this fight together, and thanks to the television networks that helped make it happen.”
The unusually early start time is the product of a scheduling agreement which proved much ado about nothing. ESPN agreed to the early start time to appease Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes not only Linares, but WBO junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali. The Brooklyn-born Ali is fighting at Turning Stone in Verona, N.Y., on HBO at 10 p.m., and was to be preceded by a replay of what was supposed to be Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight title defense against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, another Golden Boy fighter, from May 5 in Las Vegas.
Prior to the cancelation, Golden Boy didn’t want their fighters performing on competing networks at the same time, so the Linares-Lomachenko camps and ESPN cleared an earlier prime time spot. It shouldn’t hurt ratings. Give Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank headed by Bob Arum credit for putting past differences aside and working together to produce the much-anticipated bout. Lomachenko’s popularity and Linares’ credibility make this a must see.
Lomachenko’s footwork, hand speed, and boxing wizardry have overwhelmed his past four opponents, who have quit on their stool.
“Yes, I can tell when they get frustrated,” Lomachenko said. “Everything is based on the situation and it comes instinctively and fluidly.It’s all done with coordination and it’s all tied together my feet, my hands and my head.”
Linares, 32, has no intention of quitting. The Venezuelan said he wanted this fight and has been preparing for Lomachenko by facing southpaws in his two previous bouts.
“I want to fight the best fighters and show the world where I am,” Linares said through an interpreter. “I’ve been studying him for a long time.”
This would be the kind of win that validates Linares’ legacy. He’ll have an edge in natural size, experience, and punching power. But he is prone to cuts, which could betray him against the quick-striking Lomachenko.
“I’ve been working on how to beat him,” Linares said. “I think we’re going to push each other to the limits. There can only be one winner and that’s going to be me.”
After the cancelation of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, Linares-Lomachenko from the Garden is just what the sport needs. It’s a quality Top Rank card that includes: Marine Jamel Herring, U.S. women’s Olympian Mikaela Mayer from Long Island, Brooklyn unbeaten lightweight Teofimo Lopez, Irish Olympian featherweight Michael Conlan and a welterweight bout pitting Alejandro Barrera (27-4, 17 KOs) of Mexico against Carlos Adames (13-0, 11 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. First bell is 4:30 p.m.
Prediction: Lomachenko by TKO in 9.
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