Editor’s note: Tim Burgess will be providing occasional fight coverage for Houston Sports and Stuff. Follow him on Twitter @timburg
By TIM BURGESS
As a boxer, it seems like Vasyl Lomachenko has it all. Technically speaking, Lomachenko is probably the most gifted fighter in the sport. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has unrivaled speed and footwork and his activity rate is also one of the best. Lomachenko also has underappreciated power; though better known for his technical abilities, Lomachenko has knocked out his last three opponents in impressive fashion. Lomachenko also possesses incredible pedigree: he’s widely considered the greatest amateur fighter in the history of boxing.
But despite all of this, Vasyl Lomachenko doesn’t have it all. He doesn’t have a large American fan base. The Ukrainian has fought on HBO since turning pro, but has been relegated to smaller headlines and pay-per-view under cards. Because of the high risk of fighting him, and low reward when it comes to payout, it seems that Lomachenko also often doesn’t have an adequate opponent willing to step in the ring with him. Luckily for fight fans that isn’t the case this Saturday when Lomachenko gets his biggest matchup in more than two years when he fights Jamaican Nicholas Walters from the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.
The fight, which is on regular HBO, is a classic speed versus power, technician versus slugger matchup. Walters announced himself on the scene in 2014 when he brutally knocked out then-champion Nonito Donaire in an absolute beating which gained Walters the WBA featherweight title. After that bout it seemed that Walters was destined for stardom. However, Walters’ career has been somewhat of a dud since then. Following his victory over Donaire, Walters defended his belt against Miguel Marriaga. But Walters couldn’t make weight. He cruised to a unanimous decision victory over Marriaga in a snoozer of a fight, but vacated the belt due to the weight. Walters got back in the ring in December of last year against challenger Jason Sosa. Walters controlled the entire fight, winning every round on most onlookers’ scorecards, but in classic boxing fashion two judges scored the fight even, making it a draw.
Perhaps soured by the unjust draw, or a desire for a bigger payday, Walters has been out of action for almost a year, but chose to come back and make the best super featherweight fight that can be made in the sport. It will be a treat for boxing fans on Saturday night.
Lomachenko has already held world championships in two weight classes, but has only fought seven times in his professional career. He has amassed a 6-1 record, only falling to Orlando Salido when they fought for the WBO featherweight title in Lomachenko’s second ever professional bout. Lomachenko has plenty of ring experience, however. He amassed a 396-1 record as an amateur.
The Lomachenko/Walters fight was added relatively late to HBO’s winter slate, along with several other fights. According to Forbes HBO had planned on a December bout for Canelo Alvarez, which would have eaten up most of the network’s budget for the rest of year. But a hand injury forced Canelo out of the fight, giving us Saturday’s excellent matchup instead.
There actually will be no live undercard for Satuday’s fight. Instead the undercard will be a replay of last Saturday’s pay-per-view thriller between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. (I thought Kovalev did enough to earn the victory, for those that are curious.)
Lomachenko by unanimous decision. There was a time that I felt Walters’ power could be too much for Lomachenko. But since moving up to super featherweight Lomachenko looks bigger and stronger and hasn’t lost a step when it comes to speed and footwork. Walters has a puncher’s chance, but I expect Lomachenko to be in control of what should be an exciting fight.