By Keith Idec
Vasyl Lomachenko’s critics have pointed to the size of the venues in which he has fought during his rise to prominence.
While his abililty inside the ring is undeniable, the Ukrainian southpaw’s detractors contend that he hasn’t established himself as a draw commensurate with his talent in the United States. His promoter, Bob Arum, feels Lomachenko’s fight against Guillermo Rigondeaux has proven otherwise.
Tickets to the card headlined by Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) and Cuba’s Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs, 1 NC) sold out in three days. That box-office performance has encouraged Madison Square Garden officials to stage Lomachenko’s next fight in New York in their main arena, which can accommodate roughly 20,000 fans for boxing.
Lomachenko-Rigondeaux will take place in the 5,100-seat Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night (ESPN; 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST).
Arum discussed Lomachenko’s development as a draw with Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett during his recent appearance on the longtime boxing enthusiast’s podcast, “Walking the Floor.”
“The Loma-Rigo fight sold out in three days at The Theater at Madison Square Garden,” Arum said. “And Joel Fisher, who runs events at The Garden, told me that the next time we bring Loma back to New York, it has to be in the big building because Lomachenko will easily sell it out. And the reason he says that is since we’ve announced the sellout, they get about 50 to 60 calls every day basically from Ukrainians who live in Brooklyn and other places in New York, looking to buy tickets to the fight. And when [Wladimir] Klitschko, which was the last terrific Ukrainian fighter to fight in The Garden, they came close to a sellout. And Lomachenko will do the same, maybe more. And I think with the platform we now have at ESPN, where a lot of their programming will be devoted to boxing … they’re beginning to talk more and more about boxing, and more and more about Lomachenko, and before you know it, I think he can be an icon.
“I mean, Golovkin became pretty well known and was able to sell out, or came close to selling out The Garden. And Lomachenko, I think will exceed that. And the reason for that is Golovkin struggled with English, and to this day really isn’t articulate in English. And Lomachenko is so damn smart that when I told him to about six, nine months ago to be serious and study English, he came back three months later fluent in English. He’s an amazing, amazing guy.”
The capacity crowd of more than 5,000 expected Saturday night will exceed the attendance for any of the first four cards Lomachenko has headlined in the United States since June 2016. Those fights took place at The Theater at Madison Square Garden (against Rocky Martinez in June 2016), The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (against Nicholas Walters in November 2016), MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland (against Jason Sosa on April 8) and Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (against Miguel Marriaga on August 5).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.