By Alexey Sukachev
Rising manager Egis Klimas spoke to BoxingScene.com about the diamond in his boxing stable, two-time Olympic gold medal winner Vasyl Lomachenko (1-0, 1KO). The boxer will go for a world title in only his second pro fight, when he challenges WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido on March 1.
- Vasyl Lomachenko is the jewel of your stable and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He debuted with an eye-catching win of Jose Ramirez in October. Has he exceeded your expectations, or equaled them?
- He is so special. The plan was to box with Ramirez, to go the distance with him in the first pro fight, maybe all ten rounds to show Vasyl’s skills and abilities. But that’s boxing. He threw a punch – it was natural – his opponent went down and out. For me, personally, it was a much more interesting turn of events.
Vasya dropped his opponent, made it look spectacular. He looked great. In the third, he landed a picturesque combo on Ramirez with such an ease, that it was astounding. He cut off the ring perfectly, he showed technique. Then he landed that punch. What are boxing fans waiting and looking for in a fight?
- I suppose, knockout is the right answer?
- Absolutely. And he delivered it. Had he danced with that Mexican for all ten rounds – I’ll tell you – someone would have certainly said how dull that fight was. Psychology. Like people say of [Guillermo] Rigondeaux. A great boxer? Yes! One you will pay to watch? Nah…
I’m totally delighted with the outcome of the fight. Lomachenko is a unique product, a special fighter. Not only me but also Bob Arum – we think he has a PPV future ahead of him. His first fight was PPV, despite him being a foreigner. His second fight will be PPV as well. People will pay to watch him.
- With all due respect to Vasily, his first fight wasn’t a complete blowout. He had marks on his face. He missed some punches, and he got hit by Ramirez.
- I’ve reviewed tapes of Ramirez fight. That bruise – it has come from a headbutt rather than from a punch. On one hand, it doesn’t matter – you should look after all the details while in ring. You should be ready for everything, including fouls and dirty tactics. On the other hand, that’s boxing.
I don’t think it is what we should worry about. You get hit in boxing. It’s not a ballet, it’s a tough game. But you should eat one to answer with a multi-punch combination, and it makes for a crowd-pleasing fighter, one who will be beloved. Much more dangerous are heavy blows, and we shall control that.
- Who has made Vasily such a great boxer he is?
- His father. Anatoly Nikolayevich [Lomachenko] made Vasya so great. 95% of Lomachenko is his father, who has prepared an absolute fight machine. His knowledge is great, his connection with his son is perfect.
- Anatoly Lomachenko is a great amateur coach. Perception is he doesn’t have full knowledge of the pro game yet. What can be done to strengthen Team Lomachenko? Can Vasily make a transition to a pro trainer from his father? Will it affect him?
- I saw many examples of that kind in boxing, when father trains his son. Shane Mosley, Nathan Cleverly, Roy Jones and so on. My perception always was like: “Nah, he will run into it, shouting, making an unnecessary fuss in the corner – we don’t need that. A father shouldn’t be a trainer”. In the case of the Lomachenko family, it’s different, and I feel cutting down this connection will cut off Vasyl’s pro future.
Anatoly Lomachenko is such a knowledgeable guy. He analyzes, he studies fights and boxing trends. Everything he says… it makes sense. And Vasily trusts him fully… But when they came to America, Papa Lomachenko himself asked us to find a pro coach with a great understanding of prizefighting to help them, to make their team stronger. It’s not just words. He can speak but he can also listen to.
Team Lomachenko is very strong. We’ve brought in rising coach Joey Gamache, a two-time world champion himself to the camp. Gamache is a very promising young coach, who was refined by the late great Emanuel Steward. He also works as a cutman. We also have a specific conditioning trainer and a speed-developing guru, who help us. Both Vasily and Anatoly accepted these newcomers.
FUTURE OF LOMACHENKO
- On March 1 he battles ultra-tough veteran champion Orlando Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs) for the WBO title. If he is successful…
- Not “if”. When he is successful (smiles).
- Yes, when he is successful… Okay. I feel that questions about the Salido fight are worthless now. So when he is past Salido, I assume, only big-time fights and only stars will be on his mind. And if not stars then at least, other champions in the featherweight division. One of them is Gradovich. Is there a chance for that fight – between Gradovich and Lomachenko, both being managed by you and promoted by Top Rank?
- Of course, I don’t want this fight to happen. I’m against it. But that is the sport. If this fight comes along, we shall do it. Maybe I shall not be present at the arena for that show, so I don't show any signs of support and sympathy for both of them. I’ll stay at home, popcorn in my hand (smiles), watching it by TV.
Friends clash against each other in the ring. Once, in 1955, there was a fight for the Soviet championship, when the two best Lithuanian fighters Algirdas Šocikas and Richardas Juškenas, who were also close friends, collided in the final. Richardas Juškenas is my father-in-law. And Šocikas asked: “What shall we do, Richardas”, while Juškenas answered: “What can we do? What shall we do? We should fight!” They fought, and Juškenas won…
One manager and one promoter – that is an intra-team fight, which is always possible. A more recent sample: Orlando Salido defeated Orlando Cruz – both were promoted by Top Rank. Yes, Lomachenko vs. Gradovich is surely possible.
- People say Rigondeaux is who you should fight next after Salido (not saying if) is done with. What do you think?
- It’s possible. Why not? I don’t feel Vasya isn’t ready – he is. But Rigondeaux should move up in weight to 126 lbs for this fight to happen. In one of his interviews, the Cuban master asked for a catchweight. It doesn’t make sense. Vasyl will not drain down to 122 lbs. That’s highly unlikely. If Team Rigondeaux wants that fight, go up in weight, and we shall be here.
- What a fight that would be? Will it be interesting to watch two prime (and, in my mind, still) amateurs in the prize ring?
- Guillermo [Rigondeaux] isn’t fun to watch – that’s true. His latest fights were disastrous – from that standpoint. Of course, he is a unique boxer; he moves perfectly, he is untouchable; he is a perfect product for an extreme hardcore purist. Sadly [for them], boxing is made for fans. It’s hard to find many, boxing the way Rigondeaux boxes.
Rigondeaux is not what HBO, what TV channels need from boxing. What they need is fights like James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia, like Matt Korobov’s latest outing. Yes, Korobov was badly shaken, but he weathered the storm and knocked his opponent out. Ruslan Provodnikov – wow! What fights he has brought on the table.
Frankly, I don’t want this fight. Just because the Cuban fighter is capable of jinxing any fight against any fighter. He would run much, tip-tap – then jump out on the distance and run around. People will start quitting the arena after five to six rounds of such a horrible “blockbuster”. Who needs that? But if the offer is there, we should certainly weigh-in all the options and discuss it within our Team. We don’t rule this fight out.