By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Vasyl Lomanchenko hasn’t given Bob Arum a reason to be the least bit cautious about matching him.
From the moment they met following the 2012 Summer Olympics, Lomachenko made it crystal clear to the Hall-of-Fame promoter that he wanted tough fights as soon as he turned pro. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was so ambitious he wanted his pro debut to be a title fight.
Not even Arum could make that happen. A title shot had to wait all the way until Lomachenko’s second pro fight.
Lomachenko lost that 12-rounder to rugged Mexican Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs, 1 NC) by split decision, but he won his first world title in his following fight. The Ukrainian southpaw out-boxed previously unbeaten Gary Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KOs), a highly skilled 2008 American Olympian, by majority decision to win the then-vacant WBO world featherweight championship in June 2014.
Two-and-a-half years later, he is scheduled to make the first defense of his WBO world super featherweight title against dangerous Jamaican contender Nicholas Walters, himself a two-division champion whose dubious draw with Jason Sosa remains the lone blemish on his professional record.
If Lomachenko, an eyebrow-raising 9-1 favorite Wednesday at the Las Vegas sports books, withstands Walters’ challenge on Saturday night at The Cosmopolitan, a move up to 135 or 140 pounds for a megafight against Manny Pacquiao “isn’t out of the realm of possibility,” according to Arum. If he doesn’t fight Pacquiao, Arum won’t hesitate to match Lomachenko against anyone in or near his weight class.
“From the first day I met him,” Arum said during a conference call this week, “when he sat down with me, and we discussed his future, I was concerned because people were offering him big signing bonuses to sign. And he told me he didn’t want a big signing bonus, that he wants to earn his own money. All he wanted was challenges sent to him. And that’s what I’m gonna do. He doesn’t want, like a lot of fighters, gimmes.”
The 28-year-old Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) and the 30-year-old Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs) will headline HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” broadcast Saturday night. The telecast is scheduled to start at 10:35 p.m. with a replay of the controversial Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight title fight, which Ward won by unanimous decision Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.