By Francisco Salazar
Vasiliy Lomachenko is in a no-win situation at this point in his career.
Convincingly beat fighters like Anthony Crolla and some boxing fans will say he was supposed to do so. Struggle (of even lose) against fighters like Crolla and those same people will say Lomachenko is overrated or overhyped.
There have been doubters and naysayers of Lomachenko, especially in recent fights. Either the criticism has come from overzealous fight fans or they simply do not like Lomachenko.
Lomachenko has laughed off the criticism and continues to fight on, as he will tonight against Crolla at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Lomachenko will defend his WBA and WBO world title belts against the Manchester, England fighter (ESPN+, 11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. PT).
The 31-year-old Lomachenko has won world title belts in three different weigh classes, beginning in his third pro fight in June of 2014, when he defeated Gary Russell, Jr. Since then, Lomachenko has dominated opposition, including a move up to 130 pounds and winning another world title belt.
Lomachenko decided to move up in weight and challenge then-WBA titleholder Jorge Linares on May 12. In one of the better fights of 2018, Lomachenko overcame a knockdown in round six to drop Linares with a left hand to the body and win by knockout in round 11.
In his last bout on Dec. 8, Lomachenko took a while to get going before dominating the second half of the fight, scoring two knockdowns of Jose Pedraza late in the fight to win by decision.
Fight fans are quick to look at Lomachenko’s last two fights through a half-empty glass approach. Lomachenko has faced stronger and bigger fighters at 135 pounds, where these fighters could take a punch and are talented as well. Both Linares and Pedraza have won world title belts, despite now being on the downside of their careers.
While Lomachenko may look more vulnerable in recent fights, he has fought on more even terms, where he has been more willing to engage against fighters like Linares and Pedraza.
Lomachenko may take that approach tonight against Crolla, who despite having 13 knockouts, likes to sit in the pocket and trade. Crolla may be the physically bigger fighter, but it will be interesting to see how well he takes Lomachenko’s punches.
Lomachenko, who is originally from the Ukraine and now resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Camarillo, will want to appease the fans in attendance, many of whom are of Ukrainian descent and live in the Los Angeles area and those who are Latino.
“I anticipate a good and entertaining fight (tonight),” said Lomachenko earlier this week. “I am going to show my best style and give the fans a great show. I am excited to fight at Staples Center. The fans in Los Angeles are special and appreciate my boxing style.”
After the Crolla fight, it does not get easy for Lomachenko, assuming he stays at 135 pounds. There is a potential and unification fight later this year against IBF titleholder Richard Commey.
My talented colleague at Boxingscene, Keith Idec, even penned a story of how a Lomachenko fight against unbeaten Teofimo Lopez would be an option.
However, a majority of boxing fans have clamored for a fight against Mikey Garcia, who suffered his first defeat at the hands of IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence on Mar. 16. Lomachenko has stated he is ready for a fight against Garcia, but that it is up to Garcia if he wants that fight.
As has been the case, seeing is believing. A Lomachenko fight against Garcia would be attractive and appealing, especially for Southern California fight fans. Garcia grew up in Oxnard, and now resides in Moreno Valley.
Lomachenko trains in Oxnard.
"I still want that fight, 100 percent, but it is up to Mikey. Can he cut the weight? I don't know. But if he can make 135, I want to fight."
"My goal is to unify all the titles. If it's (IBF champion Richard) Commey later this year, that would be a great fight. Any champion, I would want to fight. I want IBF and WBC belts. I want to go down in history as a great champion."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing