By Francisco Salazar
For better or worse, the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fight is still the talk of boxing, even though it occurred a week ago.
That is too bad, considering the junior lightweight clash tonight between WBO titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas Walters should be receiving more press than what it is getting.
Walters is as live an underdog tonight when he steps inside the ring at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
The 12 round bout will air live on HBO, beginning at 10:35 p.m. ET/ 7:35 p.m. PT. The premium network will also replay the light heavyweight clash between Kovalev and Ward, which has produced enough water cooler talk and insults on social media to last until the next bout that has a controversial outcome.
Boxing fans and Top Rank, which is promoting tonight's fight, hope that does not take place tonight.
On paper, the bout between Lomachenko and Walters is solid, which could produce solid exchanges between the two.
Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) has demonstrated a penchant for becoming more aggressive in recent fights. The Ukraine-born fighter, who currently resides in Oxnard, Calif., has stopped his last three opponents.
It was in his last bout on June 11 where the boxing world saw a more vicious side of Lomachenko, breaking down Roman 'Rocky' Martinez before Lomachenko scored a devastating fifth round knockout win in New York City.
Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs) has not fought in almost a year. He and Jason fought to a majority decision draw through 10 rounds, a fight in which many ringside media and boxing fans thought Walters should have won.
The fight may turn into a pleasant surprise based on what has transpired outside of the ring.
Adelaide Byrd is one of the judges scoring the fight. She was criticized for her 97-93 scorecard for Maurice Hooker over Darleys Perez last weekend in Las Vegas.
Glenn Trowbridge is also scoring tonight's fight. He is one of the three judges who scored the bout 114-113 in favor of Ward.
Lomachenko and Kovalev are both managed by Egis Klimas, who may not like seeing both judges at ringside. It may have Lomachenko fight more aggressive and assertively tonight in order to win rounds decisively.
That could play into the hands of Walters, who does have power in both hands, but has fought to decisions in his last two bouts.
Tonight also marks Bob Arum's 2000th promotion. Arum, who will turn 85 on December 8, has been selling Lomachenko and the fight. Arum has even compared Lomachenko to Muhammad Ali.
Arum has gone as far as saying he would like to match Lomachenko up with Manny Pacquiao in 2017. That would be an interesting fight, but that all depends on how the Ukraine fighter performs tonight.
Will he do enough to outbox Walters for 12 rounds? Or will he stand and trade with the Jamaica-born fighter in order to win rounds decisively and to prove he could win fans with his style in the process?
Many questions will be answered tonight. No one will doubt Lomachenko's pedigree in the ring or Walters' ability to change the course of a fight with one punch.
Expect a solid fight tonight that could take the bad taste of the Kovalev-Ward aftermath (including the decision) out of the mouths of boxing fans.
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, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing