By Peter Lim
It isn't often in the sport of boxing where you find two fighters with such disparate records face off in a matchup that's virtually a 50-50 coin flip. But when Nicholas Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs) and Vasyl Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) collide in an intriguing showdown at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Saturday, that's exactly it.
Lomachenko, alongside Naoye Inouye, Guillermo Rigondeau, Artur Beterbiev and to a lesser extent, Zou Shinming, represent a new generation of boxers who, thanks to extensive and/or decorated amateur careers, have been able to bypass the customary two-year, record-inflating period of fighting journeymen and successfully fast tracked themselves onto the world stage against gatekeepers, contenders and even titleholders.
Lomachenko fell a hair short of winning a title in his second pro bout before dethroning a very credible titleholder in his very next fight; Inouye became a two-division world titleholder before his 10th pro fight.
Walters, on the other hand, diligently paid his dues, padding his record against nobodies for six years before bursting onto the scene with a TKO victory against elite pugilist Nonito Donaire in 2014. Boxing insiders had short-listed Walters early on as a potential great, but as a small fighter from a small country, he had limited marketability and was largely brushed aside by the powers that be in boxing. After his stunning TKO of Donaire, though, he would be ignored no longer.
Both fighters have assets and liabilities that play unto each other. We know from previous fights what they are capable of; both can both proficiently box and explosively bang. The only unknown entity in this equation is Lomachenko's chin. While Walters has endured clean shots from hard hitters, Lomachenko's punch resistance has remained largely untested in his seven pro fights.
It's almost a given that Lomachenko's chin will be tested in this fight. Walters will catch the Ukrainian with direct hits at various points in the fight, and the outcome of this fight will largely depend on how Lomachenko handles those shots.
Should Lomachenko be able to shake off Walters' best punches, his superior versatility and punch volume will likely rule the day in this showdown. The two-time Olympic champion has seen and adjusted to every style and overcome every counter-adjustment out there. Walters might possess a boxing IQ that is borderline genius, but Lomachenko's is pure Mensa.