Vasiliy Lomachenko was adamant about becoming a champion specifically at the 135-pound limit.

The three-division champion from Ukraine said he was encouraged to drop back down in weight after his lightweight title unification loss to Teofimo Lopez in 2020. But Lomachenko, who started his career fighting in the 126-pound ranks, found such a move ultimately cowardly.

The southpaw Lomachenko has reeled off three straight wins at lightweight since his defeat to Lopez, and is now set to try and become a two-time champion at 135 when he takes on the division’s undisputed champion in Devin Haney this Saturday at MGM Grand in Las Vegas on ESPN Pay-Per-View.

“After Lopez loss, [I was told], ‘You could go down [in weight] and fight,’” Lomachenko said on the first episode of Blood, Sweat & Tears, a two-part ESPN series offering a look into the training camps of Lomachenko and Haney. “But I can’t because I lose [the fight] at lightweight and I need to [attain] my goal at lightweight—[chase] my dream, [chase] my goal. I can change it. For me it looks like you’re weak [if you drop down in weight].”

Lomachenko, 35, said he was chastened after his defeat to Lopez and that the loss spurred him to adopt certain changes in his approach to the sport. 

“Inside, my ego was very big (before Lopez loss)," Lomachenko said. “Inside, lot of my people didn’t see this but after this loss I saw myself. I start changing after this moment."

Added Lomachenko, “I still have my speed, my power, my conditioning. I was very close [to] this goal (of remaining lightweight champion). Now I have a second chance [to become champion at lightweight]. I have a second chance to take this goal against a different man.”

Sean Nam is the author of the forthcoming book Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing