By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Vasyl Lomachenko doesn’t think Nicholas Walters is afraid of him.
He’s not sure whether Walters will fight him later this year, either.
The Ukrainian southpaw wants to fight Walters next, assuming the heavily favored Lomachenko (5-1, 3 KOs) beats WBO world super featherweight champion Rocky Martinez (29-2-3, 17 KOs) in their HBO “Boxing After Dark” main event Saturday night in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Whether Walters can be satisfied financially, however, is another matter altogether.
The former WBA featherweight champion from Jamaica turned down what would’ve been a career-high $550,000 purse to fight Lomanchenko on Saturday night. Lomachenko even offered to pay Walters an additional $300,000 from his proposed purse of $850,000 if Walters won, just to make the 130-pound showdown happen. Walters still refused and Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. made a Lomachenko-Martinez match instead.
“I never heard any answer from his team or him,” Lomachenko said through a translator before a press conference Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “I don’t think he is scared to fight or doesn’t want to fight. I think he wants to get more money because he might think a bout with me, he cannot just lose the bout, he can lose his [reputation]. I think he wants to get more money for it.”
Lomachenko didn’t take Walters’ refusal personally because he understands Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs) and his team made a business decision, one that has left Walters on the shelf since he fought to a December 19 majority draw with Jason Sosa (18-1-4, 14 KOs) in a 10-round bout Walters seemingly won.
“I don’t blame him because I understand it’s not just his decision,” Lomachenko said. “He also has a team who makes all the decisions. Right now, in this sport every boxer thinks about making history. Every boxer thinks about how to do something good. But on the other hand, everyone thinks how to make a lot of money out of it.”
Egis Klimas, Lomanchenko’s manager, isn’t optimistic about Walters wanting to fight his two-time Olympic gold medalist after the Martinez match Saturday night.
“Well, I don’t know who is going to pay him the money,” Klimas said. “Because last time Vasyl offered him $300,000 from his purse to fight him, and Nicholas Walters didn’t accept. I don’t know what kind of money he wants – if wants to gain like $1 million or $2 [million] or whatever. I don’t know where Bob Arum is going to get that kind of money. You ask that question to Bob Arum. Vasyl stated, ‘I will fight anybody who Top Rank is going to put in front of me.’
“He did not only mean it for that fighter, but whoever is the No. 1 contender or a world champion in the division that he is fighting in. If Walters thinks that he is in that category, where he is No. 1, I’ll tell you what – if Walters can fight anybody in that weight class and become a champion and unify with Vasyl in a championship bout, that would be a very, very interesting, good bout.”
If Lomachenko wins Saturday night, he’ll have 10 days to decide whether to keep the WBO’s 130-pound championship or its 126-pound crown, which he has defended three times. He indicated he’ll be more inclined to remain at 130 pounds because there will be more lucrative opportunities for him in that division than at featherweight.
“After June 11, I’m the one who’s going to be thinking and making decisions,” Lomachenko said. “Do I want to fight Walters or not? And he will need to come up with more money for me to fight him.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.