One of the pound for pound best in the sport Vasyl Lomachenko defends his WBO world super featherweight title at the MGM National Harbor, in Maryland, USA against Jason ‘El Canita’ Sosa on April 8th.
Some have described the Ukrainian as perpetual motion. One thing is for sure, despite having one loss on his record, Lomachenko is widely regarded as being one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport.
Big things were expected of the Ukrainian southpaw when he announced that he was turning over after a glittering amateur career. Consecutive golds at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships and consecutive golds at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games had already cemented his legacy as one of the best amateurs in the sports history. He bowed out with a near perfect record of 396 wins and 1 loss.
Lomachenko’s remarkable achievements as an amateur meant that he was always going to be rapidly fast tracked in the pro ranks. However, when he knocked out world ranked Mexican contender, Jose Ramirez, with consummate ease with a rasping body shot on his debut, it quickly became apparent that he was immediately ready for a shot at a world title strap and in his second fight he attempted to break Saensak Muangsurin’s record for winning a world title in the least amount of fights.
One man stood in his way. Orlando Salido. Lomachenko lost the fight via way of a split decision and failed in his record breaking bid but crucially the manner in which he lost meant that he could roll on to the next challenge with his reputation intact.
Salido had missed the weight for the fight and come in well over the limit and had subsequently been stripped of his version of the title. We will never know for sure but many suspect he effectively forfeited his title for the chance to hold as much of a physical advantage over Lomachenko as possible.
Salido rehydrated by 19lbs and was much the bigger man come fight night. Using rehydration to enter the fight as big as possible is certainly not out of the rules but to not to bother to make the weight and rehydrate on top left a sour taste when he won.
His size advantage coupled with his foul play tactics of numerous low blows helped him to negate Lomachenko. He nullified his attacks by tying up his hands at every opportunity in a scrappy affair where the ref really should have put his foot down. Depite punch stats showing Lomachenko had landed the more total shots on target Salido got the W.
However the cream always rises to the top. He was matched up against unbeaten and highly touted American Gary Russell Jr for the vacant belt. He boxed supremely to comprehensively take a points win against Russell Jr who himself is a very sharp operator. Lomachenko is still the only man to have beaten the talented American who now has a record 27/1.
He followed this up with 3 knockout in his next 4 fights including one highlight reel KO over Roman Martinez – a man who had only ever been beaten by Ricky Burns and Mikey Garcia- as he stepped up from feather to super featherweight to claim the WBO crown.
However his last fight was probably the most impressive. He took on the deadly Jamaican Nicholas ‘Axeman’ Walters, probably the hardest hitter out there who was not only unbeaten but had emphatically knocked out some elite fighter- the likes of Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan.
Walter’s had slegehammer punching power but he simply could not lay a glove on Lomachenko such was his domination and superior skill level. Lomachenko completely disarmed him with his footwork and positioning- a thing of beauty to the boxing purist.
He spins off to the side after he throws his combinations and keeps in such close proximity to his opponent as he does it. It was like watching an agile seal moving away from the jaws of a shark. And then there he was again, in front of his dazzled opponent firing off another rapid fire combination. Walters couldnt find an answer and opted for ‘no mas’ midway through.
WBA champion Jason Sosa is a compact and powerful fighter who likes to get on the front foot, back his opponent on the ropes and go to work with wide hooks to head and body. He is aggressive and physically very strong. Few fighters can send him into reverse.
Sosa has a draw with Nicholas Walters to his name but the concensus from well respected pundits was that Walters deserved to win the fight despite the judges scoring the fight a draw.
Sosa put in a good performance last time out against Britain’s Stephen Smith in Monaco. Smith is a very good boxer but was not able to tame Sosa and failed to control him effectively. Sosa comes to fight so this match could turn into an exciting contest, however, Lomachenko is on a different level to Smith.
I see another victory here for Lomachenko. I don’t think he will allow Sosa the time to tee off and he will keep the fight in the centre of the ring. He is as adept on the back foot as he is on the front so Sosa’s toughness should be manageable enough. He varies his defence and attack by distance, level and angle and I think he will just show Sosa a lot more than he’s ever seen before from any previous opponent and i’m not sure El Canito will be able to adapt his style if he is failing to land.