Following a controversial end to a great fight last weekend, the spotlight on boxing moves to more positive aspects, as we prepare for another super fight between two of the world’s best boxers.
Vasyl Lomachenko’s already glittering career as a boxer continues to grow as he faces arguably his toughest test to date in heavy handed Nicholas Walters.
Las Vegas will once again be the hosting city, as ‘Loma’ makes the first defence of his WBO Super Featherweight title, the 7th world title contest in his 8-fight career.
Lomachenko – regarded as the greatest amateur fighter of all time – has rebuilt from a contentious defeat to Orlando Salido in fight number 2.
Since that night Lomachenko has beaten some of the top names in the Featherweight division, most notably the superbly talented Gary Russell Jr (MD 12).
Lomachenko 6-1(4KO’s) then moved to Super Feather, where he instantly dethroned Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez inside 5 rounds to claim the WBO title – his second pro belt.
But for all Lomachenko’s speed and skills, the powerful Walters is as ‘live’ an opponent as one can currently find in the lighter divisions.
Walters 26-0-1(21KO’s) first burst onto the scene when he blitzed his way to a WBA Featherweight title in 2012.
He was still an unknown quantity when he first won the belt in Jamaica. But that all changed in his second defence against the still capable Vic Darchinyan.
Walters obliterated Darchinyan in 5 rounds, but his defence against Nonito Donaire was meant to be the end of his reign.
Instead, Walters looked a weight division above the Filipino, and demolished him in 6 rounds.
His subsequent – and final – defence was a frustrating one which he ultimately took on the cards, much like a few of Lomachenko’s defences against lesser opposition.
But last time out his perfect 100% winning record was broken when the unheralded Jason Sosa seemed slightly fortunate to nab a draw.
Many put it down to a bad night for Walters, but if that was a bad night, then things are only looking up for the Jamaican following Sosa’s recent exploits in the 130lb division.
Sosa has since stopped Javier Fortuna for the WBA title, before defending it in convincing fashion against Stephen Smith.
When the two fighters finally come head-to-head, the difference in size could be the telling factor. Walters was a huge Featherweight, and is still a big Super Featherweight.
While Lomachenko is shorter, but fought up at Lightweight as an amateur. For all the skills of Lomachenko, if Walters looks a weight division bigger come fight night, then this could be crucial over the championship distance.
For both, this is an extremely tough match-up. Walters has the long leavers to catch Lomachenko with his heavy artillery from range, but he is also facing a superior boxer, and defensively he is not the most sound of operators.
While Lomachenko will hope to keep the contest at range too, to allow himself to counter what is coming his way, but he has never fought someone with the power at range that Walters has, and will Walters’ rangy style throw him out of any rhythm?
Lomachenko is the favourite, but one feels there is no real safe bet in this contest. A nip-and-tuck contest like this often comes down to the wire, and just like last weekend it could come down to what the judges prefer.
The feeling is that the more eye-catching work will come from Lomachenko, while the volume comes from the challenger. Just how effective that volume is, will determine the winner of this fight.
If Walters is inaccurate, and fails to hurt Lomachenko, then the champion will box masterfully, painting a picture in the ring with his exquisite artistry.
But if Walters begins to wear Lomachenko down, forcing him to adjust his game plan, then the ‘Axe-Man’ can topple one of the largest trees in boxing.
While the temptation is to bet against the grain, and side with the latter, the final prediction is for the highly skilled Lomachenko to box perfectly across the first 7 or 8 rounds, before a late surge from Walters closes the gap enough to cause some tension before the judges’ scorecards reveal Lomachenko as a narrow – but fair – winner.