By Paul Mason (Twitter: @koboxingsets)
Now that the dust has settled on last Saturdays mega fight between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, focus turns to a fight the more hardcore boxing fans have been anticipating ever since it was announced.
2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, and current WBO Super Featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (6-1, 4KO) faces arguably his toughest assignment to date in his fledgling career, against the man known as the “Axe Man” Nicholas Walters (26-0-1, 21KO) at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Already a 2 weight World Champion, the Ukrainian Lomachenko has not taken the conventional route so far in his career. After a standout amateur career, where he reportedly amassed a 396-1 record, Lomachenko turned pro a year after the 2012 London Olympic Games. His debut fight in October 2013 against Jose Ramirez, was a 10 rounder for a fringe WBO championship, and “Hi-Tech” duly dispatched his overmatched opponent by knockout in the 4th round. He was then expected to become a world champion only one fight later when he was matched for the full WBO Featherweight title against the teak tough Orlando Salido. The title would only be on the line for Lomachenko, however, as Salido lost his title at the weigh in, weighing a whopping two and a quarter pounds over the 126lbs limit, and 11 pounds more than Lomachenko on fight night. This was to be crucial, as Salido “old manned” Lomachenko with rough tactics and bullied his way to a split decision win over the amateur star.
Lomachenko would be forgiven for taking a few easy fights to ease his way back in, but he went straight in again for the vacant WBO championship, against the highly rated Gary Russell Jr, who went into the fight with an unblemished 24-0 record. Lomachenko won via a majority decision and joined Saensak Muangsurin as the only fighters to win a version of the title in only their third fight.
Routine defences followed against Suriya Tatakhun (unanimous decision), Gamalier Rodriguez (KO9) and former Lee Selby victim Romulo Koasicha (KO10).
In his last fight, Lomachenko stepped up to the Super Featherweight division, in an attempt to become a two weight world champion in only his seventh fight. His opponent was Roman “Rocky” Martinez, well known to British fight fans for his fights with Nicky Cook and Ricky Burns. Lomachenko became the fastest boxer to win a world title in two weight divisions, knocking out Martinez in the fifth round of the fight. Lomachenko dominated the fight from the start with superior footwork, hand speed and slick punching from different angles, and closed the show with a brutal left uppercut, followed by a right hand for good measure.
Lomachenko promptly called for a Salido rematch after the fight, but has now settled for a far more dangerous assignment in facing the former WBA Featherweight Champion, Nicholas Walters.
Walters turned professional in 2008, without the fanfare Lomachenko has enjoyed, and had his first 23 bouts all outside the USA. He fought 20 times in Panama, twice in his native Jamaica, and once in Haiti. Walters won the WBA Featherweight title in December 2013 with a 7th round Knockout of Daulis Prescott in Kingston, Jamaica, and made his US debut in 2013, knocking out Alberto Garza in round 4 in his first defence of his newly acquired title.
He then scored a spectacular knockout of the multiple world champion Vic Darchinyan in Macau, and followed this up with a breakthrough win, against the highly pound for pound ranked Nonito Donaire.Walters dropped Donaire for the first time in his career in round three. Walters continued to walk Donaire down, and in round six, Walters opened up and attacked with power shots. Several blows were thrown by both fighters. Donaire fell face first to the canvas, knocked out. Donaire somehow got up just before the 10 count, but to no avail and Walters had arrived on the world scene.
A routine unanimous decision win against Miguel Marriaga followed, however Walters had now out grown the division and failed to make the weight for the defence of his title, and he subsequently lost the title on the scales.
In his last fight, Walters was matched against recent Stephen Smith conqueror Jason Sosa. In a match Walters clearly dominated, viewers were left in amazement when a decision of a majority draw was announced. Sosa would go on to win the very same title that Walters was forced to vacate.
And so to Saturday night. I expect Walters to come out firing and will try to rough up Lomachenko at the earliest opportunity, use his size and strength, and follow the blueprint that Orlando Salido used in beating Lomachenko back in 2014. Walters has already promised that he will “Carve Lomachenko up” and I expect him to go for the knockout. However, I fully expect Lomachenko to figure out the hard hitting Axe Man early and to then put on a boxing clinic and win widely on the cards, thus setting up even more mouth watering fights in 2017.
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