Many of us witnessed Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1-0, 5Kos) completely dominate and dismantle previously unbeaten former world champion Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters in Las Vegas late on Saturday night.
The manner of Lomachenko's win was so commanding that Walters refused to answer the bell for round eight; the Axe Man was on a hiding to nothing, miles behind on the cards and struggling to land anything of note he did what is seen by many as the unthinkable – he quit.
Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko hails from the Ukraine and turned professional amid a flurry of hype and curiosity in 2013. His incredible amateur record of 396-1 guaranteed that there would be plenty of interest in his early steps in the pro ranks. Already highly competent in all the fundamentals the right handed southpaw has grown into the professional style of fighting, utilising his incredible footwork and movement to find angles, delivering destructive combinations of his own and discombobulating his opponents. His hand speed is rapid and his right handed jab out of the lefty stance is no joke for whoever is on the receiving end of it. Lomachenko is a joy to watch. Now eight fights in to his campaign he is already a two weight world champion and is moving up the pound for pound rankings of many who enjoy rating fighters using this method. The sky appears to be the limit for the Ukrainian boxer whose main problem now may be attracting opponents willing to fight him.
Saturday's fight with Walters was highly anticipated. “Hi-Tech” was making the first defence of the 130lb title he won in June. Boxing fans and commentators held out hope for another fight of the year candidate but it was clear from early in the proceedings that this wouldn't materialise as Lomachenko's magnificent all round boxing ability quickly turned the contest into a one sided mis-match.
Moves up to 135lbs or even 140lbs do not seem to be out of the question at the moment for Vasyl and such is his talent he would be fancied to deal with many of the established fighters in these divisions even at this early stage of his professional journey.
The question is can anyone around 130-135lbs challenge Lomachenko in the next 12 to 18 months? I am going to make a case for one fighter who may be good enough to do this. Step forward Mikey Garcia!
Garcia (35-0-0, 29Kos) is an undefeated two weight world champion who has always impressed this observer. Due to a contractual dispute with his former promoter (remember this detail) Garcia returned to the ring in July after sitting out for 30 months. His return bout was in New York against former world champion Elio Rojas. Garcia won via fifth round stoppage and while there were areas to be worked on, especially defensively, it was a damn fine outing considering his time away from competitive action. Now aged 28 Mikey has the look of a boxer who is still improving – he is constantly in the family gym where he is trained by his older brother Robert and this setup no doubt helped to keep him reasonably sharp during his layoff.
Garcia, American born with Mexican heritage, is also highly gifted in the footwork department and is known as a talented counter puncher. He is not passive though and is equally comfortable fighting on the front foot. His timing is excellent, meaning his counters arrive on target and they hurt. Mikey has also been known to switch hit to good effect from time to time.
The American will be gloving up next in January when he challenges Dejan Zlaticanin for his WBC title at 135lbs. This will be no easy task against the action man from Montenegro but if Garcia prevails the first part of the road to Garcia vs. Lomachenko at lightweight will have been successfully negotiated.
The next part of the puzzle we require to fall into place would be for Lomachenko to move up into the lightweight division. Perhaps this is a realistic possibility for the middle of next year if he captures another title at 130lbs and decides to attempt to become a three weight world champion.
Going hand in hand with this of course is Garcia remaining at 135lbs. He has made no secret of his desire to make up for lost time in his career by moving through the divisions and picking up as many titles as possible. This is why I have imposed the time limit of 18 months on this matchup as I can't see Garcia remaining at lightweight for any longer than this.
As this is boxing there is also a promotional hurdle that would need to be cleared. Garcia's previously mentioned time out of the ring was due to a contractual dispute with his promoter at the time, Top Rank. Lomachenko is promoted by Top Rank. Would Mikey be willing to work with his ex-promoter to make this fight happen? Would Top Rank be willing to offer Garcia a fight with Lomachenko after their past disagreement?
Despite only having had eight pro fights Lomachenko has faced two former opponents of Garcia. In only his second outing Lomachenko challenged and lost to the rugged Mexican Orlando Salido in March of 2014. Salido demonstrated his know-how in the dark side of the pro game; coming in overweight, therefore surrendering his title on the scales but giving him a better chance to win the fight, then proceeding to constantly hit Vasyl with low blows while on the referee's blind side. It was a harsh welcome to the professional level for Lomachenko who lost a narrow split decision on the night. This experience quickly underlined the differences between the professional and amateur ranks and in the long run has probably been beneficial to Lomachenko.
Garcia had faced Salido in January 2013, winning an eighth round technical decision. Mikey dominated the contest, giving Salido a closeup of the canvas on four occasions, before an accidental clash of heads stopped the fight. The cards had Garcia so far ahead Salido could've boxed on for another twelve rounds and not caught up.
The other fighter to set foot in the ring with both Garcia and Lomachenko is Roman Martinez. In November 2013 Garcia defended his WBO Super-Featherweight title by dominating and stopping Martinez in the eighth round. Fast forward to June of this year and it was Martinez trying to defend that very same belt but he was outclassed and knocked out violently in round five by Lomachenko.
These two common opponent bouts tell us that both men are operating at the elite level and a clash between them would be compulsive viewing for all boxing fans.
Of course there are an awful lot of ifs, buts and maybes which need to be resolved before this fight could ever take place. Much like the action in the ring a very important factor outside it is timing when it comes to a fight like this being put together. If I get my wish and this fight does take place sometime down the road I have no doubt that Lomachenko would be the popular choice to win the fight. A few quality wins in 2017 for Garcia though would see him start to make serious in-roads into the pound for pound rankings of many in the know onlookers.
Lomachenko vs. Garcia for all the spoils at 135lbs early in 2018 is certainly not guaranteed to happen but if it does one thing would be for sure – boxing fans around the world would be fired up to watch a clash between two of the classiest exponents of the sweet science out there at the moment. Fingers crossed it happens!