Zachary Ochoa Talks Being In Camp w/ Vasiliy Lomachenko
Zachary Ochoa was part of the Vasiliy Lomachenko camp as the Ukrainian prepared for his opponent Jamaine Ortiz, this Saturday on ESPN+.
This Saturday, live on ESPN+, one of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters returns to the Hulu Theater inside the Madison Square Garden and, if successful, will face the undisputed lightweight champion, Devin Haney (29-0), at some point in 2023. Vasiliy Lomachenko (16-2) is back from defending his home in Ukraine and he faces Jamaine Ortiz (16-0-1) from CES Boxing.
As the anticipation builds heading into the weekend, one name popped up as someone who was part of the Loma camp for this fight, and that’s lightweight contender Zachary Ochoa (21-3). Earlier this year, Ochoa faced junior welterweight contender Brandun Lee (26-0) but came up short on the scorecards at the end of the fight. Since then, Ochoa has been staying ready and in shape as the call for a fight or an opportunity can come at any point, especially when you are a fighter not contractually tied to a promotional company. But not letting the fact that he hasn’t fought since April as we approach the end of the year distract him, Ochoa stays optimistic and says, “I want to fight all of these guys, and hopefully, some dates come up.”
Recently, that phone call did come in, and the opportunity was for Ochoa to be a part of Lomachenko’s training camp. Ochoa told NYF, “They (Team Loma) were reaching out to one of my Strength and Conditioning coaches, and then they hit me up saying that they wanted me to come down there (California). They asked me if I would like to be part of Loma’s camp as they needed sparring, and I said, ‘okay, absolutely.’ I was on the plane like the next day.” The old saying ‘if you stay ready, you don’t ever have to get ready’ definitely played a critical role in the opportunity presenting itself for the 29-year-old lightweight contender.
A good portion of fans have been turned off by Loma and think there may be a sliver of arrogance that comes along with being ‘The Matrix.’ Some of that played out during the Teofimo fight, and although it could have been part of the promotion, fans took Loma’s actions and quotes as being arrogant. I was curious to know if Ochoa experienced any of that or if it was all business with Team Lomachenko.
“They treated me well; great people, great camp, militant and really respectful. A lot of people may think they are arrogant but guess what, they aren’t. Loma is a great person, and his team are really good people. They take what they do very seriously, and it’s something to appreciate. I like the way they do certain things.”
The Brooklyn-born contender continued, “It was a great experience. All fighters have done that. This is how things go. To level up, you have to take those opportunities to spar in those camps. A lot of fighters nowadays don’t do that too much. I get it, they want to look like the boss and not be anyone’s sparring partner, but that stops their progression and allows them only to go so far. This is how you get to that elite level so you can have your own big camps and hopefully give back to the boxing community by having an up-and-comer or a tough, seasoned veteran to put that work in with you.”
I tried to sneak in a question to see if he would give me details on how many rounds he sparred with the Ukrainian and some of the things he got out of it, but he didn’t budge. Like a true New Yorker, he deflected and said, “What do you mean by that? (Laughs) Can’t say, that’s too much info (Laughs).”
On Saturday night, Lomachenko, now 34, has the task of still looking to show fans and the media that he is still ‘that guy.’ While Ortiz, who cut his teeth in the club circuit and beat the former junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring, wants to capitalize on this golden opportunity.
Ochoa has an interesting perspective of the fight as he has now shared the ring with both competitors at different points in their careers. Ochoa told NYF, “This is how things look. Who the fuck is going to give Jamaine Ortiz a shot? This is how a regular boxing fan would view this. ‘Who the hell is Jamaine Ortiz’? ‘Lomachenko is going to beat the shit out of him.’ I have sparred with Jamaine Ortiz many times. If you know boxing, there is always a chance. A fighter is a fighter. Even Lomachenko doesn’t take anyone lightly, which is why he trains so hard. (Floyd) Mayweather didn’t sleep on anyone, which is why he trained so hard. You can’t take a Jamaine Ortiz lightly. He is training hard and putting in the work. He knows this is his shot at becoming a star.”
“The way Lomachenko trains and his focus, he’s not taking Ortiz lightly. It’s going to be a great fight. An all-time great will try to prove that he is still who he is, and Jamaine Ortiz will try to prove that he is what everyone doesn’t think he is. Now it’s time to show both men respect and watch them do work on Saturday night.”
What is next for Zachary Ochoa?
It seems like after Ochoa fought Lee in April, fighters that are contenders or becoming contenders aren’t so enthused about getting in the ring with him. It is challenging when you are independent, but it helps that he has someone like Stephen “Breadman” Edwards not only as his head trainer but someone that helps with the direction of Ochoa’s career. So are we going to see ‘Zungry’ back in the ring before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st?
“I would love to get in the ring before the year ends. If not, I would love to fight in January or the first quarter of the year. I am ready for that and hoping to get in the ring. I just want to fight these guys. Michel Rivera just fought at the Barclays Center. Why isn’t he fighting me at the Barclays Center? I just don’t understand that. Why aren’t you fighting the Brooklyn Puerto Rican kid? It would be a Dominican vs. Puerto Rican at the Barclays, which would sell.”
New York is not a city. It is the birthplace of guts and glory and the gauntlet that separates the winners from the quitters.
It’s New York or Nothing. You know we’ve #BeenOutHere since 1910.#Everlast #NYC pic.twitter.com/pEEZnEiaXt
— Everlast (@Everlast_) August 6, 2022
Ochoa wasn’t looking to stop there. He had more things on his mind that he needed to get across before we finished our call. The 29-year-old said, “I want to fight any of these 135 lbers! Isaac Cruz, Rolando Romero, Michael Rivera; any of these top guys, I want to fight them so I can get myself in line for a title shot as that is my main goal which is to become a world champion and to prove that I am one of the best fighters in the world. You also have this clown (Chris) Colbert, who is moving up to 135 lbs. I would love to get in the mix and fight any of these guys.”
It will be interesting to see how this fight plays out on Saturday night and if Ochoa can land one of those fights he mentioned at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where it would undoubtedly be an event not to miss, especially for those in the five boroughs. For now, Ochoa is staying ready because, as mentioned earlier, that phone call can come in at anytime.
You can follow Abe on Twitter @abeg718 and subscribe to “The Boxing Rush Hour Show” podcast on all streaming platforms.