By Hector T. Morgan
When he takes a break from walking on his hands or boxing tennis balls, Vasyl Lomachenko will turn his attention towards Venezuelan Jorge Linares as the Ukraine boxing superstar aims to move his professional CV to 11-1-0. The talented pair will meet over 12 rounds for the WBA lightweight world title on May 12 at Madison Square Garden, New York and the betting has ‘Hi-Tech’ hot favourite for victory.
The 30-year-old has been fast-tracked towards the top of the paid ranks following a glittering amateur career and has taken the challenge in his stride to date, losing only to Orlando Salido on a 12-round points split decision in March 2014, and that was just his second professional contest.
Lomachenko made light work of Rigondeaux
Since that slight blot, Lomachenko has beaten each of the next nine men placed in front of him with relative ease as he continues to progress toward, at least potentially, status as one of the greatest fighters to ever ‘lace em up’. Seven of those wins have come inside the distance, including a career-best sixth round decision over Guillermo Rigondeaux.
The year’s most hyped bout failed to live up to the billing with Cuba’s El Chacal never in the contest as a threat, losing every round on the tally of judge Steve Weisfeld and most observers around the world. Purists felt cheated by Rigondeaux’s performance, despite the natural weight he was forgoing to make the contest possible. However, history will be kinder to the victor, who made light work of a gilded opponent who had been avoided by many of his contemporaries.
One group obviously impressed was odds-makers who have become fully paid up members of the Lomachenko fan club, they wasted little time in making him an odds-on to grab win number 11 when the Linares match was made. Punters looking to back the 5ft 7inch Lomachenko will find no more than a paltry 1/6 when trawling through the online betting sites. That’ll push average punters after a financial interest in the fight into the specials and another KO/TKO cheer is sure to prove popular.
Linares no mere opponent
With all the talk focused around how Lomachenko is going to win – not to mention the betting odds – less experienced fight fans would be forgiven for thinking opponent Jorge Linares was little more than a walking punchbag. Such a conclusion would be foolish and an insult to a proud champion with a world class range of skills and wealth of experience. The 32-year-old brings 44 wins against three defeats into the ring and he’ll duck between the ropes on a 13-fight hot-streak.
Defeats to Juan Carlos Salgado, Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson – all by stoppage – may take a bit of the shine off his achievements to date but it’s worth knowing the Tokyo based champion has beaten the likes of Luke Campbell, Anthony Crolla (twice) and Kevin Mitchell and it therefore no stranger to causing an upset. Both Campbell and Crolla were undone on the scorecards, Dagenham favourite Mighty Mitchell sent to a 10th-round retirement.
That has made Linares a firm favourite among British fans but there’s no doubt he’ll face the toughest test of his career at the Garden. Will big-fight experience and a respectable 57% KO average be enough to see him through? It’s unlikely, Betfair trading 11/2, the draw 25/1. And both could offer value to punters willing to believe that Linares, as the natural Lightweight, with respectable punch power and excellent timing, could offer the toughest test Lomachenko has yet encountered.