Arum sees Lomachenko as boxing’s next superstar


By Barry Wilner

AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK — As a promoter, Bob Arum is paid to pump up his clients. Hyperbole is a staple of his repertoire.

Yet, judging by the performances of junior lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko, particularly in winning the WBO belt on Saturday, Arum might not be far off in calling the Ukrainian boxing’s “next superstar.”

Lomachenko was dynamic and dominant for five rounds before a series of lefts and a massive right hook floored champion Rocky Martinez. Afterward, Martinez admitted that Lomachenko’s punches came too fast for him to defend.

The win brought Lomachenko’s professional record to a mere 6-1; a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time amateur world champion, Lomachenko established his credentials on that level before turning pro in 2013. Among those six victories are two title bouts; Lomachenko, 28, also won the IBF featherweight crown two years ago.

The speed and devastating power he brought into the ring at the Theater at Madison Square Garden last weekend could scare off future opponents. Arum’s words just might, too.

“I’ve been telling everybody how great this guy is. You’ve been reading . how great this guy is,” Arum said. “Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all time. This Vasyl Lomachenko (is) the greatest of our time. He really is. I mean . you’re going to see performances from this guy that you’re not going to believe down the road. He’ll fight anybody.

“It’s going to cost us a lot of money to get people in the ring with him. But he is going to beat anybody around.”

Arum rattled off such names as Orlando Salido, who put the only blemish on Lomachenko’s resume with a split decision in Lomachenko’s second pro fight. The promoter added Francisco Vargas and Nicholas Walters before projecting Lomachenko to reach the level of boxing’s current biggest stars, Gennady Golovkin, Sergei Kovalev and Canelo Alvarez.

“Golovkin and Kovalev are terrific fighters. No argument,” Arum said. “Great punchers and everything. They don’t have the skills of Lomachenko.”

Arum then turned to Salido and asked if he was ready for a rematch with Lomachenko: “I’ll pay good money.”

Should Lomachenko not get matched up with such top fighters, it would be boxing’s loss. His mastery of Martinez, a two-time world champ with excellent skills and ring know-how, may portend even more impressive work as he gets more comfortable with the professional ranks.

A no-nonsense fighter from a left-handed stance, Lomachenko’s leads with either hand were damaging against Martinez. His lefts, whether hooks or straight punches, were lightning bolts. The right that knocked down and nearly knocked out Martinez was directly from the textbook.

“I need more fights to get better as a fighter,” Lomachenko said. “And I will keep getting better.

“What I want is for all the best fighters to come together and find out who the best is. I want to line up all the fighters at 130 and find out who the best is.”

That’s where Arum comes in, of course. With Manny Pacquiao now a Filipino politician, Top Rank needs a centerpiece. Lomachenko is comfortable fighting in the United States and has plans to reside in California.

“He is getting better because, let me tell you, it’s balance and distance, and he figured that out,” Arum said. “Manny Pacquiao, in his best performance against Oscar De La Hoya, was amazing in the way that he moved and threw punches and escaped. This kid already did that against Martinez, and is only going to get better.

“He’s only going to get better.”

By Barry Wilner

AP Sports Writer

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