By Rich Cheney: WBO super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) is a whopping 100:1 favorite to defeat unranked former world title challenger Miguel Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) this Saturday night in their fight on ESPN at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California.
Lomachenko’s promoter Todd duBoef of Top Rank said that they wanted to stay busy, which is they took the fight with Marriaga. There was no one else available in terms of big names for Lomachenko to fight. So instead of staying inactive, duBoef scheduled for Lomachenko to fight Marriaga.
Top Rank is well familiar with the 30-year-old Marriaga, because he faced the Top Rank promoted WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez on April 22, losing a competitive 12 round unanimous decision. Marriaga gave Valdez all he could handle in that fight. One good thing about Marriaga fighting Lomachenko is the boxing public will get a chance to see the difference in talent between Lomachenko and Valdez in how they handle a common opponent in Marriaga.
If Lomachenko struggles to beat Marriaga in the same way that Valdez did, then perhaps Top Rank doesn’t have the fighter that they think they do in Lomachenko. In that case, it would be a good idea for the promotional company to put Lomachenko and Valez in with each other instead of keeping them in separate lanes fighting other guys.
”When you reach the frequency of bouts in a year – you can’t always have the biggest fight,” said duBoef this week in a media call with the boxing fans to discuss the Lomachenko-Marriaga fight. “So if we accelerate the frequency and he becomes more aware to everybody out there, you’re right, you may just have a real solid tough guy, like a Marriaga, in front of you, then all the sudden you get to a bigger fight that comes along and things like that happen then a title unification may come along like another solid top- five contender. So we can’t be so selective all the time. We would like to hit two paths – one is to get the best matches for Vasyl and Egis, and two is to keep the frequency going. We don’t want his career to stop because the right match isn’t there,” said duBoef.
It’s good news that Top Rank is keeping Lomachenko busy by putting him in with the bet available opponent. Marriaga really isn’t that bad of a fighter. He’s an excellent slugger with size, power and boxing skills. The one thing that seems to be a big negative with the Lomachenko-Marriaga fight is the decision by Top Rank to pool from the featherweight division to find an opponent for Lomachenko instead of signing a super featherweight.
Besides it not being a good idea to pick out opposition from weight divisions below Lomachenko, it’s not fair to the contenders in the super featherweight division. If you’re waiting for a title shot, you probably aren’t too happy to see Lomachenko fighting a featherweight that is coming off of a loss like Marriaga. That just seems wrong. Lomachenko should at least be fighting guys from his own division. Boxing obviously needs to change rules to prevent fighters from ignoring the contenders in their own divisions when it comes to making voluntary defenses like the one Lomacheko is making.
Lomachenko, 29, is coming off of an easy stoppage win over Jason Sosa in his last fight on April 8. That was the second successful title defense for Lomachenko of his WBO super featherweight title. He stopped Nicholas Walters on November 26 last year in a fight in which Walters quit after the 7th round. That was kind of a surprise, as Walters came into the fight with excellent credentials, and he was expected to give Lomachenko a lot of problems.
Walters didn’t have the boxing skills to deal with the movement and different angles that Lomachenko showed him in that fight. Afterwards, Walters complained about having been out of action for close to a year, and that he was rusty from inactivity. What’s interesting is Walters hasn’t fought since the loss to Lomachenko. It’s now been 9 months, and it’s unclear when Walters will be fighting again.
Lomachenko wants to take care of Marriaga in an impressive fashion in front of all the viewer in the U.S that will be watching the fight on free television on ESPN. Top Rank has decided to have many of their top fighters compete on ESPN in order to increase their popularity instead of having the fight on HBO, and end up with lower viewing number due to this being a premium channel.
It’s a good strategy by Top Rank if their fighters like Lomachenko can look good in winning their fights. It helps if Top Rank makes good match-ups like the one we saw recently between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn on July 2. That was a fun fight to watch. I’m not sure that Marriaga vs. Lomachenko qualifies as a good match-up. That seems more like a bad mismatch in my eyes.
As long as Top Rank turns around and matches Lomachenko against a good fighter in his next fight, then the boxing pubic won’t be too upset about them putting together this Saturday’s mismatch.
Lomachenko’s next fight this year is expected to be one of these fighters:
– Guillermo Rigondeaux
– Orlando Salido
– Miguel Berchelt
Lomachenko has already said that he won’t wait more than 1 more year to fight Salido in a rematch. He doesn’t feel that the fight will be worth much after that. Salido is 36 now, and hasn’t won a fight since 2015.
Rigondeaux is still a very good fight for Lomachenko due to the huge respect the Cuban has among hardcore boxing fans. Rigondeaux is a pound-for-pound fighter, high in Ring Magazine’s ratings. Rigondeaux, 36, would have to move up 2 weight classes from super bantamweight to fight Lomachenko at super featherweight, as the Ukrainian has made it clear that he won’t move down in weight to meet him halfway and he won’t fight him at a catch-weight either.
Hopefully, Lomachenko doesn’t give other top fighters take it or leave it offers for a fight with him, because he may miss out on an awful lot of fights during the remainder of his pro career. If Lomachenko wants to make more money in boxing, he needs to be willing to give a little in negotiations. While it’s true that Lomachenko is a very talented fighter, he’s not hugely popular with the casual boing fans.
Perhaps that will change in the future the more Top Rank has Lomachenko fighting on ESPN. At 29, it’s unclear how much more time Lomachenko has before he starts fading. He’s not a knockout artist like middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, and he’s in the wrong division to be gaining a lot of boxing fans.
Lomachenko needs to move up in weight if he wants to increase his popularity, and he really needs to change the way he fights to become more of a slugger than a boxer/mover like we’ve been seeing rom him. It wasn’t interesting seeing Lomachenko run around the ring for 12 rounds in his fight against Gary Russell Jr. a couple of years ago. That was an import fight where Lomachenko could have shown how exciting he is. Instead, he stalled out the fight by circling the ring after building an early lead.