Madison Square Garden will be packed Saturday as the top super featherweight takes on the No. 2 lightweight as Vasyl Lomachenko squares off against WBA 135-pound world titleholder Jorge Linares.
Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO's), 30, a Ukraine native fighting out of Oxnard, California, is perhaps the No. 1. pound-for-pound fighter in boxing today. After going an inconceivable 396-1 as an amateur fighter, Lomachenko turned pro in 2013, and immediately set one goal: to put his name in the history of boxing.
In his first bout, Lomachenko fought Jose Ramirez, who at the time had just won an international featherweight title, and had never been stopped. Two of his three prior losses were split decisions, while another was unanimous.
Body blow after body blow.
The punches were so crisp, and on the money, you could hear the thud on your television. Like a snake getting run over by an SUV, Ramirez rolled across the canvas.
Writhing in pain, Ramirez never got up, and Lomachenko had himself quite the debut. However, the lucky charm did not carry into his next fight as he targeted the WBO featherweight world title and former titlist Orlando Salido.
Salido failed to make weight, leaving the title at stake for Lomachenko, but he lost a close split decision. Lomachenko was the victim of repeated low blows, but he did not adjust quickly enough to convince the judges to give him the victory. Lomachenko nearly pulled it off. Two judges had it 115-113 for both fighters, but judge Jack Reiss scored it 116-112 for Salido, which sealed the deal.
Lomachenko has won nine consecutive bouts, including world titles in two different weight classes, and will go for a third against Linares, who is on a 13-fight win streak of his own.
Linares (44-3, 27 KO's), 32, of Venezuela, like Lomachenko, is destined for greatness. As in life, there are obstacles that you must defeat to get to the next level. This could be one of his toughest, if not the toughest challenge of his career.
Linares has already proven that he can battle through adversity. In 2009, he suffered a first-round KO by Juan Carlos Salgado. Then, Linares had his will tested again after he was knocked out in back-to-back fights in 2011 and 2012 against Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson.
Since teaming up with veteran Cuban trainer Ismael Salas, Linares has seen nothing but green on his resume. But for the biggest fight of his life, Salas will not be there.
Salas opted to train former heavyweight world titleholder David Haye for his May 5 rematch against Tony Bellew instead. As a result, Carlos Linares, Jorge's younger brother, who has been a part of the team for years, has taken the torch for this camp.
Although Linares has held the WBA world title for the last four years, he has not been completely satisfied. Linares has called for the big fights, an opportunity to snag a signature win that propels him to the pinnacle, and Lomachenko will give him that fight.
Linares is a great stylist and puts his combinations together very well, so do not be surprised if he takes a few of the early rounds. But there is nothing Lomachenko can't do in the ring, whether it be his footwork, his angles, or his ability to adjust.
Lomachenko has also knocked out or stopped his seven opponents, while several have quit after getting embarrassed including Nicholas Walters, who has not fought since, and Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is typically very active on Twitter, has not even tweeted since Dec. 9, 2017, the evening he suffered the loss.
I am taking Lomachenko in this fight by unanimous decision 117-111.