Vasyl Lomachenko: Jorge Linares has ‘never fought a boxer like me’
He may not like the nickname he gave himself, but Vasyl Lomachenko has attracted the type of buzz boxing needs with his string of stopping opponents on their stool in four consecutive fights.
“Maybe they should call me ‘No-Mas-Chenko,’” he said after watching fellow two-time Olympian champion Guillermo Rigondeaux become the fourth victim in December at the Madison Square Garden’s theater.
But now that the interest is building for his attempt at a fifth straight such stoppage May 12 at MSG’s full arena, Ukraine’s Lomachenko (10-1, eight knockouts) says he’s tiring of the moniker.
“I don’t like it, because I hear it too much,” he said Tuesday at his media day in Oxnard. “For me, ‘Loma’ is better. But if people like it … .”
The staying power of the nickname hinges on Lomachenko’s ability to continue the remarkable run that has caused Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga and Rigondeaux to call it quits.
Lomachenko, 30, is seeking a third division belt when he meets World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) of Venezuela in an ESPN-televised bout.
Linares has won 13 consecutive bouts and seven straight lightweight title fights, and stands as one of the sport’s most astute fighters.
“I can’t talk about [how smart and experienced Linares is] before the fight. I need to check, I need to feel,” Lomachenko said. “You and a lot of other people think [highly] about him, but he’s never fought with a boxer like me. Understand? After the fight, I can answer. I’m not worried about it because I know my boxing, I know my style. I know my power.”
As do his recent opponents , which makes this fight the most important boxing match of the spring given the cancellation of the scheduled May 5 middleweight title bout between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
“I became a professional boxer because I want the attention and interest to come back to boxing. I want people interested in boxing. That’s very important to me,” said Lomachenko, who on fight week will receive his Boxing Writers Assn. of America award as fighter of the year.
One of those who’ve further gravitated to the sport because of Lomachenko’s ring artistry is UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, who visited Lomachenko on Tuesday.
“I’m very impressed with Lomachenko — his reaction times and how smooth he is. He gets people to quit. That’s unreal. He’s not winning fights by knockout or by decision. He gets them to quit,” Dillashaw said.
“That’s very impressive. It’s his work ethic. They’re not able to hit him … that’s a very frustrating thing when you have this guy all over you, and you go to hit him and no one’s there.
“It’s like you’re fighting a ghost. That’s a tough thing. It makes you want to give up. I’ve watched what he does. The best way to learn is to watch what the best do, and play the copycat game. He cuts no corners — with strength and conditioning, mental training, sparring.”
Lomachenko said he can feel his foes quitting a few rounds before they do.
“I come in the ring to feel, check and see my opponent. Then I understand him, and understand the fight,” Lomachenko said. “I feel it before they quit. They are quiet.
“If we can compare it to driving, it feels like I’m switching from third speed to fourth, and they start switching back from third to second.”
The challenge this time is moving up five pounds in weight from the 130-pound super-featherweight limit to 135 for the lightweight belt. Lomachenko said the ascent feels natural, and he hasn’t felt obligated to rely more on additional strength training to take on the heavier foe. He said he will do that when the time comes to move to 140 pounds.
Until then, all the attention will be on whether he can cause the heavier, belt-wearing Linares, 32, to quit, too, enhancing the “No-Mas-Chenko” legend.
Can he do it again?
“Absolutely, but I don’t think about this,” Lomachenko said.
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