Vasiliy Lomachenko focuses on Jorge Linares, but a fight with Manny Pacquiao looms

The speed of Vasiliy Lomachenko's punches are topped only by the quickness of his career ascent.

He fought for the featherweight title in his second bout, won a second division belt faster than any fighter ever, and now, in his 12th fight, intends to defeat lightweight champion Jorge Linares for a third belt.


"The life of a boxing athlete is short, so I don't have time to waste, or time to take tune-up fights or whatever," Lomachenko, 30, said in advance of his ESPN-televised Saturday bout at Madison Square Garden.

"I want the best, and to get the most out of my short boxing career by fighting the best I can."

Ukraine's Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) already wears two Olympic gold medals and when he became a pro, the feverish competition by promoters to sign him prompted Lomachenko's manager, Egis Klimas, to nickname his fighter "Most Wanted."

Veteran promoter Bob Arum landed Lomachenko by promising him the title shot in his second fight, but he insisted the nickname would need to be changed.

"Arum yelled at me … 'Most wanted' is the biggest criminal in the United States!" Klimas recalled.

After Lomachenko added a super-featherweight belt in his seventh pro bout, a publicist coined him with the moniker "No-Mas-Chenko," a reference to Roberto Duran's infamous surrender against Sugar Ray Leonard in their rematch.

Clever, because Lomachenko is riding a four-fight streak of making opponents quit on their stools: Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga and two-time Olympic champion and then-super-bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Can he make it five straight?

"Everybody wants to see two warriors have a good fight," Lomachenko told reporters Thursday. "If one of us quits, it's not going to be good for the fans and it's not going to be a good bout. A good bout is what I hope is going to happen."

So he prefers a knockout over another TKO by resignation?

"A win is a win," Lomachenko said. "I want a win."

When it came time to pursue this bout, Lomachenko maintained his marching orders to Arum: Get me the best. Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) is an inch taller, with a reach that's 3½ inches longer than Lomachenko's.

Friday night, after he weighed in, Lomachenko was due to attend the Boxing Writers Assn. of America dinner at the Copacabana to collect his "Fighter of the Year" award, while his father, Anatoly, was to receive "Trainer of the Year."

"Lomachenko is unique," said Arum, who previously labeled his fighter boxing's Picasso. "The Lomachenko people, especially his father, are very confident. He thinks it's a very winnable fight. Lomachenko, with his skill set, is something we've never seen before."


Arum, well aware of Lomachenko's interest in moving his career along expeditiously, is planning an August lightweight title defense should Lomachenko defeat Linares, with the hope of meeting Manny Pacquiao in a 140-pound bout in the late fall.

Pacquiao first needs to defeat secondary welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse in July in Malaysia to set up what would be a likely passing-of-the-torch bout that boxing has produced before, from Rocky Marciano over Joe Louis to Larry Holmes over Muhammad Ali to Pacquiao over Oscar De La Hoya.

"This is my first fight at 135. I don't know how I'm going to feel so it doesn't make any sense to talk about a Pacquiao fight now," Lomachenko said.

By now, however, everyone can see where this is going, and Lomachenko acknowledged as much.

"I came up because of my skills in boxing. Nothing is forever, but history is forever. That's what this means to me, to make history," he said.

"Money, titles, belts — you're not going to take with you when you die. History stays forever. That's why I decided to go for history. You're going to have money today, but not tomorrow. It's hard for me to tell what history's going to turn into, but what I want is big challenges, big names.

"I want to win, win, win."

Twitter: @latimespugmire