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Vasyl Lomachenko looks to build on his stardom with win over Nicholas Walters

Vasyl Lomachenko looks to build on his stardom with win over Nicholas Walters
Vasyl Lomachenko, right, lands an overhand right against Romulo Koasicha during their WBO featherweight title bout on Nov. 7, 2015. (John Locher / Associated Press)

What was entertaining enough — a super-featherweight-title slugfest in an intimate venue — has been enhanced by the increasingly high stakes for champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

There’s a scenario in play that could make a victorious Lomachenko the next opponent of Manny Pacquiao, promoter Bob Arum said.

First, Lomachenko, the former two-time Olympic boxing champion from Ukraine, will meet hard-hitting Jamaican Nicholas Walters on Saturday night at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Not only is the 28-year-old Lomachenko (6-1, four knockouts) confronting a former featherweight champion in Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs) in which those neutral from the promotion see fight-of-the-year promise, a victory would elevate Lomachenko's candidacy for the Boxing Writers Assn. of America's  fighter of the year award.

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Lomachenko was brilliant in June, when he dominated World Boxing Organization champion Roman "Rocky" Martinez of Puerto Rico and won on a fifth-round knockout to become the first pro boxer to capture two division belts in just seven fights.

Powerful and technical, Lomachenko says his workaholic nature and his father's training  have him on target to conquer Walters, a powerful puncher who claims knockouts of former champions Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan, and has been down only once in his career.

Walters has more than a seven-inch reach advantage on Lomachenko.

"I want everyone to see how interesting boxing can be .… Everything is going to be happening very fast," Lomachenko told reporters this week. "Don't close your eyes.

"It will be very hard for me in the first four rounds, and then I'll be trying to determine a spot" for a stoppage.

The fight will be the 2,000th staged by Arum, who started in 1966 with Muhammad Ali.

Arum said if Floyd Mayweather Jr. opts to remain retired instead of pursuing a Pacquiao rematch in May, Lomachenko could be Pacquiao's next opponent by beating Walters.

Lomachenko would likely take a fight around 135 pounds early in 2017, then could fight Pacquiao around 140 pounds, Arum speculated.

"He's going to win other titles as he goes up in weight and there's going to be very interesting guys for him to fight," Arum said. "Vasyl Lomachenko wants challenges. He's a tremendous talent, an unbelievable performer. His upside is enormous."

HBO will televise Lomachenko-Walters following a 6:30 p.m. Pacific time replay of last week's controversial unanimous-decision light-heavyweight title victory by Oakland's Andre Ward over Russia's Sergey Kovalev.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission is bringing back back judges Glenn Trowbridge and Burt Clements from Ward-Kovalev to score Lomachenko-Walters.

More dubious is the placement of judge Adalaide Byrd after she turned in a questionable 97-93 card in Maurice Hooker's favor Saturday, creating a draw when it appeared Southland-promoted Darleys Perez had won their junior-welterweight bout.

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