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Bob Arum sees a bright future for Vasyl Lomachenko on HBO after breakout victory

Vasyl Lomachenko
Vasyl Lomachenko celebrates after winning the WBO junior lightweight title by knocking out Roman “Rocky” Martinez in June. He is expected to face Nicholas Walters in Las Vegas on Nov. 26.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Vasyl Lomachenko’s impressive knockout of super-featherweight world champion Roman “Rocky” Martinez on Saturday night has his promoter pushing HBO to capitalize on the breakout fighter’s skills.

“People thought I was crazy to describe him as otherworldly and the best guy out there, but he proved me correct,” Lomachenko’s promoter, Bob Arum, said. “This guy’s amazing. I can’t even say I was hoping for that because that’s a performance I had never seen before. Have you ever seen anything like that?”

Lomachenko, who moved up in weight for the fight, swept the first four rounds against Martinez — a respected World Boxing Organization champion who had beaten rugged Orlando Salido in their first meeting in 2015 and  had lasted 12 rounds in a disputed draw in September’s rematch.

In the fifth, Lomachenko belted Martinez with a left and dropped him for good with a right hook to the jaw.

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No other man in boxing had won two belts in his first seven pro fights until Saturday, when the 28-year-old Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, did so.

After the fight, he announced he’ll leave the World Boxing Organization featherweight title to the winner of the July 23 fight between Oscar Valdez and Matias Rueda at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Arum said he’s dispatching Top Rank President Todd duBoef to set up meetings with new HBO President Casey Bloys and Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes to back advanced interest in Lomachenko, who hadn’t fought since Nov. 7 as HBO dealt with a reduced boxing budget this year.


FOR THE RECORD

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12:32 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said Bob Arum wanted to set up meetings that would include Time Warner Cable Chairman and Chief Executive Robert D. Marcus. Arum wants Time Warner executive Jeff Bewkes to be part of the meetings.


“What Todd is going to be working on, is go to [Bloys and Marcus] and tell them what they have here is someone who’s extraordinarily special, who’s going to be built up to the point where everyone who subscribes to HBO is going to want to see the guy,” Arum said. “Let’s talk to the kid and see if we can keep him busier than what we have before. I’d like him to fight in 10 weeks on HBO, and then I’d like to do another fight with him [by the end of 2016]. That’s my goal. I know what their budget situation is. [HBO Sports President Peter] Nelson sat behind me at the fight, and trust me, he’s a true believer. Lomachenko can be built by a network into a must-see attraction. We haven’t seen anyone like him in our time.”

After Salido engaged in the fight-of-the-year front-runner June 4 at StubHub Center, a draw against World Boxing Council super-featherweight champion Francisco Vargas, he attended Saturday’s Lomachenko bout and stands as the leading candidate in a possible September fight.

In March 2014, Salido was overweight and dealt Lomachenko his only loss (by split decision) in the Ukrainian’s second pro fight — which was for the WBO featherweight belt he won a fight later.

“Brother Salido wants to fight the fights people want to see,” Salido manager Sean Gibbons said to the Los Angeles Times on Monday in a text message. “If there is a demand for Lomachenko, Salido is in!”

Arum expects that Salido is No. 1 on Lomachenko’s wish list.

“We have a number of options: Salido, Nicholas Walters, Takashi Miura, Francisco Vargas. Whatever my choice might be, Lomachenko wants to fight Salido next,” Arum said. “Lomachenko is not the ordinary fighter. He is looking to leave this sport years from now having left a great legacy. He wants Salido because Salido has that first victory off him. If I can’t get Salido — which I think I can — Walters is possible. We’ll take one after another with this guy.”

Arum, at 84, said he feels charged by a talent who he says surpassed even the jolt that Manny Pacquiao provided when he beat up Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera in his breakout victory more than a decade ago.

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“Pacquiao was great, and there was a lot of what Lomachenko was doing that was similar to Pacquiao,” Arum said. “Pacquiao had the speed and elusiveness, but this guy has balance like I’ve never seen. Lomachenko hits, moves and he’s not there like Pacquiao, and the difference is the incredible balance puts him in a position where it looks like the opponent thinks he’s got him, but he doesn’t, and it makes it easier for Lomachenko to get off concussive shots. I would pay to watch him.”


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