Vasyl Lomachenko vs Nicholas Walters
Record: 6-1 (4 KO) ... Streak: W5 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 6-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / 65½" ... Age: 28
Notes: Like I said on the most recent podcast when talking about the pound-for-pound top 10 in this post-Kovalev-Ward world, I’ve got Vasyl Lomachenko in at the back of the top 10 right now, and if he wins this fight in dominant fashion, I’m bumping him up top No. 6, ahead of Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, and other celebrated names, and behind only Chocolatito Gonzalez, Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Gennady Golovkin. And I think you could make an argument he deserves to be ranked above a couple of those guys.
Lomachenko is a phenomenal talent, someone whose skill isn’t inherently dull to watch for the average Joe like yours truly, who doesn’t get all fluttery-eyed over Technique and Ring Positioning. If I’m being honest, I like boxing in a more primal way than I do a technical manner, and that’s just the fan that I am. I can’t change that. I can appreciate that Rigondeaux is exceptional at what he does, but I don’t have to like it.
Lomachenko has had a couple of fights where he let it get a little snooze-inducing. His win over Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo in 2014 stands out for not standing out, and though he eventually knocked Romulo Koasicha out in their fight a year ago, it felt like he was sleepwalking through portions of the fight, basically because he could.
But there are other times he looks not just talented, but kind of spectacular, and none more so than his June win over Rocky Martinez, a sturdy titleholder and a good fighter. Not only did Lomachenko produce a boxing master class for a few rounds, but he closed the show with a savage KO in the fifth, a display of technique, timing, and raw power.
I held out a while on declaring Lomachenko "great," and I do think he still has a few things to prove. I think Walters is easily his most dangerous opponent yet, in that he’s a big puncher and will have a significant reach advantage, not that I imagine the slick Lomachenko to have a ton of trouble negating that. But it is something, anyway. But he’s right on the doorstep of being truly great in today’s boxing world, an elite fighter with no questions remaining whatsoever, and this fight can open that door.
Record: 26-0-1 (21 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’7" / 73" ... Age: 30
Notes: "The Axe Man," from Montego Bay, Jamaica, was more curiosity than contender as recently as 2013, when he made his debut on U.S. soil with a fourth round TKO win over veteran club fighter Alberto Garza. To that point, he’d fought the vast majority of his bouts in Panama, with a couple in his home country, including his most notable win, a TKO-7 over Daulis Prescott in December 2012.
He had the look and record of someone worth paying attention to, but there was little to no footage available, and when that’s been the case, it often means that a guy has racked up a KO-heavy mark without earning it against serious opponents. And on paper, clearly the majority of his foes had not been serious threats.
He got his real chance to step up in 2014, when he went to Macau to face Vic Darchinyan, a veteran fighting heavy and past his prime, but a guy still capable enough to knock off Walters if Walters had been a pretender. Turns out he wasn’t — Walters knocked Darchinyan out in the fifth round, dropping him three times in the process. Five months later, Walters demolished Nonito Donaire, completely overpowering the former pound-for-pound star in six rounds, scoring another pair of knockdowns. It was a lesson learned for Donaire: he wasn’t a featherweight, and Nicholas Walters was.
His scheduled June 2015 defense against Miguel Marriaga on HBO went awry in more ways than one, though, and he’s sort of failed to capitalize on the Donaire win thus far. First off, Walters missed weight, and vacated his title at the scales. Then, he and Marriaga slogged through a dull 12 rounds, a fight that didn’t inspire great confidence in Walters as an HBO headliner, which he was that night.
Last December, Walters faced Jason Sosa in his proper super featherweight debut. Despite most media and fans having Walters the winner on their scorecards, the judges saw two cards even and one for Sosa, a majority draw. Since that fight, we’ve learned something really important: Jason Sosa can fight for sure. He now holds a world title, stopping Javier Fortuna and defending successfully against Stephen Smith a couple of weeks ago.
So considering most of us felt Walters deserved a clear win over the game Sosa, how good does that look now that Sosa has shown how good he really is?
There is a red flag for Walters going into this match, and that’s inactivity. The 30-year-old has sat out the last 11 months, balking at this fight earlier in the year because the money wasn’t what he wanted. Learning that there wasn’t really anything else out there, he’s taken the fight now, and after Lomachenko looked more dangerous than ever in his last outing.
Matchup Grade: A-. There’s nothing not to like here. Yes, there is a favorite, but Walters is no pushover, and does have a significant reach advantage and major league punching power. He’ll be the biggest, hardest punching guy Lomachenko has faced to date. This is a legit matchup between two guys near the top of this division.