After claiming a third World title in as many weight classes this past weekend with a tenth-round TKO of Jorge Linares, Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1-0, 10 KO’s) reaffirmed his status as one of the best fighters in the sport.
With an outstanding professional resume that also boasts the likes of Nicholas Walters, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Gary Russell Jr. – in just twelve fights, no less – fans of the Ukrainian superstar are left wondering who will enter ‘The Matrix’ next.
Below, we take a look at the five most likely candidates for Lomachenko’s next opponent…
Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KO’s)
Experienced Mexican Raymundo Beltran finally achieved his dream of attaining World honours in February, when he defeated Paulus Moses via twelve-round unanimous decision to claim the WBO World lightweight title. The bout – and Beltran’s story – was well-documented, with the victory not only giving ‘Sugar’ Ray a World title at the fourth time of asking, but also gained him a green card for residency in the United States.
A well-schooled, tidy boxer-puncher, a lightweight unification with Beltran would seem the most likely scenario for Lomachenko. With the two men sharing a promoter in Top Rank’s legendary frontman Bob Arum, there would seem to be little in the way of politics scuppering a potential showdown.
Having shown a willingness to travel in his career, such as facing pound-for-pound superstar Terence Crawford in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska – as well as being the recipient of a terrible robbery against Ricky Burns in a 2013 World title fight in Glasgow – it would be of no surprise for the teak-tough Beltran to risk his newly-acquired title against Lomachenko.
Jorge Linares (44-4-0, 27 KO’s)
After emerging from Saturday’s World lightweight title clash with enhanced reputations, a small section of the boxing fraternity have called for a second instalment between Lomachenko and Jorge Linares.
Linares, a three-weight World champion, enjoyed sustained moments of success against the Ukrainian, landing several thudding combinations and sending Lomachenko to the canvas for the first time in his professional career in the sixth round with a blistering right hand.
While the outcome of the bout was rather conclusive – a crippling tenth-round body shot knockout – the overall high-quality nature of proceedings had boxing fans salivating throughout, with two of the sport’s most eye-catching technicians putting on a wonderful advertisement of the sweet science.
With the scorecards split at the time of the stoppage (86-84, 84-86 & 85-85) there is legitimate grounds for a potential rematch. However, with Lomachenko and Arum eyeing further titles at lightweight and above, it remains to be seen whether a return leg with the talented Venezuelan will come to fruition.
Mikey Garcia (38-0-0, 30 KO’s)
No sooner than Lomachenko’s left hand sunk into Linares’ liver on Saturday evening, boxing fans worldwide came calling for a mouth-watering unification with four-weight World champion Mikey Garcia.
After a two-year hiatus from the sport, California-based Garcia has returned in scintillating form – capturing World titles at lightweight and super lightweight and once again establishing himself as one of the best fighters on the plant.
A bout with Lomachenko would represent another star-studded, legitimately world-class encounter. With the two men prominently placed on most observers ‘pound-for-pound’ lists, and both men plying their trade at 135lbs, a match-up seems inevitable.
Despite capturing the IBF World super lightweight title in his most recent outing against Sergey Lipinets, Garcia has made it clear that his future lies at lightweight. With rumours that he will seek to unify his WBC title with IBF champion Robert Easter Jr. in his next bout, it would appear that any meeting with Lomachenko will have to wait for the time being.
Another potential obstacle to the bout taking place is Garcia’s chequered past with promoter Bob Arum. After a messy contractual dispute with the Top Rank boss kept Garcia on the shelf between 2014-2016, any deal to face the Arum-promoted-Lomachenko will surely be a complicated one.
Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KO’s)
Another long-mooted potential opponent for Lomachenko is Filipino ring-legend Manny Pacquiao. With talks of a potential contest rumoured since turning professional, Lomachenko has spoken of his desire to face the former eight-weight World champion, with promoter Bob Arum also expressing his interest in staging the fight.
While Pacquiao has campaigned at welterweight – and above – since his 2009 destruction of Ricky Hatton, there has been talk of the two meeting at 140lbs in a typical “passing of the torch” encounter.
However, with Pacquiao scheduled to face Argentinean banger Lucas Matthysse for the WBA ‘Regular’ World welterweight title in July, it would appear that the ‘fantasy match-up between Lomachenko and Pacquiao is just that: a fantasy.
Pacquiao, a long-time stalwart of the Top Rank stable, is seen by many to be closing out his hall-of-fame worthy career, and a bout with Lomachenko is most likely out of reach for the 39-year-old.
Gervonta Davis (20-0-0, 19 KO’s)
Despite claiming his third World title in as many weight classes against Linares, Lomachenko has once again been linked with current WBA super featherweight champion Gervonta Davis.
However, the precociously talented Mayweather Promotions charge has stated that he would only be willing to face Lomachenko if the bout were to be aired on pay-per-view. Lomachenko was dismissive of the idea, pointing to the fact that Davis is yet to top a bill on Showtime, and that he viewed the proposal as baseless and a way of avoiding the fight.
While 23-year-old Davis has shown a willingness to test himself in his relatively short professional career, it is viewed as extremely unlikely that promoter Floyd Mayweather would be interested in putting his star pupil in with Lomachenko – at least for the time being.
With the two now also campaigning in different divisions, it appears that a fight between them is virtually dead in the water.