Two-division world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist VASYL LOMACHENKO and World Boxing Association (WBA) super featherweight world champion JASON "El Canito" SOSA will battle for Lomachenko's World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior lightweight world title, Saturday, April 8, at The Theater at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD. The fight between the two world champions will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
The non-televised undercard will feature undefeated No. 1 super middleweight contender JESSE "Hard Work" HART from Philadelphia, PA., and local favorites from the metro Washington, D.C. area, including undefeated prospects MIKE "Yes Indeed" REED and PATRICK HARRIS in separate bouts. Full details on the undercard will be announced at a later date.
Below are quotes from the press conference announcement:
TODD duBOEF: On behalf of Top Rank we would love to thank HBO, the No. 1 premium channel in the world with great programming all the time, and MGM, who we have a great relationship with in Las Vegas and all over the world; and obviously both fighters -- Jason Sosa has had an incredible rise especially over the past year and gotten himself a title and Vasyl Lomachenko, having only eight professional fights, has people declaring that he is pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world and was also considered by many the Fighter of the Year last year. We love making matches like this. You are talking about two of the top, top fighters in the division. We know it’s going to be an incredible fight between two guys deserving of the accolades they have received.
RUSSELL PELTZ: Thanks, Todd. We are really looking forward to this challenge. Jason had a terrific year last year and he won the title in Beijing, defended it in Monte Carlo and will now be fighting the man that everyone is calling the best fighter in the world which I guess we will find that out on April 8th. Jason is up for the challenge – he is a real fighter and real fighters fight. We will see if he can match his skills with Lomachenko and I believe that Jason’s trainer, Raul Cheno Revas is as good a trainer as there is in the world today. You may not have heard a lot about him but I think you will in the coming years. We are going into this fight, obviously as we would in any fight, to win.
I met Chino is 2012 – I went to another promoters fight in the Northeast section of Philly -- I was there to scout a lightweight named Anthony Bergen who turned pro that night and I was impressed and when the fight was over I met Chino and we made an agreement that night to sign Anthony Bergen and he said to me at the time ‘if you want Bergen you have to take Jason Sosa.’ Jason had about 7 or 8 fights at the time and I had seen him a few times and said ‘I really don’t want to do that.’ He said, ‘It’s part of the package.’ And I don’t want to say I reluctantly agreed because Jason always made great fights and I knew it. So Jason came along as part of the package. Like, when was Tom Brady drafted? So that’s what happened to Jason, he turned out to be the main fighter in my stable ever since. Like I said before, guys like Freddie Roach and Virgil Hunter may get more recognition but Chino has turned Jason’s career around and the career of another junior lightweight named Kevin Farmer with a completely different style from Jason – a slick boxer compared to a slugger. Chino has completely turned both of their careers around.
RAUL CHINO RIVAS: I thank Top Rank and Russell Peltz, and I want to thank HBO for believing that Jason Sosa is worthy. Jason Sosa is a throwback fighter. He is very aggressive with a lot of heart and determination. He is something really special. He reminds me of Marvin Hagler. He keeps coming and coming and coming because he believes and has the will to win. This is an opportunity and a challenge for us, his fundamentals and skills and angles and defense. I have a lot of respect for Lomachenko. I believe he is the best pound-for-pound fighter and it won’t be easy, not a walk in the park -- we’ve always been the underdog but all of the pressure is on him. He is the two-time world champion. We will have to execute the game plan to the best of our ability, and I believe I have the best man. And they believe they have the best man. So on April 8, the whole world will see, on HBO. Every fight Lomachenko is getting a learning experience and a confidence boost. I have been watching for a long time -- through the Olympics. His father is a great trainer and why he does not have all of the Ukraine fighters I have no idea. We are in Puerto Rico training and getting in extremely good work. I know that Lomachenko is going to be in great condition and Jason will be in great condition so you are going to see something special.
JASON SOSA: I would like to that God. I would like to thank Top Rank, Russell Peltz and HBO and also Lomachenko and his team for accepting this opportunity. I am very excited for April 8th and I am going to be in the best condition of my life. I have to be to fight one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and the best amateur fighter that ever lived. At the end of the day, my team and I have got to be prepared. I am excited and very humbled and looking forward to everyone meeting the new Jason Sosa. I only had three fights as an amateur and the fights I am getting as a professional are keeping me hungry and focused and maintaining my craft. First and foremost I have one of the best trainers in the world and to have the opportunity to learn from him is a blessing for me. A lot of people say that I am blessed because I have him in my corner and I really believe that because without him I would not be champion today. So I am very excited and looking forward to April 8th.
TODD duBOEF: I would like to introduce Egis Klimas, a manager who has more courage than anyone and also has quite a stable of fighters that he brings from Europe to the USA.
EGIS KLIMAS: Hello everybody and thank you for being with us on this call. First of all I would like to let everybody know that I am very proud and very blessed to present one of the best fighters in the world, Vasyl Lomachenko. I want to thank Top Rank for bringing us back quickly for another opportunity to fight and I want to thank HBO for showing the fight around the whole nation, and thank Sosa for taking this fight. It’s not easy when you have a good fighter to get somebody in the other corner, but Top Rank is doing a very good job getting the best fighters possible to make the best fights. Looking forward to April 8 to go to Maryland for Vasyl to defend his title. He is always in the best shape and he is training hard and he’s going to be ready. The fans are going to see a great fight. And here is the WBO champion of the world, Lomachenko.
VASYL LOMACHENKO: Hello everybody, I just want to say I am happy to be back in camp and I am enjoying every single day I am preparing for my fight. I want to thank Jason Sosa for training to come for the victory and he is going to bring a great fight for the fans. Thank you very much and we will see you on April 8.
How do you feel about finally winning the [WBA] title, but made to vacate it, against [WBO champion] Lomachenko?
JASON SOSA: My thoughts are, this is boxing and that happens. I just have to maintain focus and just keep moving on. Just like my first loss. I’ve got one career loss and I never just focus on that loss, I just move forward. Same thing, they stripped me of the title and it hurt me because I would like to unify my title. I think that’s what every world champion would love to do. I would like to apologize to the Lomachenko team as well because I am sure they would like to fight for another title, but at the end of the day I am focused and looking forward to April 8 and hopefully win the WBO belt.
So this is not about unifying titles – you want a fight on the big stage against a top level opponent…
JASON SOSA: We want to fight the best. Lomachenko is the best in our weight division right now. That’s what boxing is all about -- at the end of the day a world champion wants to fight a world champion. We are more than eager to take the challenge on April 8. We are going to put the game plan to perfection. We take it day by day and keep getting in better shape getting ready for April 8.
No one is going to questions Jason Sosa’s toughness but how do you deal with the skill level?
JASON SOSA: Very simple and short -- I have the best trainer in the world and I believe he is going to have the perfect game plan and I am going to execute the game plan to perfection.
How does Lomachenko feel about that this is not going to be for the title that Sosa had?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I understand that this is not Sosa’s decision – it is the WBA and they took the title from him. Of course I would rather unify titles. At this point I am happy to fight one of the best in the division and he is the one that took this opportunity. The other champions were running like rats from a sinking ship and not coming into the ring. Nowadays it’s not about the sport – all of the boxers have become businessmen and they are looking just to get the money and not the glory.
Why have the fight in a venue that seats only 3,000 people?
TODD duBOEF: We don’t necessarily agree with the size of the venue being indicative of the size of the match. I remember as a child the Pavilion here in Las Vegas used to have some of the biggest fights out there. Benitez, Hagler and Antifermo all fought there and sometimes on the same card. Size does not matter, not this situation, but one of the things we wanted to do was bring this match to the east coast because of Sosa’s fan base and wanted to spread Vasyl’s brand also, and we want to offer that to a new facility and it’s an honor to be able to go there.
How many times would you like to fight this year and do you plan to move up to 135?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I was always for fighting three or four times a year. I am ready to fight and I want to fight three or four times a year. It doesn’t always depend on me, it also depends on opponents and the TV and the promoter. I am looking this year to fight at least three times. As far as moving up in weight class, if the thing is going to go like it is today, everybody is running away and not fighting me, I will be forced to go to 135 pounds and I would hope that the guys at 135 would be standing up and coming to fight.
Is it difficult to find opponents for Vasyl?
EGIS KLIMAS: Well, as you can see, the champions are not coming. That question would probably be better to go to the promoter. I am not the one that is finding opponents.
Are you learning English and do you feel it is important to do so?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I am talking in the language of boxing.
EGIS KLIMAS: Yes he is learning English but he is not going to speak it until it is perfect English. He wants everything in his life maximized, so if he is going to start speaking English it is going to be perfect English.
What do you think about the venue and do you think you would be bringing more high profile events there?
TODD duBOEF: I physically have not been there but I have spoken to the executives at Las Vegas about the venue and their enthusiasm is very high in regards to us bringing the boxing community there. Boxing has so much symbiotic behavior to the gaming customer and fighters and fans from the local area excites them. We have had numerous conversations on a corporate level but we have not been there. There is no formal commitment but we are going have kids from the DC area on the card such as Mike Reed and Patrick Harris, and Jessie Hart is going to be coming down I-95 from Philly. We are not locked into anything in the future, we will see how this comes off – it’s a high level fight on HBO.
Were you disappointed that the Salido fight fell through?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: Yes I was a little disappointed because as far as I knew everything was moving along and everything was agreed to then all the sudden they turned around and said he wasn’t going to fight. But, you know, such is life.
Do you still want to face him or have you moved on?
VASYL LOMACHANKO: Yes, I would still like to fight him, but it doesn’t depend on me. We will see how it goes.
Why are you training in Puerto Rico for this fight?
JASON SOSA: I have tried to train in New York and also Florida but I have found that my best training is done in Puerto Rico.
What do you think about Lomachenko?
JASON SOSA: He is the closest fighter to perfection in boxing.
When do you plan to go to 135?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: If I have the opportunity against any of the champions at 135, if they are willing to fight and my promoter can put the fight together, I am looking forward to it.
When you look in the mirror, do you see yourself as the best fighter in the world, or the top 10?
VASY LOMACHENKO: It is very hard to answer the question because when I look in the mirror I don’t think about who the pound-for-pound fighter is. I am usually working on my hair at that moment.
What do you think of the talk that puts you in the Top Ten?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: If you want to just talk regarding me, as a pound-for-pound fighter, I would probably say that I will probably be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter after I beat a couple of champions at 135.
Since a couple of fighters turned down the opportunity to fight Lomachenko, can you take us through the making of this fight?
TODD duBOEF: We have a long relationship with Russell Peltz, the co-promoter of Jason Sosa, and when the date came up for the fight for Lomachenko, the offer went out to a few different fighters -- one being a rematch with Orlando Salido and one being the champion Jezreel Corrales and the other one being Sosa. Russell was truly a professional and has a great relationship with us and we could make a deal pretty easily. When you say about me having a tough time making fights -- I think what happens in this business, I think Vasyl said it right -- the fighters are becoming businessmen -- not ones that are willing to roll up their sleeves and become prizefighters -- so that’s a dilemma that we deal with especially when you take the risk/reward of fighting Lomachenko. Jason and Russell understood that they wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. That door opened and they are going to step through it. We applaud that and you applaud when guys take those challenges.
RUSSELL PELTZ: Top Rank called us, offered us the fight, and we said yes -- because that’s what fighters do -- fight. I talked it over with Chino and talked it over with Jason, and listen, we know we’re not the first choice -- we get that. We know Salido turned it down for more money. We know Corrales turned it down for more money -- because as everybody said, boxing is more of a business than a sport. We understand that we are here because no one else wanted the challenge. The point is, we are going to take advantage of that. Because when I was a kid, I loved a fighter named Harold Johnson. Johnson was the light heavyweight champion of the world and he was scheduled to fight a kid from Peru and about six weeks before the fight the kid failed the eye test. So they brought in Henry Hank and two weeks before the fight Hank got injured. So they brought in Willie Pastrano on 10 days notice. Pastrano knew he wasn’t the first choice but he took advantage of it and he won the title. That’s what it’s all about -- fighters fight.
TODD duBOEF: What a great way to finish this call. Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 A.M.!
Promoted by Top Rank®, in association with Peltz Boxing Promotions, tickets for the Lomachenko-Sosa world championship event go on sale This Monday! February 20, at 10:00 A.M. ET. Priced at $153, $128, $103, $78 and $53, including all applicable service charges and taxes, tickets can be purchased online at mgmnationalharbor.com or ticketmaster.com. For more tour and ticket information, visit mgmnationalharbor.com or call (844) 346-4664.