Amateur legend and current pro boxing star Vasyl Lomachenko, along with his manager Egis Klimas, discuss the upcoming world title challenge against Rocky Martinez.
Vasyl, do you feel any pressure going into this fight?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I don’t have fresh pressures but of course I think about it. I wanted this fight and I am taking it very seriously. I want to do everything right from the beginning. I don’t want to put something like in a blueprint what happened with Salido.
Carl, do you want to explain the situation with his title?
CARL MORETTI: Vasyl is currently the WBO featherweight world champion and he will enter the ring as the champion and if he is victorious in challenging Rocky Martinez, who is the WBO 130 pound world champion, Vasyl and his team will have ten days to decide which belt and which weight class they will continue to campaign in, 126 or 130, and they just have to let the WBO know. If he loses or if it is a draw he will still retain the 126-pound title.
EGIS KLIMAS: We have been told by the WBO when we signed the contract, and also been told by Bob Arum that we will have more than 10 days to decide. We know that everyone is in a hurry and we will try to do our best to let them know what will happen.
Have you had trouble making 126 and do you think the move up will benefit you?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I didn’t have any problems making 126 pounds but of course it wasn’t easy but never was it a critical condition to make my weight. As far as moving to 130 pounds, 130 is a more natural weight for me. Another reason why is I was very hard to get any other champions in the division to fight me. Moving to 130 pounds may give me more opportunity to fight the best fighters in the division and most likely the champions in the division. That was a big part of my decision to move to 130 pounds.
Salido came in weighing about 147 for your fight with him. How much do you think that contributed to the loss?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: You are asking if I felt a difference in the weight? When he came in the ring and took his t-shirt off it looked like a different person in front of me than the person I saw at the weigh-in. There was a completely different person in front of me. Did I feel his weight in the ring? Yes, I did feel his weight when I was fighting him but I cannot blame it on the weight or anything. I was prepared for him to come heavier in the ring. But I still had to fight – I had to do what I had to do.
Has it been difficult to step in right away against the best professionals?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: The biggest concern coming from amateur to professional was to adapt to that dirty style of boxing. It’s not that there are not dirty fighters in the amateurs, it is that in the amateurs the referee will put a stop to it right away. In the Salido fight, for me, the toughest part was adapting to dirty boxing.
Would Vasyl want a rematch with Salido somewhere down the line?
EGIS KLIMAS: Yes, we are talking about that right now. Vasyl will be ringside for Salido’s fight on Saturday night. Salido said at his press conference that if he is the victor in the right he will fly to New York to see Vasyl’s fight. There is talk among our team and there is talk with the promotional company and yes, we believe it could happen. Vasyl will be cheering for Salido on Saturday night because he wishes he will win that fight. And we think, and the promoter thinks, it will be a very good fight for audience and the fans.
What do you think about professionals fighting in the Olympics and especially on this short notice…
VASYL LOMACHENKO: If you are talking about this Olympics, 2016, I don’t think it would be a wise idea for any professional who just heard the news and would run to the Olympic games right now. I think there needs to be more time to prepare for it. The idea of having professional boxers in the Olympics – I am all for it, I like the idea. If you take any other sport – basketball, tennis – any other sport – they support professional athletes and they participate in the Olympic games and it makes it that much stronger. I think in the 2020 Olympics there will be a lot more fighters because they will have a lot of time to prepare. BUT, I do not think the big stars in boxing, like Pacquiao and Mayweather, will take the risks in the Olympic games. When they go to the games, there is a chance the amateur can win and they won’t want to take the risk.
How would you have felt if you were preparing for the games and all the sudden the professionals would come in?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I wouldn’t be surprised and I wouldn’t be scared and would just be glad because all of my boxing career I was always saying that if you want to be the best you have to fight the best. If someone told me that in the 2012 Olympics there would be professional fighters fighting I would be very happy – it would be a big challenge for me. But you can’t forget, just because you are a professional fighter doesn’t mean you can beat the amateurs. It’s a different fight. We have three rounds and then you have to fight every day five or six times. It is completely different preparation, but that doesn’t mean good professionals cannot beat good amateurs. Don’t forget the most important thing – you have to weigh-in every day before the bouts. You can’t do what Salido did. You can’t weigh-in at 126 then come out at 147 – it’s not going to happen. Maybe for one bout, but then next day you have to step in and get from 147 to 126? It is a completely different game and this is probably the main thing — when you have to be in your weight class six days in a row.
If you were in the position where Salido’s opponent tested positive for PED, would you let the fight go on?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I can’t really answer that question – whether I would be fighting or not if my opponent came up dirty on a test for steroids. Would I be fighting if my opponent tested positive? I can’t answer that now because it is a serious decision to make — I would talk to my team and I would talk to everybody. That decision is not easy to make so I can’t answer that question right now, right away. Some of the fighters are using their own substances. If he tested positive on any PEDs then that means he is not an honorable athlete. As far as who is going to win I will be cheering for Salido because I want to fight Salido one more time so I hope he wins the fight.
Did you ever think about going to 135 to become a champion in three weight divisions before your 10th professional fight?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: To answer your first question, I never thought about that fighting as a 135-pounder. That is actually a very good idea, thank you for the tip and I will think about that after June 11.
What do you think about Martinez?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I think Martinez is a very strong and experienced fighter and I think when he comes in the ring on June 11, he will know exactly what he needs to do to win the fight and my position will be to destroy his plan.
Is there any fight at 126 that would make you go back down after this fight?
EGIS KLIMAS: Number 1 contender. Number 1 contender – Oscar Valdez. Actually I am kidding. I haven’t had the chance to talk to Bob Arum since I have heard in the news that he may have plans with Al Haymon, and if that door opens there are a lot of fighters — Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell — but are they willing to step in the ring with Vasyl? Vasyl is willing to step in the ring with any champion but are they willing? We may stay at 130, but I cannot predict that. We are going to see how he feels and what he wants to do. Plus I am not going to be the one stepping in the ring.
Do you have any thoughts going to New York on Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend to fight a Puerto Rican?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I am going to spoil the Puerto Rican fans weekend. They will feel very let down.
Is Vasyl leaning one way or the other, division-wise, following this fight?
EGIS KLIMAS: Everything depends on how the fight will go on June 11. Right now we are not even talking about it. All of the decisions will be made right after the June 11 bout. He could still make 126 — it is not easy — but he will make it for the big fight and he has no doubts about it.
Nichols Walters’ name has been mentioned as an opponent again…
EGIS KLIMAS: Well, I don’t know who is going to pay him the money. Last time they offered $300,000 and he declined. I don’t know what kind of money he wants — $1M or $2M or whatever — I don’t know where Bob Arum is going to get that kind of money. That is a question for Bob Arum. Vasyl stated “I will fight anyone that Top Rank will put in front of me.” He did not only mean it for that fighter but whoever is the No. 1 contender or a world champion in the division that he is fighting in. If Walters thinks he is in that category of being a No. 1 or if he can fight anyone in the division and become a champion and then fight Vasyl — champion versus champion — that would be a very interesting bout.
VASYL LOMACHENKO: After June 11, I am going to be the one thinking and making the decisions whether to fight Walters or not. He will need to come up with more money for me to fight him.
Do you consider Rocky Martinez to be a dirty fighter?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: According to what I saw in his bouts, I can’t consider him as a dirty fighter. What I did see was sometimes he comes in with his head but accidentally without thinking about that. I would not call him a dirty fighter.
In the future, how high of a weight class can you go?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: I can’t answer that question right now. If I did answer that right now it would only be words and mean nothing. If I stay at 126 I will do that to get all of the belts and become undisputed champion. I have said that many times — if I stay here I will collect all of the belts. Now, things happen like this, now I am fighting at 130. Who knows? It is a tough question to answer.
Martinez has had trouble making weight in the past. Are you worried and would you fight if he comes in heavy?
VASYL LOMACHENKO: Yes, I have thought about that — That he would do what Salido did – not try to make the weight and come in heavy and make the title vacant. And I will still fight him.
Promoted by Top Rank®, in association with Puerto Rican Best Boxing, Diamante Promotions, SECA and Madison Square Garden, remaining tickets to the Martinez vs. Lomachenko / Verdejo vs. Martinez championship doubleheader are priced at $300, $200, $100, $50 and $35. Tickets can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster charge by phone (866-858-0008), and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.thegarden.com.