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Is Vasyl Lomachenko moving up too fast?

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

By challenging Orlando Salido for a world title in only his second fight as a professional boxer, Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko has certainly achieved one object, namely garnering plenty of press attention. Whether he can achieve his other object, that of grabbing Salido’s featherweight title, is another.

Lomachenko is undeniably one of the hottest prospects to emerge from the world amateur scene in recent years. The man is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, as well as a two-time World Amateur Champion, and racked up a staggering amateur record of 396-1 (with that sole defeat avenged). The 25 year old featherweight certainly has the ability to prosper as a pro, but is this audacious, record-setting move an example of going for too much, too soon?

Orlando Salido is no paper champion. The veteran got to the top the hard way, fighting his first professional bout as a 15 year old, and learning his trade in the ring and as he went. That accounts for the bulk of the marks in his “Loss” column, and the rest came to undeniably world class fighters: Juan Manuel Marquez, Yurkoris Gamboa, and Mikey Garcia. If someone suggested to me that Vasyl Lomachenko could take any of those guys, I’d laugh him out of the room!

Although 33 years of age, Salido is only now at the pinnacle of his career. He might not be much of a technician, but he is rugged, determined, and hungry. Meanwhile, Lomachenko has plenty of ability, but no professional experience, and that counts for something. Just ask Lomachenko himself, who injured his hand in his very first pro outing against Jose Ramirez because of the differences in gloves, headgear, and hand wraps.

I really have to wonder if Lomachenko’s people aren’t trying this because Salido was whipped in his last fight by Mikey Garcia. Yet even though Garcia is only a year older than Lomchenko, and Salido was his first big fight, what is often forgotten is that Garcia had been a pro for almost seven years by then, and Salido was his 31st opponent.

Typically, being a fast-rising, young contender meant going from the amateurs to a title fight in a couple of years, not a couple of fights. Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson were both examples of early bloomers, but they made their first title challenges in their 19th and 27th pro fights respectively, although both were younger than Lomchenko is now.

Wilfredo Benitez was only 17 years old when he won his first world title, but was already a 25-0 veteran. These guys challenged early, but also collected plenty of experience before doing so. They scored young because they kept busy and collected that experience quickly.

In that light, one has to wonder if Lomachenko’s move against Salido is an ill-advised publicity stunt. Even if he should beat Salido, does that mean he is ready for a fight with somebody like Nonito Donaire? Could he contemplate moving up to 130 and squaring off with Mikey Garcia?

Even with a title belt over his shoulder, Lomachenko would still be at least two years away from such steep challenges. In the meantime he would wind up spinning his wheels in much the same way as he would have done without going for the gold at just this moment, and the momentum of his big win would be lost. So one has to wonder if tackling Salido is a good long-term strategy, regardless of how the fight in question turns out.