Significant titles: WBC Featherweight, WBA Super-Featherweight, WBC Lightweight, WBA lightweight
Biggest wins: Oscar Larrios 2007 (TKO 10), Josafat Perez (TKO 8), Anthony Crolla (UD)
As it’s his debut at the weight, we can’t comment on Vasyl Lomachenko’s power at 135 lbs. We can however look at his work at the lower weights. Even between 126-130 lbs, he hasn’t demonstrated particularly heavy hands (except for one devastating finish of Rocky Martinez). His recent run of successful stoppages have come from opponents’ frustration rather than physical punishment. However, given that the punches you don’t see coming often cause the most damage, ‘Loma’ definitely has the power to catch anyone cold.
Jorge Linares has more stoppage wins than Lomachenko has professional fights. Normally a good sign of power and experience. Normal rules don’t exactly apply to the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist however. This still doesn’t detract from Linares’ record though. 27 of his 44 professional wins have come early, which shows he definitely contains enough power in his gloves. His last stoppage though was against Ivan Cano in 2015 and he has appeared to coast somewhat in his most recent outings.
Verdict: Linares appears to have the heavier hands of the two, whether he gets to land them could be another matter.
There aren’t many boxers that would trump Linares in pure boxing talent. He possesses lightning quick hand speed and beautiful footwork. He has demonstrated his skill to UK audiences recently with a comfortable pair of wins over Anthony Crolla. Then, he edged Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell in the USA. Campbell rightly won lots of admirers but Linares deservedly got the decision (for me). In short, Linares would justifiably trust his skills against most men on the planet.
Unfortunately for the Venezuelan though, he will be facing one of his superiors on Saturday night. Lomachenko, a double Olympic Gold medallist, became world champion in only his third professional fight. He is arguably the best technical boxer in the world at the time of writing, so Linares, who likes to be patient and counter, will have his work cut out for him.
The higher up the levels you go, the harder it is to bring in sparring partners who replicate your opponent. How do you prepare for Lomachenko for example? You could find a quick, world-class southpaw. Yet that would only be half the work done. On top of being a lefty, Loma possesses speed and trickery in abundance. He throws shots from angles that other world level boxers can only dream about. In short, he is pretty much impossible to train for.
Verdict: Lomachenko would win this category against anyone on the planet. Maybe even the galaxy.
On paper, there are worlds between the pair’s professional experience. Lomachenko has had eleven contests and Linares forty-seven. The Venezuelan actually made his professional bow a full eleven years before his upcoming opponent! This obviously doesn’t tell the tale. While the amateur and professional codes are widely considered separate entities, the three hundred plus amateur bouts of Lomachenko have seemingly aided his professional development. He also competed in the World Series of Boxing, which acts a bridge between the codes. So considering his rapid rise through the pro ranks, this is a remarkably experienced boxer.
So he wins that then? Not necessarily. Jorge Linares is a three weight world champion and has spent much of his career fighting on the road. Although he is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, “The Golden Boy” (in English) has come through the school of hard knocks. Golden Boy promotions are backing him heavily and his popularity (in the UK at least) is at an all-time high. If he hadn’t overcome adversity early on in his career, he has been stopped and hurt on several occasions, he wouldn’t be where he is today. At various points in his career, Linares has worked with top trainers such as Freddie Roach and Ismael Salas too. So there isn’t a lot that he hasn’t seen.
Verdict: If this category were called ‘overcoming adversity’ Linares would win hands down. It’s not though and Lomachenko deserves to be at least level. Even.
Wear and Tear
Normally, he who has the most experience also accumulates more damage. Not so. Of the 397 amateur contests, Vasyl Lomachenko lost one. Yes, one! The man who holds that win is Albert Selimov of Russia. Since then, Lomachenko beat him twice. So he basically had things his own way on almost 400 occasions as an amateur. He didn’t have things his own way against Orlando Salido though. In just his second professional outing, Lomachenko was outweighed, outworked and outfought. He appears to have learned from that as he has barely been touched in the ring ever since. And it’s not like he’s taken an easy route. Among his victories are Gary Russell Jr, Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Jorge Linares on the other hand has been in some wars. British fans will remember him trading knockdowns with Kevin Mitchell and being pushed all the way by Luke Campbell. Before he made a name for himself on these shores, Linares had already shown vulnerability at lighter weights. He was previously stopped by Antonio DeMarco who beat the fight out of him and has been badly cut on several occasions, raising question marks over his ability to take sustained punishment.
Verdict: No contest! Lomachenko is by far the fresher of the two.
This bout sees the lightweight debut of Lomachenko, so normally you’d give Linares (world champion at 135 lbs) the advantage here. Again though, there is nothing normal about either of these fighters. They are both supremely talented and they both began their careers at featherweight. Linares even campaigned at Super-Bantamweight for a short time following his debut. Obviously Linares has more experience at the higher weight but I don’t foresee the step up posing any problems for the Ukranian. I don’t see ‘Hi-Tech’ packing on muscle so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him weigh in one or two pounds lighter than the limit. With that in mind he won’t lose any of his speed or reflexes.
Where Linares does hold a slight advantage is with his height and reach. A couple of inches might not make all the difference (insert cheap joke here) but it may have a part to play here. Especially if Linares’ game-plan is to keep his opponent at bay with the jab. In order to overcome this potential hurdle, Lomachenko will have to use his attributes to their fullest. Fortunately for him, he has the necessary skills in abundance.
Neither man is slow by any means, which could result in a fantastic boxing match for the purists. The general consensus is that this will go into the later rounds. I agree with that theory and while both men have shown they can navigate twelve rounds, Lomachenko appears to have the better gas tank when working at a high tempo. Linares has been stopped each time he has lost.
Verdict: Technically this could be even, albeit for different reasons. Linares has the slight size advantage but probably not enough to make a significant difference.
Official BBB Prediction
As discussed in ‘Skills’, I’m not sure how you prepare for Lomachenko. You can watch his fights over and over and he will still bring an element of surprise. That said, Linares is arguably the first man to face him (since Salido) who genuinely believes he can win. That should present a challenge in itself. The sole defeat on Lomachenko’s ledger was to the afore mentioned Salido. He didn’t outbox Lomachenko. He used his size advantage to batter and bulldoze his way to victory. An advantage Linares possesses, just don’t expect him to use it. Not in that manner anyway.
Both men like to use their technical ability to control the action. If they come out in this manner, the early rounds will be likened to a chess match. Cagey and cautious with their brains working faster than their limbs. A slower, controlled pace should favour Linares who will take heart if he manages to nullify Lomachenko’s rapid combinations. I fancy Lomachenko to finish the stronger of the two, so it is vital that Linares gets off to a good start. If he manages this, and banks his share of the opening rounds, this could prove interesting down the stretch. He will grow in confidence if he can match the Ukranian. If, however, Lomachenko gets into his groove from the off this could be a long old night for ‘El Niño d’Oro’.
Even against someone as talented as Jorge Linares, I envisage Lomachenko taking no longer than two or three rounds to settle into his rhythm. And once this happens it is going to be almost impossible to disrupt. While I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the distance, I’m going to jump off the fence and predict that Lomachenko will stop Linares between rounds 10-12. More through an accumulation and variety of shots, than one heavy blow.
This is probably the biggest fight of his pro career to date and I expect him to rise to the occasion. Loma doesn’t possess devastating one punch KO power but he carries enough (along with everything else in his arsenal) to beat Linares into submission. Or at least into a position where the ref has seen enough.