Boxing: Lomachenko aiming to send a message
Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former unified lightweight champion, is back in the ring on Saturday night, looking to fight his way back to the top of the tree in a division that has seen so much upheaval in the last year.
His opponent is Richard Commey, with the WBO Inter-Continental title on the line, but Loma will be more interested in sending a signal to the rest of the division that he is still to be feared.
On the comeback trail
When Vasiliy Lomachenko was beaten by Teofimo Lopez last year, it sent shockwaves around the boxing world. The up-and-coming Lopez took the WBA, WBO and Ring belts when he sprung the huge upset.
Lomachenko looked a shadow of his former self in that fight, blaming an injury that inhibited his abilities. Without a rematch clause and with Lopez unwilling to grant the Ukrainian one, Loma had to set about beating his own path on the comeback trail.
The first step was a victory over Masayoshi Nakatani in June, a man who had previously taken Lopez to the judges' scorecards. Loma was a convincing winner with a ninth round knockout.
Next up is Richard Commey, who was the IBF lightweight title holder in 2019 before he was beaten by Lopez.
The Ghanian is no walkover, and bounced back from that loss to beat Jackson Marinez in February.
The 34-year-old now has a record of 30-3, but is a 6.00 shot against Lomachenko, who is priced up at 1.11. However, as has been proven time and again recently, there is no such thing as a given in boxing, particularly in the lightweight division.
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Wide open division
In the wake of Lopez's shock victory over Lomachenko last year and the victor's refusal to grant a rematch, it was unclear who would get a shot at the new champion.
After over a year that honour fell to George Kambosos Jr, who caused another huge upset, beating Lopez by split decision in New York last month to gain the WBA, IBF, WBO and The Ring titles.
The Australian now holds all the cards in terms of who he fights next. It seems unlikely to be Lopez with no rematch clause in the fight’s contract.
Devin Haney, the WBC title holder, may be a logical next step to unify the division but he was workmanlike in his victory over Joseph Diaz Jr recently, as was heavy hitting Gervonta Davis, who was taken 12 rounds for the first time in his career by Issac Cruz.
With no candidate stepping up to mark themselves out as number one contender, it is a wide open division.
If Lomachenko can lay down a real marker against Commey, he may rise to the top of the list for Kambosos Jr to face, with a huge fight in Australia the likely outcome.
The Matrix returns
Despite his defeat to Teofimo Lopez and the fact that he now holds no belts, Vasiliy Lomachenko still has a huge pull for promoters and is respected as one of the finest boxers in recent years.
The Ukrainian had an amateur record of 396 wins and one loss, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a world champion in three weight classes and is tied for the record for winning a world title in the fewest professional fights, just three.
If the Matrix can prove against Commey he still possesses all the skills that made him so deadly in the first place; hand speed, athleticism and footwork, then he may well return to conquer all in the lightweight division once more.
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