Vasyl Lomachenko (left) dropped his bout with Orlando Salido but proved he could compete at the professional level. (Eric Gay/AP)
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko took a major step up in competition on March 1 when he challenged for a world title in what was billed as his second professional fight. Lomachenko lost, dropping a split decision to Orlando Salido. Now, Lomachenko wants to do it again.
The featherweight contender wants to fight for a vacant title in his next fight, Lomachenko’s manager, Egis Klimas, told SI.com.
“We hope we can fight for a title right away,” Klimas said.
Lomachenko (1-1) showcased superior skills and speed against Salido, battling a strong opponent in the three-time featherweight champion.
But Lomachenko also showed his inexperience at the professional level. Salido, 33, landed repeated low blows during the fight that went unpenalized by referee Laurence Cole. Lomachenko, 26, was criticized after the fight for not responding to the illegal punches or doing more to bring them to Cole’s attention.
“The corner probably could have brought more attention to the referee,” Klimas said. “But it wasn’t a mistake making the fight. Everyone put in [Lomachenko’s] head that he couldn’t go the distance, that he couldn’t go 12 rounds, and he was more concentrated on going the distance than fighting. If you look at the fight, in the first round, he didn’t throw any punches. In his second pro fight, fighting a tough guy in Salido, he passed the test. He lost the bout, but he didn’t lose the war.”
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Because Salido missed the 126-pound weight limit, the WBO title became vacant. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says he has been informed by the sanctioning body that Lomachenko has been offered the opportunity to fight for the vacant title. The No. 1 contender is Gary Russell Jr., the U.S. prospect promoted by Golden Boy, which does not do business with Top Rank.
“We’d offer Gary Russell some dough, and if he turns it down, we’ll go to purse bids,” Arum said. “Or they could offer Lomachenko money, and he might take it. Or it will end up in purse bid.”
Lomachenko’s team is confident the loss is little more than a bump in the road.
“In the 396 amateur fights he had, he lost one fight,” Klimas said. “When he lost that one fight, he turned into a completely different fighter after. I almost guarantee there is going to be only one loss in his professional career.”