Last Saturday we had a showdown between two of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the world. And guess what? This Saturday we have another high-stakes clash between, you guessed it, two of the best fighters on the planet, pound-for-pound. As long-suffering fight fans know all too well, two top-tier match-ups on back-to-back weekends is, these days, a rare occurrence indeed.
When Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas Walters rumble in a few days the WBO super featherweight title will be on the line, but who really cares about that? The true stakes are about bragging rights and future opportunities. From featherweight to lightweight, the competition is heating up and both “Hi-Tech” and “The Axe Man” see themselves as the best-of-the-best. A win on Saturday means a career-defining victory and potentially big money in future battles with guys like Jorge Linares, Terence Crawford, Francisco Vargas, and maybe even Manny Pacquiao.
That said, as good as this match-up is, unlike Kovalev vs Ward, there is a clear odds-on favourite here and, amazingly, he’s the guy with only seven fights on his record. While the Jamaican challenger is a bona fide threat with serious punching power and more pro experience, the Ukrainian phenom, who looked sensational against Rocky Martinez last June, is the boxer with astonishing athletic talent and razor-sharp ring-smarts.
Just what is it that makes Lomachenko such a special fighter? Not that long ago Lee Wylie tackled that question and conjured up another one of his video masterpieces. Wylie’s inspiration was not just what “Hi-Tech” does in the ring, but also an intriguing quote in which Vasyl portrayed himself as a boxing artist: “I try to paint in the ring. I want to show fans … you can do everything … [all] the tricks.” On another occasion Vasyl stated: “I want to be appreciated as a ‘boxer-painter’ in regards to speed, footwork, punching power – an art form inside the ring.” Thus the obvious question: will “Hi-Tech” paint his masterpiece on Saturday night? Check it out:
As Wylie makes clear, Lomachenko is indeed a ring maestro of astonishing gifts and originality, but we must remember that power, as they always say, is the great equalizer. The crafty and versatile champion could pocket 11 rounds in a row with his distance control, shifty footwork and clever feints but it would all count for nothing if Walters lands one of his big shots in round 12 and puts the Ukrainian down for the count. Remember, not for nothing do they call Walters “The Axe Man.” He’s undefeated with 21 KO’s in 26 wins, has power to spare and a significant reach advantage in this fight, and he knows this is his big chance to put himself on a new level.
The bottom line is both men are talented and dangerous and both are facing the sternest test yet in their respective careers. Lomachenko may be the man most pick to win, and Lee Wylie may show you here why that is, but, to paraphrase Ray Arcel, God didn’t design the chin to successfully withstand violent blows from a gloved fist. Nicholas Walters is tough, powerful and determined and has more than a puncher’s chance on Saturday night. So yes, boxing fans, good things can happen on successive weekends, believe it or not. Here’s hoping The Artist and The Axeman give us a battle to remember.
— Robert Portis