Boxing fans are rarely unanimous in their opinions. We will usually argue about everything and anything. But when I wrote Tuesday about Top Rank finalizing a deal for a fight between junior lightweight titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters, the outpouring of opinions from readers on social media was striking.
They were unanimous in their adoration of this great matchup. It really is an outstanding match, at least on paper, and a great addition to a 2016 HBO schedule that has been rather disappointing overall. This perks it up big time.
Top Rank and HBO tried to make the fight for June 11 but could not because Walters turned down the final offer. But Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs), 30, of Jamaica, has not fought since last December, and when he was offered a bit more money this time around -- because there was more available (likely because Canelo Alvarez is injured and HBO had a pile of money earmarked for his December return) -- he accepted the deal and they will meet on Nov. 26 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
"Boxing fans will be able to spend their Thanksgiving holiday weekend feasting on the year's most anticipated showdown," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said in making the fight official. "Forget their weight class. With more than three-quarters of their victories coming by way of knockout, they punch and win like heavyweights. We know how the fight is going to end. The question is: Which fighter will end it?”
Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs), 28, the brilliant two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, will be defending his 130-pound title for the first time since his spectacular knockout of Roman “Rocky” Martinez, who stepped in to face him in June when Walters, a former featherweight titleholder just like Lomachenko, declined the bout.
Lomachenko always has prioritized fighting top opponents over money, and Walters gives him a top-level opponent.
"I want to thank HBO and Bob Arum for giving me this opportunity to test myself in the fight with the best,” Lomachenko said. “Walters, you are next on my list."
Said Egis Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager: "I am very happy and excited about this upcoming bout between Lomachenko and Walters. Once again Vasyl proved he wants to fight the very best fighters in his weight division, and I want everyone to understand when he says so, he means it. Thank you to our promoter, Top Rank, and HBO for putting this fight together."
Walters did not dwell on the past. Instead, he said he looked forward to the fight and scoring a knockout in a great fight.
"Any fighter can be knocked out, no matter who he is," Walters said. “I like fighting the best, and I like fighting against a great technical fighter like Lomachenko. Look at what happened when I fought a great technical fighter like Nonito Donaire.”
Walters knocked Donaire out in the sixth round in 2014 in what remains Walter's career-best victory.
“Lomachenko is great,” Walters said. “He knows what he is doing in the ring, but I always look for a knockout against whomever I fight. If I can do it quick, I will. This is the best fight out there in boxing today. It will be the fight of the year."