The featherweight division is getting hot, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum plans to take advantage of that.
On May 31 in Macau, Arum promoted a card on which Nonito Donaire won a 126-pound world title via fifth-round technical decision against Simpiwe Vetyeka in the main event. On the undercard two other featherweight titleholders promoted by Arum -- Evgeny Gradovich and Nicholas Walters -- looked good in title defenses of a show that was appropriately dubbed “Featherweight Fury.”
Then this past Saturday night, Vasyl Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, looked sensational as he outpointed Gary Russell Jr. in surprisingly easy fashion to win a vacant featherweight belt in just his third professional fight. That achievement matched the all-time boxing record for fewest fights to a title.
Throw in the fact that Top Rank also is talking to the handlers of titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez and has a good relationship with the Vetyeka camp and there are a lot of quality matchups that can be made in the division -– and made rather easily.
Arum intends to put some of those fights together, with Donaire and Lomachenko as the centerpieces.
“Lomachenko is a great fighter; that’s what we’ve been saying,” Arum said. “HBO is very high on him, and now we have the opportunity to put together a quasi-tournament with all of these great featherweights. Featherweight happens to be a loaded division. There are some big names in the division, and they don’t bust the bank like some of these fighters do in other divisions, so the matches are makeable as far from a money standpoint.”
Arum said he will soon talk to HBO about the direction it wants to go, but he said some of the fights will happen beginning later this year.
“I need to talk to the HBO guys and to the fighters, and we need to see who’s willing to fight who. Who would like to fight who? What fights HBO wants,” Arum said. “There are a lot of things to discuss, but I want to make these fights and HBO has indicated to us that they are interested and looking very heavily at the featherweight division.
“It gives them the opportunity -– for not crazy money -- to do some good, high-profile fights. A lot of people think Lomachenko is the best of the featherweights. You have Donaire there. He’s a great fighter. I know HBO is excited about it. So we’ll sit down and figure out how to proceed.”