<
>

Vasyl Lomachenko expected to defend title vs. Jason Sosa in April

Junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko has an April 8 date set aside for him on HBO and most likely will defend his belt against hard-charging Jason Sosa, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN on Wednesday.

Lomachenko's fight will take place at the new MGM National Harbor in Oxen Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., Arum said.

A brilliant two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, Lomachenko is quickly moving up the pound-for-pound rankings and would be a tremendous favorite against Sosa, but there probably is not a single fighter from featherweight to lightweight who would be favored to defeat Lomachenko. Arum, who promoted 27 Muhammad Ali fights, has said since he signed Lomachenko out of the 2012 Olympics that he "is technically the best fighter that I have seen since the early Muhammad Ali."

"I don't think anybody beats Lomachenko, but Sosa has a puncher's chance," Arum said. "He's certainly a respectable opponent."

Indeed, Sosa, 28, of Camden, New Jersey, has good power, at one point reeling off 13 knockouts in a row until he fought a majority 10-round draw with former featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters in a December 2015 junior lightweight bout. Most thought Walters won the fight handily, but the draw positioned Sosa for a shot at secondary world titleholder Javier Fortuna.

Lomachenko's last fight was a title defense against Walters in November, when Lomachenko dominated until Walters quit after the seventh round.

Sosa faced Fortuna in June in Beijing, and despite trailing on all three scorecards, Sosa rallied to score an upset knockout in the 11th round to win the secondary belt. Sosa made his first defense in November in Monte Carlo, where he knocked Stephen Smith down and won a clear unanimous decision.

"Sosa beat two good fighters in Fortuna and Smith, and he wants to find out how good he is," said Russell Peltz, who co-promotes Sosa with Top Rank. "He wants to test himself against the best and Lomachenko is one of the best. If there were more fighters with Sosa's attitude, boxing would be in better shape."

Peltz said he and Arum are still haggling over some of the details and the money, but he is confident it will be finalized.

"Sosa wants the fight and his trainer [Raul 'Chino' Rivas] likes the fight," Peltz said. "I don't think Jason will get discouraged if he falls behind early. He didn't lose focus in China against Fortuna, and he came from behind and won the fight. I think he'll keep trying for every minute of every round against Lomachenko.

"I know Lomachenko was this great amateur with [close to] 400 fights, but that takes a toll on your body. There's a point where it adds up and it takes its toll on the body. I've seen Lomachenko fight, and everybody is beatable. I saw Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston. On April 8, we are going to have the best chance of everybody to beat Lomachenko because we're gonna be the one in the ring with him. Sosa is a world-class puncher and still learning to fight. He only had three amateur fights, but he'll give it everything he has like he always does."

Arum initially tried to make a unification fight for Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs) against Panama's Jezreel Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs) but said the Corrales camp ultimately rejected the fight.

"He didn't want the fight," Arum said. "That's one of the problems with Lomachenko -- nobody's got the balls to fight him except Sosa."

Arum also said he attempted to make a rematch between Lomachenko, 28, and former titlist Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs), who won a close decision over Lomachenko in 2014 in Lomachenko's second professional fight. Lomachenko was attempting to win a vacant featherweight title -- which had been stripped from Salido the previous day for failing to make weight -- and thus set the record for winning a world title in the fewest bouts.

"With Salido, we were up to a crazy number," Arum said. "He still wouldn't take the fight and he has nothing going now. He won't fight Lomachenko again."

Ultimately, Lomachenko tied the record by winning a world title in his third pro fight when he easily outpointed Gary Russell Jr. for a vacant featherweight belt. Lomachenko defended the title three times and then moved up to junior lightweight and spectacularly knocked out Roman "Rocky" Martinez in June in the fifth round to win another title; it was a knockout of the year contender. With the win, Lomachenko set the boxing record for fewest fights needed to win titles in two weight divisions, doing so in his seventh fight.