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Vasyl Lomachenko: 'My goal is to be the best fighter in the world'

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Lomachenko tapping in to his inner strength (2:12)

Vasyl Lomachenko compares his father's training style to video-game players, calling himself the game and his father the player. (2:12)

Vasyl Lomachenko is a man in a hurry to get to the top, but he will need to do more than win his next fight to be regarded as boxing's undisputed pound-for-pound No. 1.

After only nine professional fights, Lomachenko is already a two-weight world titleholder and No. 3 in the latest ESPN pound-for-pound rankings.

Some argue -- ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas among them -- that the California-based Ukrainian should be top of the pile, ahead of the likes of unified light heavyweight titlist Andre Ward (No. 1) and unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (No. 2).

Others think Lomachenko will have to achieve more if he's able to retain his title against Miguel Marriaga in a third junior lightweight title defense live on ESPN on Aug. 5.

But what is beyond doubt are the 29-year-old's astonishing skills. The speed at which Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) throws punches, that find their target unerringly as laser beams, has earned him comparisons to "The Matrix," the science fiction film featuring Keanu Reeves.

He has also been likened to Manny Pacquiao for his speed, and many think he will follow in the Filipino's footsteps to become one of the sport's biggest stars based on his talent.

"This is the best fighter I've seen since Muhammad Ali," said Lomachenko's promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, who also promotes Pacquiao.

"Lomachenko has a skill set like I have never seen in the 50 years that I have been promoting boxing."

Lomachenko has a variety of punches in his arsenal that he throws from different angles, created by slick lateral movement. He lands pitter-patter punches at blurring speed and is also capable of delivering knockout blows as he did in stunning fashion against Roman Martinez last year when a left hook set up a right hook finish.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist is the complete package: skills, hand speed, movement, ring IQ, creativity and knockout power.

What Lomachenko is lacking, however, is a win over another fighter among the leading pound-for-pound elite.

To end any arguments, Lomachenko needs to claim at least two big victories.

And on top of Lomachenko's wanted list is the tough Mexican Orlando Salido, who prevented him from making history in his second professional fight in March 2014.

Salido failed to make weight and was stripped of his world featherweight title the day before he was due to meet Lomachenko in Texas. Despite his vast amateur experience, Lomachenko was unprepared for a hardened professional such as Salido, who won a split decision. Afterward, Lomachenko complained about Salido's low blows, and he was his first-choice opponent for Aug 5.

But Salido, 36, did not agree to the rematch, so instead Lomachenko makes a third title defense against Colombian Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

"It's hard to get fights, and I am frustrated; we wanted the fight with Salido," Lomachenko said.

"My goal is to be the best fighter in the world. Being on ESPN means many more people are going to see this fight and to see what I am all about.

"My goal is to continue to fight the best fighters and move up the pound-for-pound list."

But beating Marriaga, who took world featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez the distance in his last fight and who was also outpointed by Nicholas Walters two years ago, will not be enough for some.

A victory over lightweight titleholders Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares, or even junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux, would help Lomachenko's case.

A fight against Miami-based Cuban Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) is one for the purists and would match two double-Olympic champions against each other, but it may not excite television executives and promoters. Rigondeaux, 36, does not have a fan-friendly style or a good profile after three appearances in two-and-a-half years.

Stepping up a division to face three-division champions Linares (42-3, 27 KOs), of Venezuela or Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs), of California would be a more treacherous move, but victory would surely cement Lomanchenko's place as pound-for-pound No 1.

And Lomachenko, who is known as Hi-Tech, is in breathtaking form after recovering from the Salido setback and has stopped his last five opponents.

It was the same story when Lomachenko was an amateur: He overwhelmed everyone put in front of him.

Lomachenko began boxing at the age of 4 in the coastal city of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in southern Ukraine. When he was 9 years old, his father Anatoly sent him to dance lessons and encouraged little Vasyl to do other sports like soccer and wrestling. For four years, Lomachenko did traditional Ukrainian dancing before Anatoly let him box again at age 13. Anatoly believed his son was ready for the ring after developing his footwork through dancing.

"That way he made me even hungrier for boxing," Lomachenko said.

Lomanchenko was breathtaking at the 2012 Olympics in London when he won a gold medal for the second successive Games, and he amassed an incredible amateur record of 396-1, with his only defeat -- which he avenged -- to Russian Albert Selimov.

When he turned professional in 2013, Lomachenko promised: "I don't want to be just a regular great fighter. I want to be the best."

Under the tutelage of Anatoly, Lomachenko became a world champion just three months after losing to Salido. His 12-round points win over Gary Russell Jr. for a vacant featherweight belt equaled the record set by Saensak Muangsurin to win a world title in just his third professional fight.

By his seventh fight, Lomachenko was a two-weight world titlist after he spectacularly separated Martinez from his senses in the fifth round at the Madison Square Garden Theater in June last year. He then toyed with Walters, who quit in the seventh round, in November. Lomachenko earned his first $1 million purse by dismantling Walters and then looked imperious in a nine-round win over Jason Sosa in April.

Marriaga is not the toughest test of Lomachenko's capabilities available, and harder examinations await if he is to be judged top of the class.