Lomachenko could complete big night for Ukranian pro boxing

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) Vasyl Lomachenko could complete a banner night for Ukrainian boxing Saturday by defending his WBO junior lightweight title against Jason Sosa, even if his own reputation stands little to gain.

Lomachenko (7-1) and Sosa (20-1-4) headline the maiden fight night at the MGM National Harbor in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, an HBO card also featuring two of Lomachenko’s 2012 Olympic teammates.

Aleksandr Usyk (11-0) will defend his WBO cruiserweight belt against Michael Hunter (12-0), and light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0) faces Yuniezski Gonzalez (18-2-0) in a non-title bout.

”It’s a big publicity for our country,” Lomachenko said through translator and manager Egil Klimas. ”Our main thing is, we all three have to win, and all the world will know Ukraine has another three good fighters.”

The trio was part of a national team that won five boxing medals at the 2012 London Olympics, with Lomaechenko and Usyk both winning gold. For a country that boasts former champion heavyweight brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, Saturday night’s card still represents a first in its history, said Alexander Krassyuk, Usuk’s promoter.

That said, Lomachenko is considered one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and is expected to easily dispatch Sosa.

After winning Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012, he set a record by becoming a two-division world champion after just seven bouts. He now thinks high-profile fighters are ducking him.

Even Sosa’s camp admits Lomachenko’s promoters would’ve rather seen a rematch with Orlando Salido or a unification bout with Jezreel Corrales.

”I’m getting very disappointed, because I came to unify titles,” said Lomachenko, whose only pro loss came to Salido at 126 pounds after Salido failed to make weight.

”I couldn’t do that at 126 (pounds). I move to 130, and it looks like 130, the same thing,” he continued. ”People are not fighting. So I will have to move forward.”

Lomachenko insisted that frustration hasn’t distracted his training.

”I am not preparing for opponent. I am preparing for my name to bring into history,” he said.

Sosa has more pro experience, but only began boxing at age 20. By the same age, Lomachenko had won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Sosa was forced to vacate the WBA’s 130-pound belt to take the fight. Still, promoter Russell Peltz says there is little downside for his fighter from New Jersey.

”What’s the worst thing that could happen to Jason Sosa on Saturday night?” Peltz said. ”He’s already been knocked out in one round. Just like Jack Dempsey, Max Schmelling, John Henry Louis, Bob Montgomery, Jersey Joe Walcott, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Emile Griffith, Michael Spinks and Ken Norton. And guess what? They’re all in the Hall of Fame.”

Sosa insists he can be a stylistic problem for the more technical Lomachenko, and that Saturday night could be his big break.

”I think I shed a tear (when the fight was announced)” Sosa said. ”Because this is an opportunity to show the world that I’m one of the best.”