Olympic star Lomachenko goes pro
Two-time gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko is ready to begin his pro boxing career, and he intends to wear a world title belt next year.
The Ukrainian Olympic star has signed a multiyear deal with Top Rank, Bob Arum's promotional company announced Friday.
Lomachenko will make his pro debut Oct. 12, and he expects to fight for a world championship by his third pro bout. Not many amateur fighters could make such an audacious plan for their future, but no amateur in recent history can match Lomachenko's achievements and potential.
"I am very excited and happy with Top Rank's offer and signing the contract," Lomachenko said. "I know I will have to prove I am the best and make history in pro boxing, but I have no doubts about it, as I did in the amateurs and I will do as a pro."
Lomachenko is widely considered one of the greatest amateur boxers of the past several decades. He won Olympic gold medals with unbeaten runs in Beijing and London, also claiming two world championships in between while dominating opponents with an athletic, aggressive style that should make him a nightmare for the world's top featherweights.
The 25-year-old is scheduled to make his pro debut against a still-to-be-determined opponent on the undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez's HBO pay-per-view welterweight bout against unbeaten Timothy Bradley at Las Vegas' Thomas and Mack Center.
"Bob Arum knows how to build champions, and I know how to fight," said Lomachenko, who will start his career at 126 pounds. "This will make a good team. I am happy finally it's all over, all negotiations are done, and I can concentrate on my training and start preparing for my first fight."
Lomachenko had specific goals for his pro career when he interviewed several promoters last month, and Top Rank should have the promotional clout to get him the quick title fight he seeks. If Lomachenko's pro fights are as entertaining as his amateur bouts, Top Rank also should have little trouble enticing HBO or other networks to feature him.
"Lomachenko is an exciting venture for Top Rank," said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. "He is taking one of the most aggressive career tacts I have ever seen in making his professional debut in a 10-round fight with his goal to fight -- and win -- a world title by his third professional fight. Top Rank is 100 percent onboard with his plan. We believe in Lomachenko."
Most fighters begin their pro careers in four-round bouts before moving up gradually to 10- and 12-round contests. Not Lomachenko, who plans to test his vaunted amateur record and world-class skills in difficult fights from the start -- just the way Olympic stars used to do it before amateur boxing lost much of its allure over the past two decades.
"Because of his tremendous amateur accomplishments, he is not your typical boxer turning pro," said Carl Moretti, Top Rank's vice president of boxing operations. "He reminds me of the Olympians from the '76 and '84 (American) teams, like (Sugar Ray) Leonard, (Leon and Michael) Spinks, (Evander) Holyfield, (Pernell) Whitaker, (Mark) Breland. They were ready to face established pros from Day One."
Last year, Lomachenko considered starting his career with APB, the professional arm of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), but ultimately decided to move to North America with the backing of an elite promoter. Lomachenko is expected to train in Los Angeles, where fellow two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming of China began his pro career this year.
Top Rank also signed Oleksandr Usyk, the Olympic heavyweight gold medalist in London. Lomachenko and Usyk, who will begin his pro career as a cruiserweight, are close friends and training partners.
Lomachenko has been the biggest name in amateur boxing for a half-decade, but Top Rank has signed a prime selection of the most talented Olympic boxers from the London Games. Along with Zou, Top Rank also promotes Puerto Rico's Felix Verdejo, Mexico's Oscar Valdez and American lightweight Jose Ramirez, who nearly beat Lomachenko at the 2011 world championships.