Vasyl Lomachenko didn’t win a world featherweight title in his second pro fight Saturday. He was outpointed by veteran Orlando Salido in San Antonio on HBO. But the former Olympic champion from Ukraine did whet our appetites for matches against better featherweights, including the Bay Area’s Nonito Donaire.
Also on the San Antonio card, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. re-emerged as a sufficiently interesting opponent for Bay Area star Andre Ward down the road. At 168 pounds, Chavez (48-1-1) convincingly won his rematch against journeyman Bryan Vera (23-8), who had earned but not been granted a victory over Chavez last September.
Lomachenko, a southpaw whose stance and Olympic past both suggest he’s a younger version of Donaire-conqueror Guillermo Rigondeaux, fought a bit too much like Rigondeaux, a defensive style that cost him most of the early rounds against the aggressor Salido. He should have tried to land a lot of punches and pile up a lead. Lomachenko wised up to win the final three rounds, and he had Salido (41-12) in trouble throughout the final 90 seconds of the fight, but he did not compare favorably to Rigondeaux, who is much faster, or Donaire, who clearly packs a more lethal punch and also can match speed with Lomachenko.
Donaire, who rebounded from his April 2013 loss to Rigondeaux by knocking out Vic Darchinyan in November but apparently did not regain his promotional pull with HBO, is headed for a featherweight title bout in May, against veteran South African Simpawe Vetyeka (26-2, 16 knockouts) for the WBA belt Vetyeka took from previously unbeaten Chris John, but a victory in that fight may not be enough to restore Donaire’s promotional mojo. It might be enough, however, to lead to a rematch with Rigondeaux or a showdown with Lomachenko.
It would be nice to see Lomachenko against someone his own size. Salido missed the featherweight limit by more than two pounds and weighed an unofficial 147 Saturday to Lomachenko’s 136. So the WBO title was at stake only for Lomachenko, who failed to cash in. He might as well continue to face elite competition despite his defeat Saturday.
Chavez Jr. is a candidate for good elite opponents, like Ward, largely because of his box-office pull in Mexico. For Ward, it’s hard to imagine a more lucrative situation for his first pay-per-view fight. Chavez, the son of Mexican super-lightweight legend Julio Cesar Chavez, barely seems to take his career seriously and has fought down to the likes of guys like Vera before, but Chavez also has soundly beaten the likes of Andy Lee fairly recently, and he nearly knocked out Sergio Martinez at the tail end of his otherwise lopsided loss to the middleweight champion in 2012. He is capable of hanging with Ward, and the public would like to see him try.
If Bob Arum’s Top Rank were promoting both fighters, as Ward would like, a Chavez match would be likely to occur. But with Ward, who turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, trying to break away from promoter Dan Goossen and his career at a virtual standstill as he seeks bigger paydays that would match his stature in the sport, imagine his frustration and ours at these developments.