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CONSIDERING the money a fighter stands to generate from fighting him, it’s rare to hear anyone pass up the opportunity to share a ring with Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao.
But WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko is no ordinary fighter. Nor, it seems, is he eager to capitalise on the name and star power of a faded legend who turns 40 in a couple of weeks.
The gifted Ukrainian fights WBO titleholder Jose Pedraza this Saturday (December 8) and, while not looking past his Puerto Rican opponent, is already being linked to some mouth-watering fights in 2019. One potential opponent is Mikey Garcia, the WBC and IBF lightweight champion who faces IBF welterweight king Errol Spence, while another less appealing option is Pacquiao.
“I’m not disrespecting Pacquiao, but I don’t want to make my name bigger because I beat an old legend,” said Lomachenko. “I have my own road. There are a lot of good fighters to fight who are comparable to me. He’s old. I think his career is done. I don’t want to become a legend in boxing because of him.”
Of more interest to Lomachenko is a match-up with Garcia. However, unlike Garcia, he won’t be in any rush to move to 147lbs – welterweight – to make that fight, or any other welterweight fight for that matter, happen.
“In my weight class and closer to my weight class, we don’t have a big superstar,” he said. “Yes, we have big names at 147, but I can’t move up to 147 now because it’s too much weight, I think.
“Seriously, I want a fight with Mikey Garcia. I think this fight will happen.”
In an ideal world, Lomachenko, should he get past Pedraza this weekend, would fight Garcia at lightweight, while Spence, the big bully, would get it on with Terence Crawford, the WBO welterweight champion, at 147. But when has boxing ever been an ideal world?
If you want to fight Floyd Mayweather, you’ll have to play by his rules. Like the boy whose football the other kids are grateful to be able to use, Mayweather, boxing’s money man, has the luxury of choosing his teammates, his opponents, and his rules, and the others will simply oblige him and thank him for the opportunity.
This was made abundantly clear when Mayweather and kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa met at Mayweather’s Las Vegas boxing club on Thursday and ran over the rules of their on-off-on-off December 31 ‘fight’ in Japan. Content for Mayweather to do things his way, Nasukawa, undefeated in 27 kickboxing matches, will play by the following rules:
1: The fight at Rizin 14 will be governed by straight boxing rules and last for three three-minute rounds.
2: Both fighters will wear 8oz Rizin gloves.
3: Both fighters will weigh 147lbs, boxing’s welterweight limit. [Nasukawa typically weighs 126lbs, while for Mayweather 147lbs is probably an ideal weight.]
4: The fight will not enter the record books and the result won’t appear on either fighter’s record.
5: Finally, and perhaps most revealing of all, is the revelation that there will be no judges needed for the fight. This means if the fight goes the full three rounds there will be no decision rendered. Weird.
Speaking to the press, Mayweather said: “I love fighting against fighters from all walks of life, like in my amateur days.
“It’s all about entertainment. Nine minutes of entertainment. It’s going to be amazing.
“I’m in the entertainment business. That’s what I go out there to do. I love to do this. I’m working out to put on a show for three rounds.”
Twenty-year-old Nasukawa, meanwhile, has been sparring the likes of Jorge Linares in Vegas this week and is desperate to brush up on his boxing skills before facing arguably the finest boxer of the modern era.
“There’s never been a Japanese fighter to face Floyd Mayweather in the ring,” he said. “As an athlete, this is something that’s a great honour and a challenging task. I’d like to make a big impression.”
Ironically, even if Nasukawa does somehow do the unthinkable and defeat Mayweather, no impression will be made – not on either man’s record, nor on either man’s legacy. According to the rules, in fact, this so-called ‘fight’ doesn’t even count.