Lomachenko focused solely on being the best

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko could face Roman Martinez in New York on June 11. Chris Farina/Top Rank

Featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko won Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012, world amateur championships in 2009 and 2011, and everything else conceivable in the unpaid ranks.

He is regarded as perhaps the best amateur boxer in history, having compiled a record of 396-1, with the single defeat having been avenged multiple times.

Lomachenko would like to fashion a legendary professional career as well and has already entered the history books with how quickly he won a world title.

"I want to bring something new to boxing," Lomachenko said through a translator. "I want to be known to fans and appreciated as a 'boxer-painter' in regards to speed, footwork, punching power -- an art form inside the ring.

"I have looked at videos of many great champions like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Frazier, who each had special qualities. I never say one particular fighter is the best ever because each has a special unique style of fighting."

Lomachenko hoped to fight for a world title in his professional debut but when that was not doable, he settled for the shot against Orlando Salido in his second fight. Salido, stripped of the belt for failing to make weight the day before, fought a brutally dirty fight -- hitting Lomachenko with low blows repeatedly -- and won a split decision.

Because Salido was overweight, Lomachenko was given another title shot in his third fight in June 2014. Fighting for the belt stripped from Salido, Lomachenko outclassed 2012 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell Jr., handing him his first defeat in a decision victory to claim the belt.

By winning a world title in his third professional fight Lomachenko tied the record set by Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, who won a junior welterweight title in 1975, for fewest fights needed to win a world title.

Lomachenko has cruised through his first two title defenses with ease, scoring a shutout decision of Thailand's Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and knocking out Puerto Rico's Gamalier Rodriguez in the ninth round on May 2 on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard.

Neither of those opponents were well known or highly regarded. The same goes for Romulo Koasicha, whom Lomachenko will make defense No. 3 against on Saturday night (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

"He was the best guy we could get," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said.

The fight will serve as the co-feature on the card headlined by welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. (32-1-1, 12 KOs), 32, of Palm Springs, California, taking on former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios (33-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Oxnard, California.

The lack of top opponents is not because Lomachenko, a 27-year-old southpaw, is looking for easy fights. On the contrary. He wants to fight nothing but the best opponents. The fights are simply not available to him, mainly because so many of the top featherweights reside in the stable of manager/adviser Al Haymon, whose rancorous relationship with Top Rank keeps them from doing business with each other.

So Lomachenko (4-1, 2 KOs) is stuck facing Koasicha (25-4, 15 KOs), 24, of Mexico, an opponent with no name recognition or notable victories, although he has won four fights in a row. The loss before the winning streak began? A lopsided decision to the one notable opponent on his record: Wales' Lee Selby, who later won a world title.

Lomachenko is trying his best not to look past an opponent not expected to give him a serious challenge.

"Every fight has challenges," he said. "I looked at some video of my opponent, who fought Lee Selby. In the middle of that fight my opponent did a transition and fought with a different type of style against Selby. These are the situations you must deal with on the night of a fight."

Egis Klimas, Lomachenko's manager, said he has not detected frustration in Lomachenko at not being able to get marquee fights.

"He's starting to understand that pro boxing is not like amateur boxing. It's a business as well and it won't be the way he wants it all the time," Klimas said. "He's adjusting to professional boxing's business style and he understands. If he wants to have 40 pro fights there are not 35 or more big names for him to fight even though he would only like to fight big names and other champions.

"But no matter big name or not a big, he is preparing like he always prepares. He is preparing like he is fighting the best champions."

Lomachenko was penciled in to face Nicholas Walters, another Top Rank fighter, in a title unification fight this fall but when Walters missed weight and was stripped off his belt before a defense in June the fight went down the drain.

Arum has a plan, however, for a significant fight. In addition to the prospect of a possible fight with former titleholder Nonito Donaire, who signed a contract extension with Top Rank this week and is presently fighting at junior featherweight, Arum said his dream is to match Lomachenko with the man considered by many to be nearly Lomachenko's equal as an amateur: Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Cuban defector, who also won two Olympic gold medals.

Like Donaire, Rigondeaux also fights as a junior featherweight but was recently stripped of his two sanctioning body belts for inactivity. Arum used to co-promote Rigondeaux and believes he can make the fight for Lomachenko next, as in the first half of 2016.

"I'll go after Rigondeaux and I'll get HBO on board. I love that fight," Arum said. "It's a historically great and significant fight. I could also arrange a fight for him with Donaire at some point. And, finally, Lomachenko raised the idea of a rematch with Salido."

Salido is likely to face junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez in early 2016 in a third fight. Martinez won the first fight in a terrific battle and they fought to a draw in another slugfest in September. But if Salido wins the third fight, Arum said he would talk to Lomachenko and Klimas about making the rematch at junior lightweight.

"Who would I like to fight some day? Getting Salido back into the ring would be something I would like to see," said Lomachenko, a married father of two children.

Arum is also interested in it but prefers Lomachenko-Rigondeaux.

"I'd love to do a Salido-Lomachenko revenge fight," Arum said. "But the one fight I can't wait to see is Lomachenko and Rigondeaux. It's a fight I'd pay to see. I love the historic nature of it. It would be the first time in history two guys with two Olympic gold medals would fight each other. I think the styles would make it a sensational fight and Lomachenko would make [the usually passive] Rigondeaux fight."

Arum has tried to make the fight previously but said Rigondeaux, who would have to move up in weight, priced himself out of the match. However, given his inactivity and loss of his two belts because of it, "Rigondeaux is coming down on his demands," Arum said. "I can talk to him. I think I can make it."

Said Klimas: "[Lomachenko] sends a message to Rigondeaux -- step up, let's fight. He got stripped of both of his titles but he is still a good fighter and big name to fight. It would be a good fight for boxing fans."

A fight -- and win -- against an opponent the caliber of Rigondeaux could go a long way to helping Lomachenko achieve his goal of professional greatness.

"We have not seen the best of Vasyl Lomachenko, maybe something like 40 percent of what we are going to see," Klimas said. "He pushes himself 120 percent. He likes to spar 15 rounds daily against four different opponents. No one trains harder. He proved he was the best amateur boxer and he will prove that he is the best professional fighter."