Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesFormer amateur standout Vasyl Lomachenko is on pace to fight for a world title in his second pro bout.Featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist for Ukraine, really is serious about fighting for a world title in his second professional fight and newly crowned titleholder Orlando Salido is happy to accommodate him.
Lomachenko turned pro last Saturday on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard and looked sensational in a dominant fourth-round destruction of Jose Luis Ramirez, an experienced fringe contender, in a scheduled 10-round fight.
The much-decorated amateur wanted a world title fight in his debut, but that was not possible. Instead, he was promised a title fight in his second fight when he signed with Top Rank.
In the co-feature last Saturday, Salido looked very sharp knocking out Orlando Cruz in the seventh round to win a vacant title, making him a three-time titleholder.
Frankly, Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs), 32, of Mexico, looked so good that I thought Lomachenko (1-0, 1 KO), 25, might reconsider his audacious plan.
But that is not the case. It's full steam ahead for a fight with Salido. Assuming the bout is finalized, it would be on Jan. 25 (HBO) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"Absolutely, yes, that is still the plan," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "Salido is very happy because of the payday he'll get and because he believes he can beat Lomachenko. But I wasn't sure how Lomachenko and his people would react after watching how good Salido looked. So I went into the press conference after the fight and I asked them if they saw Salido's fight. They said yes. I asked if they still wanted to fight him. Lomachenko said, 'Yes, isn't that the plan?' They still want that fight. They love danger, these people."
That's music to the ears of Team Salido.
Sean Gibbons, Salido's manager, saw Lomachenko drop Ramirez in the first round but then had to hustle to the dressing room because Salido was getting ready for his fight. But Gibbons said he has since watched the full Lomachenko fight.
"The guy was a fine amateur, a great amateur. He has two gold medals. I take my hat off to him," Gibbons said. "But my guy has three world title belts. My guy has been in there with the best fighters in the world. He fought Juan Manuel Marquez. My guy wrecked Juan Manuel Lopez twice. He fought Robert Guerrero, Cristobal Cruz, [Yuriorkis] Gamboa. He lost to Mikey Garcia [in January] but he was really coming on at the end.
"I saw some good stuff from Lomachenko but the question is can he do it for 12 rounds in a world title fight against Salido? That's what makes it intriguing. Orlando Salido is not Jose Ramirez. One is a world class, experienced champion who can take body shots and has taken them from great fighters. The other isn't. But I like Lomachenko's mentality. Maybe if this fight was scheduled for five rounds he beats Orlando. But this is a 12-round fight and Orlando cannot wait for this fight."
Gibbons also said that Salido likes the idea of fighting at the Theater at MSG because that is where he was dropped four times and lost his title by eighth-round technical decision to Garcia in January.
"We'd like some redemption," Gibbons said. "He had a bad night there and we're looking to turn that around."
Assuming it comes off -- and it doesn't seem as though there are any issues -- the winner will have to face Gary Russell Jr. in a mandatory defense. Russell (23-0, 13 KOs) is a tremendous talent and was the 2011 ESPN.com prospect of the year, but the 2008 U.S. Olympian has taken the path of least resistance. He has faced terrible opposition and the WBO absurdly made him a mandatory challenger. Nonetheless, he will get the Salido-Lomachenko winner within 180 days of the mandatory order being made last week.
"On Oct. 9th, my team received written confirmation from the WBO that I am the mandatory challenger for their featherweight world title," Russell said. "I'm ready for my first world title fight and cannot wait for the fight to get made."
Arum said that even though Russell is with Golden Boy, there would be no issue making the fight because it would just go to a purse bid.