Top Rank signs Vasyl Lomachenko
Two-time Ukrainian Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko, one of the greatest amateur boxers in history, is going pro and will be based in the United States after signing a multiyear contract with Top Rank on Friday.
Lomachenko, whose aggressive style is made for professional boxing, won featherweight Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games and captured lightweight gold at the 2012 London Olympics. At the 2008 Olympics, he won the Val Barker Trophy as the outstanding boxer of the tournament.
"The contract is signed, and we are ecstatic about it," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com. "You couple this with our signings of [other top 2012 Olympians] Felix Verdejo, Oscar Valdez and Jose Ramirez and this makes it a grand slam."
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Lomachenko, who owns amateur victories against all three of those other prospects Top Rank signed, will fight professionally as a featherweight and make his pro debut Oct. 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on the undercard of the fight between welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Lomachenko's bout will be part of the HBO PPV broadcast, Moretti said.
"I am very excited and happy with the Top Rank offer and signing the contract," Lomachenko said in a statement given to ESPN.com. "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 it as a pro.
"(Top Rank chairman) Bob Arum knows how to build champions and I know how to fight. This will make for a good team. I am happy finally that all negotiations are over and I can concentrate on my training and start preparing for my first fight on Oct. 12."
As part of the package to get Lomachenko, Moretti said Top Rank also signed his friend, teammate and fellow southpaw Oleksandr Usyk, 26, of Ukraine, who won the heavyweight Olympic gold medal in London and the 2011 world amateur championships. As a pro, Usyk will fight as a cruiserweight. His pro debut is also scheduled for Oct. 12, although his bout won't be part of the pay-per-view broadcast, Moretti said.
Lomachenko, a 25-year-old with designs on winning a world title in just a handful of pro fights, will box in a scheduled 10-round bout in his debut, which is highly unusual. Prospects making the jump to the professional ranks typically turn pro in a four-rounder, sometimes a six-rounder. They normally progress to eight-round fights before being scheduled for 10 rounds and ultimately 12 rounds.
"He is one of the most heralded amateurs to go professional in many years," Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com. "He's one of those guys some people thought might stay amateur because he's such an icon in his country. But he wanted a professional career and wants to be on the fast track. He wants to go for a 10-round fight and go to a world title fight immediately after that. He has that much confidence in his ability.
"There's not going to be much development with him. He feels he is fully developed. He's ready to go."
Moretti said no opponent has been lined up for Lomachenko's Oct. 12 fight but said it would be "an established, 10-round, world-ranked fighter."
As for Lomachenko's potential, Moretti called it "limitless."
"It's almost like he's already a pro with his experience," Moretti said. "I don't think this is your normal pro debut. This is a throwback to the [U.S.] Olympians of 1976 and 1984, when they were fighting established guys in their first few fights, guys like Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon and Michael Spinks, Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker. This guy has those kind of amateur credentials.
"He looks like he can do it all. He can punch, he can box, he has endurance. I think he can adapt to any style that comes at him, and mentally he's as strong as any top contender right now."
Moretti said Lomachenko would relocate from Ukraine and live and train in Los Angeles.
Top Rank did not pay Lomachenko a bonus, Moretti said, but "he has very high" minimum purses.
Top Rank plans to be aggressive moving Lomachenko, which is what the fighter and his team want.
"Because of his amateur credentials, he will fight 10-round opponents, and a world title fight could come very, very soon, certainly less than 10 fights," Moretti said. "I love it. I think he really reminds me of those '76 and '84 Olympians, where you are not handpicking opponents but just trying to get top guys to fight him because you know he can handle anything."
Lomachenko came to the United States in recent months and met with various promoters, including Top Rank, Golden Boy and Main Events, as he was shopping for a pro deal.
His adviser, Egis Klimas -- who also works with Usyk -- has a close relationship with Top Rank, which promotes another of his clients, featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich, although another Klimas client, light heavyweight contender Sergey Kovalev, is signed to Main Events.
Last month, Lomachenko and Klimas spoke to The Associated Press when they were guests of Top Rank at the Los Angeles news conference to announce Bradley-Marquez.
"I want to fight the best in the world," Lomachenko told the AP.
"He wants to become a pound-for-pound champion," Klimas added. "He doesn't want to be on a long track. He wants to fight for a title soon. If we could get a champion today, we would like to fight the champion today. He wants to make something special."
Besides his Olympic gold medals, Lomachenko also won gold medals at the amateur world championships in 2009 and 2011 and the European championships in 2004.
During the 2012 Olympics, Lomachenko defeated new stablemate Verdejo of Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals. In the 2011 world championships, Lomachenko defeated the United States' Ramirez on his way to gold. And in the 2009 world championship, Lomachenko defeated Mexico's Valdez in the semifinals.
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