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Downtown LA’s Microsoft Theatre has been home to the Grammy’s, the Emmy’s, the People’s Choice and MTV Video Music Awards ceremonies in recent times, but this weekend the glamour will be upstaged by guts.
Adrian Clarke breaks down who his boxing bets are on this week.
Ukrainian superstar Vasyl Lomachenko tops the bill on a night of prime time boxing, and Adrian Clarke looks ahead to what’s on show…
Very few of the world’s elite fighters are revered with quite as much respect as Vasyl Lomachenko.
Losing just once in 397 fights during a stunning amateur career, the two-time Olympic gold medallist then went on to become only the second person in the history of the sport to land a world title in just their third professional bout.
It’s fair to say the boy is a little bit special.
Too exceptional for the challenger to his WBO super-featherweight belt, Miguel Marriaga, on Saturday night?
No doubt about it.
Lomachenko, now 29, is on a run of five straight KO’s, and looks a fearsome puncher at super-feather having stepped up from featherweight last June to claim a second world title.
Comfortable in a division where he feels less drained by the battle to beat the scales, he’s unleashed a heady mix of power, speedy hands, frighteningly fast footwork and technical brilliance to bamboozle all-comers.
His last three opponents, Roman Martinez, Nicolas Walters and Jason Sosa, had lost a combined three bouts from 75 pro fights, but none came close to hearing the final bell. He brushed them aside with alarming ease.
To be perfectly honest Lomachenko should be matched up against a more competitive opponent than Marriaga this weekend.
The Colombian is a terrific 25-2 featherweight, but at world level he’s fallen short against the aforementioned Walters, and most recently, Oscar Valdez. Both unanimously outpointed him.
When you consider the form line, and that this is his first foray into the 9 stone 4lb division; the 12/1 price on a major upset looks a little on the skinny side.
It feels to me as if despite a decent CV, he’s been cherry picked to make the champion look fantastic.
So barring any unexpected last minute setbacks I expect Lomachenko to deliver a performance that pleases his promoters.
The Ukrainian’s sublime ring craft should make easy meat of Marriaga, probably inside the distance.
To get the competition he needs, Lomachenko must risk facing rising star Gervonta Davis (a clash the American youngster may choose to swerve until he has more experience) or step up in weight again to take on the outstanding Mikey Garcia (37-0) or Jorge Linares (42-3) at lightweight.
Those three clashes would be infinitely more appetising than what should be a pre-programmed success at the Microsoft Theatre.
Diaz looks a hotter prospect than Ruiz
Fighting on the undercard of a decent bill in LA on Saturday night is somebody that’s regarded as a future star of the super-featherweight class.
Puerto Rican Christopher Diaz is a name that’s got people talking.
Keeping super busy, the 22-year-old has won seven fights since the start of 2016, and because he boasts a 62% KO return, the 21-0 prospect is viewed as world champion material in the making.
While he’s hot at the minute, and has bags of star charisma, that viewpoint is possibly premature thinking.
Diaz loves to throw aggressive, crowd-pleasing combinations and can land seriously heavy blows, but until now he’s not dismantled anyone of real note. It’s all been a bit easy street, and that should be taken into account.
Victory over tough Mexican Carlos Ruiz would start the process of taking him more seriously.
His 24-year-old rival is known for being an elusive man to catch, slipping in and out of range with agitating regularity, and as a consequence he’s never been stopped.
Should Diaz labour to victory on points we may have to reign in our enthusiasm, but on the flip side a sparkling KO against someone this awkward could easily stoke up the fever that’s building.
Is he or isn’t he a future household name?
We’ll discover more about Christopher Diaz’s credential on the under card of Lomachenko’s headliner. I think he’ll win, but not in the manner he wants.