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All eyes on Vasyl Lomachenko in fight against Miguel Marriaga

LOS ANGELES -- From the day Vasyl Lomachenko turned professional in 2013 following perhaps the greatest amateur boxing career in history, a run that included a 396-1 record (loss avenged) and Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012, his biggest motivation was to make boxing history.

To Lomachenko, that meant collecting as many titles in as many weight classes as quickly as he could, and earning recognition as the pound-for-pound king.

Vasyl Lomachenko and Miguel Marriaga pose at a news conference just two days ahead of their junior lightweight bout on ESPN. Michael Williams/Top Rank
He won a vacant featherweight world title in his third professional fight with a masterpiece decision against Gary Russell Jr. to tie the record for fewest fights needed to win a world title. In pro fight No. 7, he made more history, spectacularly knocking out Roman "Rocky" Martinez in the fifth round 14 months ago to win a junior lightweight title. That set the record for fewest bouts needed to win belts in two weight divisions.

The man they call "Hi-Tech" is all about boxing history. Now he has his eyes on becoming the pound-for-pound king.

"I want to fight top, top fighters in the weight class that I am now fighting in. That is my biggest goal," Lomachenko said through a translator and manager Egis Klimas. "Then maybe it is different weight classes.

"Most important for me is to fight the best, where the fight means something and fans want it, people want to see it. I want to be on top of the list."

Some already consider him the best, but he has stiff competition from unified light heavyweight titleholder Andre Ward and unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin.

In order to get that recognition, Lomachenko knows he needs the top opponents to fight him so he can earn it. Getting them to face him is difficult, and given the kind of all-around skills, power, speed and defenses he possesses, it's likely not going to get any easier.

For now, Lomachenko bides his time. He hopes the other titleholders (Gervonta Davis, Jezreel Corrales and Miguel Berchelt) will step up for unification fights, though that seems unlikely for the time being. He also knows an eventual move to lightweight beckons, where there has already been a drum beat for a possible fight with world titleholder Mikey Garcia.

On Saturday, Lomachenko will have to settle for the best available opponent willing to fight him. Step right up, Miguel Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs), 30, a former two-time featherweight title challenger from Colombia, who is moving up in weight.

Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) will make the third defense of his 130-pound world title against Marriaga at the at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live in Los Angeles, in the main event of a card that will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and stream live on the ESPN app, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Author: Dan Rafael
Source: http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/20245943/vasyl-lomachenko-defends-title-miguel-marriaga-espn

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