LOS ANGELES — When pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko’s next lightweight title defense was being planned, he thought it would be a three-belt unification fight with Richard Commey, who had won a vacant belt on Feb. 2.
But when Commey injured his right hand during a second-round knockout of Isa Chaniev in the victory, it made him unavailable. That left Lomachenko to instead make a deal to face former titlist and mandatory challenger Anthony Crolla, a turn of events that Lomachenko was not thrilled about.
“It’s a boxing life, sports life. I understand. It’s best choice after Commey. [Crolla] is mandatory. That is why I take this fight,” Lomachenko said on Wednesday at the final prefight news conference. “Of course, I don’t like it. It’s not good for me, but it is what it is.”
Lomachenko will defend his two 135-pound world titles against Crolla on Friday (ESPN+, 11 p.m. ET main card, 8 p.m. ET for preliminaries) at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Even with the disappointment of not getting the title unification fight with Commey that he had hoped for, Lomachenko said it in no way diminished his motivation during his training camp.
“Absolutely not, because you know why? My motivation is to be in history,” he said. “I train for history. I didn’t train only for one fight.”
Lomachenko, who with a win over Crolla likely will get the fight with Commey later this year, already has made ample boxing history.
Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw, won two Olympic gold medals for Ukraine during a 396-1 amateur career, and he is viewed by many as the greatest amateur in boxing history.
As a professional, he tied the record for fewest fights needed to win a world title at three when he claimed a featherweight belt.
He set the record for fewest fights needed to win a world title in two divisions when he won a junior lightweight belt in his seventh fight.
And he set the record for fewest fights needed to win a title in a third weight division when he knocked out Jorge Linares to win a lightweight title in his 12th fight last May.
Lomachenko said, however, not to count on another move up in weight to go after a title in a fourth weight class, at least not any time soon, even if winning another one would add yet another historical aspect to his career.
“I cant. I can’t. For me, it’s 135; [140 pounds] is too much now,” he said about the prospect of moving up to junior welterweight. “My regular weight, my natural weight is 130 [the junior lightweight limit]. It’s comfortable for me, and [the opponents] are my size guys. But now, I fight with guys who are bigger than me. I can’t go the next weight class up, 140. I can’t. It’s too big, I think. Now, I stay at 135. I can’t jump every year [to] another weight class.”
Indeed, Crolla looked much bigger than Lomachenko when they faced off for the photographers after the news conference.
Crolla (34-6-3, 13 KOs), 32, of England, said he had an inkling he would get the fight with Lomachenko after watching Commey’s fight with Chaniev.
“We always knew the April 12 date was penciled in with the Top Rank team for Richard Commey to fight Vasiliy. We also knew it was a very quick turnaround from the Commey-Isa Chaniev fight,” Crolla said. “I was watching it, and people think I had only seven weeks’ notice, but [trainer] Joe [Gallagher] always stresses the importance of staying in the gym, staying ready.
“A lot of people think to have only seven weeks to prepare for a guy like Lomachenko isn’t long, but we had a full 12-week camp just in case this popped up. And lo and behold, after Commey stopped Chaniev, we saw an interview after the fight and his hand was wrapped up. And we thought, ‘Oh, there’s a chance of this happening.’ I’m thankful for the opportunity, and I prepared the best I possibly can. I’m in, without a doubt, the best shape of my life physically and mentally. That’s what it should be in a fight like this.”
Despite his size advantage, Crolla is a heavy underdog. He knows it, and he doesn’t care.
“This would be the pinnacle of my career and then some,” Crolla said. “I think we’ll see a bit of everything on the night. I know I am prepared to leave everything in the ring. I’ve got fans, family, friends and gym mates coming to L.A. to cheer for me, and that just spurs me on even more.”