It’s difficult to find viable challengers for Vasyl “Hi-Tek” Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO). Ever in search of a challenge and legacy-building fights, the WBA Super Featherweight champion is moving up to lightweight to challenge Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KO) for his WBA title.
If Lomachenko wins, it will be his third world title in as many weight classes in just 12 pro fights. Lomachenko doesn’t take on easy fights and this bout is in line with what we’ve come to expect.
Linares hasn’t lost in six years and is on a 12-fight winning streak. His hand speed may not be quite on Lomachenko’s level, but it is the closest of any of Hi-Tek’s opponent since the bout with Gary Russell Jr. in 2014.
Lomachenko is still a huge betting favorite, but there is hope that Linares is at least able to deliver a better showing than the last four opponents who were forced or elected to retire on their stools. Here are the odds from Bovada.
Lomachenko is easily the best combination of athleticism, ring IQ and skill in the sport. He’s a machine with few weaknesses and it seems he gets more sound with even better technique every time we see him. He has begun to play to the crowd now that his star has begun to shine a bit, and he may feel the responsibility to entertain as much as he has to win.
Against most opponents, Lomachenko is so superior, he can get away with that, but Linares might be one of the few talented enough to make him pay. Also, Linares is a much bigger man. When you see them stand together, you can’t help but notice the height difference, Linares’ broader shoulders, and wider torso.
We know Linares is an average to slightly-above-average puncher at lightweight, but you could make the argument his punches could have more of an effect on Lomachenko because he isn’t a natural 135-pounder.
With all those positives adding to Linares’ chances to compete with Lomachenko, there’s still aspects of this matchup that overwhelmingly favor Hi-Tek. Loma figures to have the speed advantage. He’ll be quicker on the inside and no fighter can match his footwork. We don’t know if he will carry his punch up from super featherweight, but he shouldn’t have any problems finding Linares.
Defense isn’t Linares’ strong suit, though he isn’t a plodder. If you watch his fights against better opponents like Mercito Gesta, Anthony Crolla I and Kevin Mitchell, it was clear his adversaries landed hard shots. They didn’t stop Linares the way Antonio DeMarco and Juan Carlos Salgado did previously in his career, but they touched him more than would be considered ideal.
Those fighter’s speed, punch variance, and accuracy pale in comparison to what he’ll see from Lomachenko. Despite the size advantage, the edge in skill would seem to supersede Linares’ favorable details from the tale of the tape.
My official prediction is a 10th-round TKO win for Lomachenko. I think he’ll be too fast, tough to hit and frustrating for Linares to solve. There is a chance Loma doesn’t have the smoke at 135 pounds to stop Linares, but I do believe he wins convincingly.