Seldom has a defending champion been a bigger underdog than WBO super featherweight titlist Roman Martinez against WBO featherweight king (and two-time Olympic gold medalist) Vasyl Lomachenko. Odds range from 10-to-1 to 14-to-1 against Martinez, who will face a similar circumstance as then-WBA welterweight champ Paulie Malignaggi, who was as much as a 15-to-1 underdog against Adrien Broner, who went on to win a 12-round decision as well as his third divisional title in a six-fight span. Will Martinez defy the odds or will "Hi-Tech" confirm them?
A Common Foe: Both have fought Orlando Salido and both were troubled by him. Lomachenko's only defeat as a pro came against "Siri," who lost the WBO featherweight title on the scales, then used his bulk (and fouling tactics) to gain a points advantage. Despite Salido's bullying, it was Lomachenko who was stronger at the end of his first-ever 12-round fight as he out-landed Salido 58-26 overall, 13-1 jabs and 45-25 power in the final six minutes to earn connect leads of 164-142 overall and 59-5 jabs. Salido's 137-105 lead in landed power shots trumped Lomachenko's accuracy (37%-22% overall, 29%-5% jabs, 44%-25% power) but the decision favoring Salido was only split.
Martinez met Salido twice and both were 12-round thrillers that vied for 2015 Fight of the Year honors. In fight one Martinez dropped Salido in rounds three and five, then was helped by a low-blow point penalty in the 11th. Salido threw many more punches (81.7 per round to 56.8 for Martinez) but Martinez's accuracy (33%-23% overall, 39%-26% power) helped him forge a narrow 224-221 lead in overall connects (Salido led 197-184 power, Martinez 40-24 jabs). The rematch, however, was more problematic for Martinez as he was out-landed 285-189 overall, 36-20 jabs and 249-169 power, was more accurate in two categories (27.5%-27.4% overall, 17%-13% jabs), out-landed Martinez in nine of 12 rounds overall (including eight of the final nine rounds) as well as producing an 8-3-1 split in power connects. But judge Patricia Morse-Jarman saw Martinez a 115-113 winner while Glenn Feldman turned in a 114-114 card that trumped Burt Clements' 115-113 card for Salido, turning what should have been a Salido win into a draw.
Lomachenko's Surge: Since losing to Salido Lomachenko has won four straight, and the numbers are spectacular. In beating Gary Russell Jr. (now the WBC featherweight titlist), Thai veteran Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Gamalier Rodriguez and Romulo Koasicha, Lomachenko averaged 67.6 punches per round and 9.1 landed jabs per round, created massive percentage gaps (38%-14% overall, 26%-6% jabs, 51%-20% power) and logged 18.8 more connects per round than his opponents (25.9 vs. 7.1). His last outing against Koasicha was a statistical tour de force as he landed 47% overall, 32% jabs and 64% power, rolled up connect leads of 334-75 overall, 121-20 jabs and 213-55 power. His 12.1 jab connects per round nearly tripled the 4.4 featherweight average and he reached or surpassed 30 total connects per round in rounds 3-10. To cap it off, Lomachenko ended the fight with a triple hook to the ribs. It was as good as it gets. In his last five fights, Lomachenko landed 8.2 jabs per round (nearly double wgt. class avg.) and 50.2% of his power punches in his last 5 fights. Opponents landed just 8.2 total punches per round (half the wgt. class avg.).
Prediction: For the third straight fight Lomachenko is coming off a career-long layoff but if his last two fights are an indicator ring rust won't be much of a factor. Plus, Lomachenko won his second gold at 132 so he's used to the weight. Lomachenko by lopsided decision.