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What Vasyl Lomachenko's letdown Saturday means for his future

Boxing

SAN ANTONIO -- Vasyl Lomachenko was a huge disappointment in one regard on Saturday. It wasn't so much that the two-time Olympic gold medalist lost a split-decision to Orlando Salido at the Alamodome in a bid for the WBO featherweight title in just his second fight that was so disappointing.

Rather, it was the way that Lomachenko, one of boxing's most touted amateurs to enter the pros in years, lost the fight. He was not the dynamic, aggressive and confident fighter he was when he opened his pro career in October with a four-round stoppage of veteran Jose Ramirez.

He was tentative, conservative and either unwilling or unable to push the pace on Salido.

Salido's inside work was the difference in a rough, tough fight that was poorly officiated by referee Laurence Cole, who missed numerous fouls and seemed to let anything go.

Lomachenko didn't commit to his jab, flicking it feebly throughout the fight. It wasn't until the 12th round that he showed the fierce body work he became known for while racking up a 396-1 amateur record and winning gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

By way of comparison, Salido proved himself miles behind Mikey Garcia, the WBO super featherweight champion and one of boxing's rising young stars. Garcia destroyed Salido just 13 months earlier, totally dominating the veteran Mexican before winning a one-sided technical decision after eight rounds.

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Vasyl Lomachenko (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Looking at things through that prism, Lomachenko was an epic failure on Saturday. He failed to live up to the massive hype that he entered the bout with and he did little to show why boxing insiders expect so much of him.

There are few boxers with such little experience, though, who could have hung in the contest with Salido. When he gets rolling, Salido is a tough man for even quality pros to stave off, let alone a professional rookie. Yet Lomachenko was definitely in the fight and had Salido hanging on for dear life in the final round.

The issue, as it turned out, is that for all the experience he gained in 397 amateur fights, there is still a big difference between amateur boxing and pros. Professional boxing is rooted in power; amateur boxing is rooted in racking up points by simply touching the opponent in the scoring zone.

Lomachenko fought at a measured pace throughout the bout. He clearly was conserving his energy, obviously attempting to pace himself to make the distance. He's one of the sport's best conditioned athletes, but until one goes 12 rounds in a pressure situation against a high-level opponent, there are going to be doubts in the back of one's head.

Had he had five or six fights and gotten a chance to get a feel for the nuances of the professional game, he probably would have beaten Salido.

He'll be better his next time out for having gone through the experience of going 12 rough rounds against a wily and gritty opponent like Salido.

He's still got enormous star power, but Lomachenko, like every other young boxer, needs to learn how to fight as a pro.

Top Rank should match him with opponents in his next couple of fights who will give him rounds so that when he's again ready to challenge for a title, he'll actually know what he needs to do to win.

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Vasyl Lomachenko was 396-1 as an amateur, but is 1-1 as a pro (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

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