Bob Arum adamantly denies any suggestion that Vasiliy Lomachenko is ducking Shakur Stevenson.
Stevenson, the 26-year-old lightweight contender from Newark, New Jersey, recently laid into Lomachenko, 35, across several tweets, calling the three-division titlist a “chicken” and accusing him of avoiding him.
The WBC recently ruled that it was making its lightweight title—currently held by undisputed champion Devin Haney—available to Stevenson, its mandatory, and the next highest ranked challenger, Lomachenko.
But what seems certain is that a Stevenson-Lomachenko fight won’t be happening anytime soon.
Arum, whose Top Rank Inc. promotes both fighters, made it clear in a recent interview that Lomachenko declined a fight with Stevenson for reasons that have mainly to do with the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict—and not because Lomachenko is somehow unsettled by the prospect of their matchup.
“Lomachenko is balking about fighting this year (not balking at a fight with Stevenson),” Arum told Steve Kim. “He wants to take time off. The situation is still going on in Ukraine and it’s come close to where he lives, with all the bombing of Odessa.
“Really he can’t get focused on fighting. I don’t think it has anything to do with Shakur.”
Arum confirmed that the plan is still for Stevenson to fight in mid-November in Las Vegas, on the same weekend when the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix takes place.
“I don’t know about [Stevenson being] avoided, but we're going to get the best possible opponent and he’s going to fight for the WBC title,” Arum said.
Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs), made his lightweight debut in April, when he stopped Shuichiro Yoshino in six rounds at Prudential Center in Stevenson’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
In his last outing in the ring, in May, Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) suffered a close (and mildly controversial) unanimous decision defeat to Haney at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.