NEW YORK, NY, May 13, 2018 – Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko’s talents are one of a kind. The number one pound for pound boxer in the world surely made believers of even his greatest skeptics, cementing his place at the top after a masterful performance over the world’s best lightweight, Jorge Linares of Venezuela, in just his 12th professional fight.
Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), scored a tenth round TKO victory over Linares (44-4, 27 KOs), to win the WBA and Ring Magazine lightweight titles. These represent titles in his third division in just a dozen fights, the fastest route to this accomplishment in boxing history. Moreover, Lomachenko wins these lightweight titles in his very first fight in a new division against the best opponent it has to offer in Linares.
“Two great fighters, this is what boxing is all about,” said Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum, who represents Lomachenko. “No trash talk, nothing to embarrass people with language. Two great champions and we were all blessed to see them fight.” Linares’ promoter Eric Gomez of Golden Boy agreed, saying there were “no losers tonight, just winners.”
“Linares is a great champion, and the fight was good for the fans and everybody,” agreed Lomachenko after the fight.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate Lomachenko’s skills. They all start at his feet. Lomachenko’s footwork is unmatched in balance, precision and speed. It’s not surprising to learn he trained for years as a dancer as a young man. The rest of his skills spring from these dancer’s feet, driving his power and ring awareness. Lomachenko can get in position against anyone, and move clear of nearly any attack.
Linares gave a solid accounting of himself, in no danger of quitting like Lomachenko’s four previous opponents. But he could never leverage his full power against Lomachenko, resorting at times to rabbit punches and low blows in his inability to slow Lomachenko down.
Lomachenko suffers first knockdown of his career in fifth round
Following a sensational fifth round in which he landed on Linares at will, Lomachenko got a little too comfortable, and as a result he paid for it. He came straight at Linares, who was ready for him with his best weapon. The Venezuelan veteran landed the right hand on the button. He popped Lomachenko, knocking him off his feet and sitting down hard, resulting in the first knockdown of his career.
After the fight, Lomachenko said Linares was a good fighter and admitted he relaxed a little bit in the sixth round “and he caught me.”
Lomachenko wasn’t seriously hurt, but would he be shaken up enough mentally for Linares to move in? Not the case. Lomachenko showed he’s got grit in the face of adversity. He immediately reset, refocused, and put the knockdown behind him, going right back to work. It had to be demoralizing to Linares to be unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
In the tenth round, Lomachenko found the opportunity he was looking for. He blasted Linares to the head with a flurry of shots. Linares had to lift his guard to catch them, leaving his body open. Lomachenko hit the bigger man with the perfect left hook to the body. Everyone watching flinched in their seats watching Linares go down. Linares barely made his feet beating the count, but the referee wisely waved off the fight.
“It was a great fight,” said Lomachenko. “That right hand, it was a great punch. It happens. I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father (trainer Anatoly Lomachenko) told me, ‘You need to go to the body.’ The knockout punch was perfectly landed.”
At the time of the stoppage, one judge had it scored for Lomachenko 86-84, another for Linares by the same score, and the third judge had it even. While it was a close fight, it was without a doubt Lomachenko’s fight. This is why no fighter can afford to leave the outcome in the hands of the judges.
The punch stats don’t contribute any clarity. Lomachenko landed 213 of 62 punches (34 percent); Linares landed 207 of 739 total punches (28 percent).
Lomachenko’s third division title makes boxing history
This win demands proper context. This was Lomachenko’s first fight at lightweight putting him against the number one man in the division. When was the last time such a fight ended up being competitive, let alone resulting in such a changing of the guard?
After 52 years in boxing, promoter Bob Arum says Lomachenko is the most skilled fighter he’s ever worked with – including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Floyd Mayweather.
Lomachenko can still make 126 pounds, and could take on anyone up to 135 pounds. While a rematch wouldn’t be out of the question, by far the best challenger at this time is Mikey Garcia. But the next bout appears to already be in the works. Arum has booked The Forum in Inglewood, California for a title defense on August 25. WBO lightweight titleholder Ray Beltran is the likely opponent. This gives both men the opportunity to consolidate titles.
Undercard winners: Adames and Conlan get unanimous decisions
Welterweight contender Carlos ‘Caballo Bronco’ Adames (14-0, 11 KOs) remained undefeated in a solid debut over Alejandro Barrera (27-5, 17 KOs). He’s got a lot of skills, but they need refining. Irish Olympic silver medalist Michael Conlan (7-0, 5 KOs) also remained undefeated with an eight-round unanimous decision in his featherweight bout against Ibon Larrinaga (10-2, 2 KOs) of Spain.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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