NEW YORK – Vasiliy Lomachenko gave a glimpse on Saturday of what he may become. Oh, just 12 fights, 11 wins and three world championships into his pro career, he’s already verging on superstardom and may well be boxing’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter.
Promoter Bob Arum dubbed Lomachenko one of the best fighters of all-time Saturday after Lomachenko stopped Jorge Linares with a debilitating body shot at 2:08 of the 10th before 10,429 fans at Madison Square Garden to win the WBA lightweight title.
Lomachenko lifted himself off the canvas to score the win, yet another sign of a great fighter. So many of the best in boxing history have drug themselves up after being knocked down and gone on to win.
Lomachenko won a world title in his third different weight class, becoming the fastest boxer to achieve that feat.
There is little he can’t do in the ring, as Linares said in tribute following the bout. He’s a blur at times, fast of hand and of foot, moving in and out and up and down with aplomb.
“Vasiliy has tremendous footwork, tremendous speed and he moves very well,” said Linares, who fought gamely and was in the fight at the time of the finish. Judges had it 86-84 Lomachenko, 86-84 Linares and 85-85, the same as Yahoo Sports. “To be honest, up top, I wasn’t too worried. His punches were coming from all angles, but they weren’t bothering me. But he has very good body work and his punches surprised me.”
It’s the modern way to want to call someone the greatest, and Lomachenko hasn’t even fought 10 full rounds as a lightweight yet. It’s not even clear if he’ll remain at 135 pounds for his next fight. Arum said Lomachenko will fight again on Aug. 25 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, but wasn’t sure if it would be against WBO lightweight champion Ray Beltran or if Lomachenko would go back to 130.
But he has everything it takes to succeed at lightweight and, even as Arum grimaced as Lomachenko was asked about fighting the winner of a potential Mikey Garcia-Robert Easter title fight, Lomachenko said he would be up for the challenge.
The great ones always seek out the most difficult challenges, and Lomachenko said he would like to unify.
“I’m always interested in unifying the titles,” he said. “That’s why I came to this weight class.”
A Lomachenko-Garcia fight would be epic because, at worst, they’re both in the mythical pound-for-pound top 10 and each is a complete fighter with no discernible weakness.
Wins in those kinds of fights are the ones that earn boxers lasting recognition and send them to the Hall of Fame. Lomachenko’s career is just beginning, and he has much yet to do, but that’s the type of path he’s on.
He fought most of the fight Saturday with an injured hand. He said at the post-fight news conference that he injured a hand in the second, but it was hardly noticeable in his performance.
“It just made this fight much more interesting,” Lomachenko said, declining to make a big deal of it.
He landed 52.8 percent of his punches, according to CompuBox, and connected on 51.9 percent of his power shots. He commanded the fight from a tactical standpoint, getting into a middle distance where he was able to get his punches off and blunt Linares’ reach advantage.
Linares did manage to land a counter right hand that landed square on the nose late in the sixth round. Lomachenko bounced up and never missed a beat.
“It was a fast, flash knockdown,” he said. “That was it.”
Linares had momentum after that, and was throwing tons of punches. He threw 71 punches in the seventh, 93 in the eighth and 102 in the ninth, as he attempted to capitalize on the knockdown.
Lomachenko is nothing, though, if not cool, and he used his wits to stave off Linares and score the biggest win of his career against the best opponent of his career.