Okay, I’m convinced.
Vasyl Lomachenko gets my vote as the current best pound-for-pound fighter on God’s sweet boxing earth — and perhaps one of the best all-time. Certainly one of the fastest.
You may recall that last December, after Lomachenko’s shutout victory over Guillermo Rigondeaux when Lomachenko was being hailed as maybe the best PFP fighter of all time, I said I would have to see him again before putting him in with the all-time greats.
Well, I saw Lomachenko for the second time last Saturday night against WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares and I won’t have to see him again to put him at the top of my current PFP list and in the company of the all-time greats.
The slick speedster from the Ukraine didn’t just beat the bigger, stronger Linares, he knocked him out. Well, not literally, but artistically with a perfect left hook to the liver that took away Linares’ legs in the tenth round.
Linares got up, but not very steadily, and referee Ricky Gonzalez waved a halt to a very good fight, which saw Lomachenko come back from a sixth-round knockdown to win in 10. Linares would say later that he could have continued, but he didn’t protest the stoppage.
Lomachenko thus won his third world title in as many weight divisions, accomplishing the fete faster than anyone else. This was just his 12th pro fight. He’s now 11-1 with eight KOs.
His only loss was a controversial split decision to Orlando Salido in his second fight. His other two world titles were at featherweight (126) and junior lightweight (130). He’s 30 years old and just hitting his peak years after compiling a 396-1 record as an amateur.
He certainly hasn’t slowed down any yet as he looked faster against Linares than he did against Rigondeaux. I’ve been racking my brain the last few days trying to think of anyone faster, and I can’t. His combinations are blurs.
And it isn’t just his hands. He also has quick feet, which not only keep him out of trouble, but keeps his opponent from finding a comfortable distance.
What it all comes down to is he really doesn’t have any weaknesses. He’s not what you would call a big puncher. But he hits hard enough, and often enough to force at least four opponents to quit out of frustration, or just embarrassment at being toyed with.
The other thing about the win is that it was against a very good fighter who was bigger and more experienced. Linares was 44-3, with 27 KOs going into the fight. His last loss before Lomachenko was in 2012. He’s a tough cookie.
Lomachenko found out how tough in the sixth round when he got careless and walked into a straight right hand from Linares that dropped him on his rear end. Lomachenko wasn’t hurt, but he was a little more cautious after that.
More importantly, Lomachenko showed his grit by coming back big in the tenth with a series of rapid fire combinations that set up the liver shot.
“He gave me one more boxing lesson,” said Lomachenko of the right that floored him. “I knew about that punch, but I got a little careless. But he’s good.”
Linares had his moments, but I didn’t think it was as close as the judges had it. Only one judge had Lomachenko winning the fight going into the 10th round. He had it 86-84 for Lomachenko, but another judge had it 86-84 for Linares. The third judge had it even at 85-85. I had Lomachenko winning 86-83, giving him the first five rounds.
The big question now is whether Lomachenko will try to move up another weight division or stay at lightweight for awhile. I would guess the latter. If he does move up again, I don’t think it will be any time soon, maybe in a couple more years when he could put the added weight on more naturally. There’s also the possibility of a rematch with Linares.
Whatever he does, he’s already reached the all-time elite class of three-division champions. No one is going to take that away from him.
Excuse me for blowing my own horn here, but I did tell you that middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin made a poor choice when he selected Vanes Martirosyan to sub for Canelo Alvarez as a deserving title contender two Saturdays ago.
No knock on Martirosyan, who’s seen his best days, but this was a mismatch not worthy of world title distinction, especially when there were so many more deserving contenders available, notably Demetrius Andrade of Providence.
In case you missed it — and you didn’t miss anything — it took Golovkin just four minutes and 53 seconds to dispatch Martirosyan.The official time was 1:53 of the second round.
I rest my case.
Bob Hanna covers boxing for The Standard-Times. Email him at email@example.com