Vasyl Lomachenko was knocked down for the first time as a pro-fighter before stopping Jorge Linares in the 10th round to claim the WBA lightweight title
The Ukrainian became the fastest fighter ever to claim titles in three different weight classes after recovering from a sixth-round flooring to suck the soul from the now-deposed WBA lightweight champ Linares with a vicious liver shot.
If ‘High-Tec’s’ status as the pound-for-pound king was ever in question before Saturday night’s bout at New York’s Madison Square Garden, there can be no doubt after this performance, a marriage of pure skill and raw will.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist is fast beginning to transcend boxing, no longer should the debate centre on his sovereignty atop the sweet science but instead the topic of discussion should be on his standing across all of sport.
He is that good. It is not promotional hyperbole, as Bob Arum can often be accused of, when the Top Rank head honcho ponders Lomachenko’s place among the all-time greats.
There is no other fighter on this planet right now with his silk-and-savage skillset, a beautiful combination of athleticism and technique with the mental gifts of heart and IQ.
It is absurd that in his 12th professional fight he adds a third belt in as many divisions. To put the feat into perspective, generational geniuses Oscar De La Hoya (22), Floyd Mayweather (34) and Manny Pacquiao (41) all took significantly longer to match the mark.
His resume can scarcely be believed. An amateur record of 396-1, a two-time World Amateur Champion, a two-time Olympic Champion, a first world title in his third pro fight, two-weight champ after seven and now three just five fights on.
And this latest victory was sensational. He faced a world-class champion, who was bigger, more experienced and who in the sixth-stanza had knocked him down for the first time as a pro and first time since 2007.
But he demonstrated a new thread to his bow in getting up, resetting and returning to his relentless output. In the 10th, he found the highlight-finish following a clean eight-punch flurry with a viciously placed hook to the body.
Linares bravely rose to his feet but the Venezuelan was unable to beat the count as referee Ricky Gonzalez waved him off at 2:08.
It’s difficult not to eulogise and celebrate Lomachenko because he is so talented. He is more complete than the self-proclaimed TBE, a fighter as comfortable on the inside as he is on the outside.
Yet, while he bossed an established bigger man, this may be the time for his ascent through the divisions to be halted, at least for now.
Lomachenko’s physique and stature is naturally suited to 126lbs but up at 135lbs, the knockdown proved a period of acclimation and unification should follow.
Not that there are no less exciting contests at lightweight. The vulnerability exposed by Linares, who make no mistake is a beast, should encourage the likes of WBC champ Mikey Garcia in particular who at 135lbs is a huge puncher with a very sharp grasp of the fundamentals.
“It was a great fight. That right hand [that knocked me down], it was a great punch. It happens,” Lomachenko said. “I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father [and trainer Anatoly Lomachenko] told me, ‘You need to go to the body.’
“Linares is a great champion, and the fight was good for the fans and everybody.”
“I thought the fight showed Linares is a helluva fighter, and Loma just stayed in there and knocked him out with a body shot,” Arum said. “He established himself as a great fighter. He has a fighting heart.”
Talk of course immediately turns to what is next for boxing’s most dynamic star but for now, boxing fans should just soak up this performance, one almost at odds with the violence of this sport it was so pretty at times.
Indeed, Loma’s displays belong in a gallery and we should rejoice his canvas is in a squared circle.