In order to achieve greatness in a particular area, skill, or sport, one must continue to surpass what others have done before. Go beyond the status quo and enter uncharted waters. There are levels here and if you choose to go beyond them, greatness awaits.
Enter Vasiliy Lomachenko. A two time Olympic Gold medalist and arguably the best amateur of all time with a mind-boggling 396-1 record, the Ukrainian is now reaching legendary status in the pro game after only 12 fights. Yes, you read that correctly, legendary and twelve career fights in the same sentence. Unheard of in boxing, ever.
On Saturday night at a legendary venue, Madison Square Garden, Lomachenko (11-1 9 KO) moved up to lightweight and stopped champion Jorge Linares (44-4 27 KO) with a perfectly timed liver shot.
After having captured belts at 126 and 130, the strap here at 135 makes him the fastest three division champion in the annals of boxing, again, after twelve fights. Faster than Oscar De La Hoya 22 fights, Floyd Mayweather 34, and Manny Pacquiao 41 as we were reminded several times during the telecast :), and the previous best record of 20 held by Jeff Fenech.
Linares is a very skilled pugilist and showed it early and often as he landed excellent combinations and committed to the body. He was having many, many good moments and more than Lomachenko’s past several opponents combined. That said, he did begin a bit dirty landing on the back of Lomachenko’s head with rabbit punches, possibly channeling his inner Salido. This occurred mostly in the first few rounds then subsided, albeit in exchange for some punches south of the border. But after a warning here and there, it was mostly a clean fight the rest of the way through.
But Loma does what Loma wants to do, when Loma wants to do it. After taking a few rounds to study the champion he began to back up the bigger man with his blazing hand speed, dazzling footwork forged by years of dancing, slick combination punching, and ring generalship.
Lomachenko began to systematically break Linares down as he has done to every opponent; however, in the sixth, he uncharacteristically got a bit careless on the way in and was dropped by a perfectly timed right hand. It was a solid legit knockdown and almost seemed to be a delay in him dropping after being hit. He got up and made it to the bell several seconds later.
That is what happens when you seek out the best and move up in weight to do so. The opponents will be bigger and they will hit harder. In the case of Linares, he also has speed. The likelihood of these things happening greatly increases. High risk, high reward. How you respond after facing adversity is what champions are made of.
“It was a great fight. That right hand [that knocked me down], it was a great punch. It happens,” said Lomachenko
Over the next few rounds, Lomachenko was in Hi-Tech mode landing Matrix like combinations, sneaky pot shots, and increased his work to the body. All of that said, Linares was also doing good work in spots; however, Lomachenko’s body of work was, as it always is, at another level. In addition, the challenger cut the champion over the left eye and went after it like a shark smelling blood.
In the tenth, Lomachenko landed a four punch combination culminating with a wicked left hook to the body. It was so quick amid the flurry that initially it was a bit unclear what crumbled the champ to the canvas. Replay revealed a perfectly timed left hook scrapping the weak part of Linares’ core. Game over.
“I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father told me, ‘You need to go to the body.’ said Lomachenko
Not exactly No Mas but another stoppage win for the top P4P fighter in the game. Make that eight stoppages in a row to be precise.
It is a lonely time when you go down to the canvas at the receiving end of a right hand to the chin, especially when it is your first time down as a pro. You are supposed to be the top P4P fighter, this is not supposed to happen. “Let’s stay cautious” says the brain, “Like hell” counters the heart.
We learned a lot about the Ukrainian’s resolve in the first real panic moment of his career. He showed that if the fire gets hot he is more than up to the challenge. Not only did he not fight cautiously after the knock down, but fought as if it never happened. We knew his mindset was strong but after several “no mas’s” in a row from his opponents, this was new twist, a foe with return fire. Lomachenko welcomed the change and showed it through his actions.
As we like to say at Standing-8, Loma is “Part throwback, part modern-day, and quite frankly, something from the future”
On February 17, 1988, in a hospital in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, Anatoly and Tetiana Lomachenko welcomed their new baby boy into the world and named him Vasiliy, meaning “king”.
Thirty years later, the prophecy is being fulfilled.