Facing the toughest test of his 12-fight career, Vasyl Lomachenko overcame a massive size disadvantage, a flash knockdown, and a highly skilled opponent to claim the WBA Lightweight crown in front of 10,400 rowdy fans at Madison Square Garden in New York. The end came in the 10th round with a perfectly timed and placed left hook to the body of Jorge Linares, leaving him crumpled on the floor and in obvious agony. Now, with only a dozen professional fights on his resume, Lomachenko is a bonafide star in world boxing and continues to see his stock rise in the sport.
Lomachenko, now 11-1 (9 KOs), had made his previous four opponents quit on their stool. Even more impressive is the fact that his opponents had an overall record of 308-27-13 coming into their fights against the fighter referred to as “Hi-Tech.” Barring a disputed decision loss in his second fight, Lomachenko had been simply dominant in claiming world titles against high-quality opposition at 126 and 130 pounds. Facing Jorge Linares, some wondered how he would handle facing a much bigger man with decent power and a better-than-average boxing brain.
It wasn’t easy. Not this time. Jorge Linares (44-4, 27 KOs), the Venezuelan who has spent the previous couple of years filling the role of spoiler for Matchroom Boxings best at 135, was game. From the opening bell, it was obvious Linares was much bigger than Lomachenko. Linares also threw approximately 100 more punches in the fight and although careful and cagey, didn’t seem to be as unwilling to engage as most of his opponents’ previous challengers.
Most of the rounds were incredibly close, and this was reflected in the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. 86-84, 84-86, and 85-85 were the scores from the judges going into the 10th. For the record, FV360 had the score 85-85 at the time of the stoppage. Throughout the fight, both had their moments and landed combinations, stiff jabs, and counter punches. Lomachenko seemed to have the slight advantage in the early rounds. Although much smaller, it was clear his footwork and boxing brain was a class above Linares.
This changed in Round 6 – while Lomachenko was coming forward into the pocket, Linares perfectly timed him and landed a straight right hand that put the Ukrainian on the canvas. It was a beautiful shot that, although not appearing to seriously hurt Lomachenko, served notice that Linares is considered one of the best 135-pound fighters for a reason. Linares also seemed to win Round 7, turning a competitive but clear advantage for Lomachenko into an even fight.
Rounds 8 and 9 were like the early part of the fight, with Lomachenko slightly more skilled but Linares showing no desire to run away or quit in the same fashion as previous opponents. In the 10th round, it was more of the same until things changed dramatically in a matter of seconds. With about 1 minute and 20 seconds left in the round, Lomachenko threw a combination that landed several shots and appeared to trouble Linares. Then, a left hook to the liver landed clean and a wincing Linares immediately folded to the ground. He made it to his feet prior to the ten-count but still appeared badly hurt. The referee waved the fight off and the WBA title was secured for the challenger.
Multiple doors may now open for Lomachenko. A fight with Mikey Garcia would be of interest to the entire world, although the size difference would be immense and Lomachenko would likely be an underdog in the fight. Other tasty matchups would be against Gervonta Davis, but many feel that Floyd Mayweather Jr. isn’t ready to throw his “Tank” in the deep end yet. Most likely is a unification fight against Raymundo Beltran, who won a vacant title earlier this year.
Talent-wise, there isn’t a more complete fighter on the planet other than Terence Crawford (possibly). The only question for Lomachenko is the question of size. A natural featherweight, this fight showed that a quality fighter at 135 can give him problems. He isn’t invincible, not every fighter is going to say “No-Mas” and moving up any higher than 135 may prove challenging against the best in the world. For Linares, this shouldn’t hurt his career in the slightest. He should be able to get a big fight next and knocking down Lomachenko will be a badge of honor he wears for the remainder of his career.
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