Vasyl Lomachenko: Of course Lomachenko had his way with Miguel Marriaga on Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Ukrainian wizard might be the most talented fighter in the post-Floyd Mayweather Jr. era and Marriaga is an ordinary fighter who moved up in weight for the fight. No ordinary fighter, particularly a small one, is going to compete with Lomachenko.
Thus, what you saw on ESPN was a showcase of a boxer’s unusual gifts and not much of a fight: Marriaga’s corner stopped the fight after the seventh round.
Two things stood out for me in the end:
One, I understand why Lomachenko clowned during the fight. He was trying to generate some pizzazz in an otherwise pointless matchup; to some extent, he succeeded. The crowd at Microsoft Theater seemed to like it.
I wasn’t among them.
To me, Lomachenko’s antics seemed cliché. I’ve seen it too many times. And you don’t behave in such a way against an overmatched opponent who did his best in an impossible situation. That’s just cruel.
I ran into Tim Bradley after the fight. He had the same thought, pointing to his fists and saying, “Let these do the talking.” Lomachenko’s fists speak loudly enough.
Two, Lomachenko (9-1, 7 knockouts) wasn’t pleased with the choice of Marriaga as his opponent. He had hoped for a rematch with Orlando Salido but that fight never materialized, which allowed the willing Colombian to step in.
Why Marriaga? I guess Lomachenko’s handlers liked his knockout ratio and his typically aggressive style, which would allow Lomachenko to put on a good show. And let’s be clear: Almost no one can push him.
I would simply suggest that Top Rank never again reach so low to find an opponent. It was such a mismatch that it was painful to watch.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Wladimir Klitschko: The sport said goodbye to three gems this past week – Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley, each of whom announced his retirement.
Klitschko (64-5, 33 KOs) will leave the biggest void because he loomed so large for so long in the sport’s traditional glamour division, as he had 18 successful title defenses over a nine-year period and also had a two-year reign earlier in his career.
His consistency after a shaky period in the mid-2000s has become legendary and will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
I don’t believe he can be considered one of the best heavyweights of all time because of poor opposition during one of the weakest eras in the history of the division. That’s not Klitschko’s fault, of course, but it’s reality.
A fighter must beat a great fighter to be considered great. And Klitschko didn’t even face one, unless Anthony Joshua turns out to be a special fighter.
Who is the best heavyweight Klitschko beat? Chris Byrd? Ray Mercer? Sam Peter? David Haye? Alexander Povetkin? Not an inspiring list, is it?
This is meant to assess Klitschko’s legacy, not to demean him. He did all you can ask of a fighter: He faced the best-possible opponents worldwide and, with a few well-noted exceptions, dominated them.
He deserves profound credit for that.
He did it the right way. He worked hard and handled himself with class, which makes him a perfect role model for other fighters. And, finally, he was one of the smartest fighters of any era. He proved that one last time by walking away from the sport when he did.
BIGGEST WINNER III
Juan Manuel Marquez: Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) was the most accomplished – and the most fun to watch – of the trio of retirees.
The Mexican star initially fought in the shadow of countrymen Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, who were known as all-action fighters while Marquez developed a reputation as counterpuncher whom few wanted to face.
However, Marquez ultimately outlasted and, arguably, outshined Barrera and Morales.
Marquez, who evolved into an entertaining risk-taker, will be remembered most for his one-punch KO of Manny Pacquiao in the finale of their four-fight series but he had a string of important victories beyond that rivalry. Among them: Manuel Medina, Derrick Gainer, Salido, Barrera, Rocky Juarez, Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz (twice) and Michael Katsidis.
And remember: Many observers believe Marquez deserved victories in two or more of the Pacquiao fights, which obviously would’ve enhanced his legacy.
He also had some non-Pacquiao setbacks. Most notably, he was virtually shut out by Mayweather in a lucrative matchup in 2009. However, his legacy was already sealed by that point.
Marquez probably ranks in the Top 5 among the best Mexican fighters ever, which is saying something given the list of all-time greats from that country.
The elephant in the room? The persistent rumors that Marquez took performance-enhancing drugs. They are just that — rumors. Marquez never failed a drug test that I know of. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.
BIGGEST WINNER IV
Tim Bradley: Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs) might be underappreciated.
The Southern Californian had exceptional boxing skills and string of impressive victories over a decade-plus: Pacquiao (disputed), Marquez, Ruslan Provodnikov, Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Nate Campbell, Junior Witter, Miguel Vazquez. And there were more.
That might be a Hall of Fame resume.
I’ll also think back on Bradley’s courage. He was criticized mercilessly after he was awarded the decision in his first fight with Pacquiao, as if he bore some blame for the questionable judging that night in 2012. The harsh words left Bradley badly shaken.
Some lunatics went so far as to threaten his life, one of the ugliest episodes I can think of.
He responded by going toe to toe with brawler Ruslan Provodnikov in his next fight, as if to show his critics that not only was he a gifted, athletic boxer but he could also kick ass in the trenches. He won a decision.
He would go on to beat Marquez, Jessie Vargas and Brandon Rios before losing to Pacquiao in what would be his final fight.
Bradley, like Klitschko, made a smart move. He’s about to turn 34. His legacy is set. His faculties are intact. And he has a future in broadcasting, which will keep the money rolling in. He picked the perfect time to call it quits.
Congratulations to him – as well as Klitschko and Marquez – on a job very well done.
Lomachenko appears to be in serious talks with fellow Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who reportedly is willing to move up from 122 to 130 pounds. That fight, between master boxers, might bore casual fans to tears but boxing purists must be drooling. I would give Lomachenko an early edge over Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) – in part because of a size advantage – but I consider this about a 60-40 fight in Lomachenko’s favor. Rarely do fighters of such ability face one another. … I thought Ray Beltran won seven of the 10 rounds against Bryan Vasquez on the Lomachenko-Marriaga undercard but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him afterward. Beltran’s face was badly bruised and he had cuts on his forehead (from a head butt) and eye. Further evidence that you can’t tell who won a fight based on post-fight appearances: Beltran won a majority decision. That said, Beltran (34-7-1, 21 KOs) didn’t have his best night. The lightweight contender seemed to be physically stronger than Vasquez (35-3, 19 KOs) but couldn’t dissuade the pesky – and talented – Costa Rican, who badly hurt Belran in the final seconds of the fight. Beltran won, which will keep him on track for another title shot, but he appeared to be more vulnerable than in recent fights. …
Welterweights Mauricio Herrera (24-7, 7 KOs) and Jesus Soto Karass (28-12-4, 18 KOs) gave fans an exciting battle of aging veterans Friday in Indio, California. Herrera, 37, came out on top by a majority decision to give him some momentum. Soto Karass, 34, is 0-4-1 in his last five fights and hasn’t won since he upset Andre Berto in 2013. I’m not sure how many more entertaining fights he has left in him but he’ll probably fight on. … Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) stopped Todd Unthank May (10-1-1, 4 KOs) in seven rounds on the Herrera-Soto Karass card. The light heavyweight is 2-0 since he was knocked out by Sullivan Barrera last December. … Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (4-0, 2 KOs) is a super middleweight pro titleholder after stopping Nikki Adler (16-1, 9 KOs) in five rounds Friday in Detroit. The problem for Shields is that there appears to be few good options in terms of opponents. A quick look at the boxrec.com rankings reveals that there isn’t a single woman in the Top 50, aside from Shields, who is a super middleweight or heavier. And No. 21-ranked Christina Hammer is the only middleweight. You have to go to No. 71 Tori Nelson to find another 168-pounder. No one in the RING women’s Top 10 is heavier than welterweight. Slim pickings.
Rabbit Punches podcast, episode 8: Lomachenko-Marriaga and retirees Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news, events and deals in your inbox!