Tuesday, May 22, 2018  |

News

For Vasiliy Lomachenko, a dose of vulnerability is just what he needed





14
May

NEW YORK — Sitting up on the dais backstage at Madison Square Garden, his face bruised more than usual, nursing a shoulder that had been hurting from the second round on, Vasyl Lomachenko looked vulnerable. Human, even. It’d be foolish to expect anything else after nearly 30 minutes of mutually agreed-upon combat with Jorge Linares, among the fastest draws in all of the sport. But the bar had been set so high by the hype which inevitably builds if left unchecked by shortcoming.

Photo by Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Call what transpired in Round 6 a glitch in The Matrix, if you will. Lomachenko dismissed it as a “fast flash.” In boxing terms, Linares parried Lomachenko’s right jab and stuffed a counter right into his chin, dropping him for the first time as a professional. Either way, Lomachenko picked himself up, took the count in a neutral corner and got his own revenge later in the 10th on a slicing left body shot, which put Linares down and ended the fight.

If there was an upside to the downside, it’s that Lomachenko seems like a less risky proposition than he was before, especially in a new weight class with larger opponents.

“That’s what I told to (Top Rank) vice president Carl Moretti right after, in the ring,” said Lomachenko, now the holder of the RING and WBA lightweight titles. “Right now it’s going to be much easier to get opponents for me because they will see I’m also human being.

“I just made easier job for my promoter.”

Lomachenko had been the guy promoters had threatened to match their champions against to keep their egos in check (see Floyd Mayweather to Gervonta Davis). It makes for good copy, but isn’t as fun to read for a guy worried about being frozen out of meaningful fights.

The knockdown created drama, which fight fans love. It was an entertaining fight where two judges had either man ahead by two points while the third had it even heading toward the championship rounds.

Fans also love conflict and debate, and immediately the battle lines were drawn over who would win between Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia, the undefeated WBC lightweight titleholder who is nearest in esteem to the Ukrainian.

Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who sat toward the back of press row in Madison Square Garden, says knockdowns are just a part of the sport, and that people should give credit to Linares, not the weight, for putting Lomachenko on the floor. He sees just one name in that weight range that has a chance of beating Lomachenko.

Mikey Garcia (left) vs. Adrien Broner. (Photo by Amanda Westcott – Showtime)

“Mikey Garcia. Because he’s just so technically sound with his ring IQ. As the fight goes on, he’s only getting smarter and realizing what he can do. But it still would be a very good fight. It’d be one of the ones that can go either way,” said Pavlik.

Trainer John Scully, who also camped out with reporters at The Garden, also feels Lomachenko-Garcia is “the fight,” and was impressed with how Lomachenko reacted after hitting the canvas.

“Guys always tell me, ‘I would get up and I would do this.’ I say, ‘You don’t know what you would do.’ Nobody knows what they would do,” said Scully. “Lomachenko could have fallen apart for all we know. He got up, shook it off … he responded the way you would have wanted to.”

Another interested observer in attendance was Devin Haney, the unbeaten lightweight prospect who just the night before had played matador to the bull Mason Menard in Philadelphia. 

“I think that would be a good fight. Mikey’s a big puncher, Lomachenko’s a good boxer. Mikey has good timing. Either man can win that fight,” said Haney.

Asked who in the lightweight division would be the hardest fight for Lomachenko, the ultra-confident 19-year-old responded, “Me.”

“One day,” that is.

It’s hard to affix the “superstar” tag to any fighter with just 12 pro fights to his credit, but somehow Lomachenko has justified it. He’s now 11-1 (9 knockouts) with world title wins in three weight classes to go along with the two Olympic gold medals he won in London and Beijing. The Lomachenko-Linares fight headlined in the big room of Madison Square Garden, and though the crowd wasn’t as large as Miguel Cotto used to attract in his prime, the loud “Loma! Loma!” chants rivaled the decibels once generated by Manny Pacquiao fans at the MGM Grand. 

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

Like Pacquiao, Lomachenko’s first language isn’t English (he’s Ukrainian and speaks Russian), though like Pacquiao, his unique talents bridge the language gap and keep people tuned in.

One advantage he does have over the previous generation of fighters is that his biggest fights will now be shown on ESPN thanks to Top Rank’s deal with the biggest worldwide network in sports. According to a graphic shared by THE RING’s Michael Woods, the fight generated a 1.0 metered market average rating, meaning it averaged a solid million viewers throughout the fight, making it the highest-rated boxing match on cable this year.

Lomachenko’s promoter, Bob Arum, admitted to this writer before the fight that Lomachenko’s own star can only rise as high as the rivals he has around him. The biggest fight to build toward would be Garcia, though Arum more or less said that talks to make that fight would be hell on Earth, comparing it to the Mayweather-Pacquiao negotiations which drew out for years, and somehow less dauntingly, Donald Trump and his upcoming summit with North Korea.

The fact that Garcia sued Top Rank to get out of his contract is no doubt a hindrance to any deal. But in situations like that, embittered sides only become more congenial once the money on the table is too big to ignore.

Otherwise there is Gervonta Davis, the talented yet inconsistently focused WBA junior featherweight titleholder whose Twitter snipes are as vicious as his bodypunching.

Scully isn’t convinced that Davis wants that fight any time soon.

“When I saw the interview with Gervonta a couple of months ago, he clearly looked  to me like a guy that didn’t want to fight Lomachenko,” said Scully. “It’s very clear, and then lately he’s changed his tune. And I know that’s because they told him to, not because he wanted to. When a guy exhibits that much apprehension and he tries to find reasons not to fight, I think it’s way too early, personally.”

Lomachenko’s next time in the ring will be on August 25 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, which means he’s staying active and not settling into the one- or two-fights-a-year schedule that had been the norm in the premium cable era of boxing.

In lieu of Garcia and Davis, a fight with aging legend Manny Pacquiao would bring the name value. Yet with Pacquiao already scheduled to fight Lucas Matthysse in Malaysia on July 14, a unification with Top Rank-promoted WBO lightweight titleholder Raymundo Beltran is far more realistic next.

There’s a lot more prestige and money being a star who bleeds and attracts big-name challenges than there is in being a boogeyman. And at age 30, Lomachenko doesn’t have much time to waste toiling away in anyone’s nightmares.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].

 





  • ciobanu catalin

    Maybe he need to start eating some of that mexican meat, you guys at the ring like so much

    • Dug Fisher

      Ouch. Not ALL the guys at The Ring. Just the ones that really pull the strings apparently.

      • Stephen M

        I say that Doug is taking PEDs. He used to be really skinny and had a squeaky voice.

    • TNT

      Or take PEDs at levels comparable to Eastern European Olympians. Just saying.

      • ciobanu catalin

        Yes, but in that case you dont get to keep the ring belt

        • TNT

          In a perfect world.

      • Jamil Salvo

        yeah memo heredia is juicing mexican fighters. lol

        • TNT

          He provided his services to athletes of various nationalities.

          My initial comment mentioned Olympians of a certain geographic region for a particular reason.

      • Michael Montero

        And there in lies the anti white sentiment we all knew was there.

        • TNT

          Good god man. Learn to read in context. I was responding to an individual who I believe hails from an Eastern European country. It is well known that in certain Olympic sports (for example, weightlifting) athletes from Eastern Europe have excelled and been caught doping.

          In reality, athletes of many different nationalities be they Jamaican sprinters, American wrestlers, Mexican boxers, or Russians have been caught doping.

          Being the racist xenophobe that you are you would like to say all others think like you just to justify your hatred.

          Had I made some general claim against all Whites then your comment might have been justified.

          Just take a deep breath and watch the intros to Dante’s boxing YouTube videos repeatedly. Get some subsaharan loving then move onto the hijab wearing seductresses.

          • Michael Montero

            Ain’t no other site in the game..

          • Michael Montero

            I’m also defending dark skinned Latin Hermanos who’ve come under assault in MMA as well as boxing from Americans.

          • TNT

            Lee, who are you kidding. By darker skinned “Latin hermanos” I take it you mean Canelo.

  • Michel Desgrottes

    Getting knocked down from walking into a straight right isn’t very matrix like

    Loma is nice, man has skills, but he also engages enough where he’s open to get caught, he’s more vulnerable than marketed

    Don’t believe the hype

    Awesome footwork, but he keeps trying that same step aside move and one day someone is going to time it and catch en with a hook

    • Dug Fisher

      Look to engage and you’ll always be open to getting timed, no matter who you are.

      Lomachenko could make a career out of handpicking guys, elite level fighters, who don’t have quite the right stuff to capitalise on the few mistakes he makes. He’s not interested in that though.

      • Stephen M

        Michel prefers Floyd style fights with nothing much happening.

    • Wayne

      You don’t think any of his previous opponents tried to time him before?
      Easier said than done my friend

    • Here’s Barley!

      Correction: Getting knocked down — and then getting back up again to triumph against a cosiderably larger, world-class fighter with a proven punch – IS indeed ‘matrix-like’. It puts Lomachenko right there alongside just about anout every other great fighter throughout the history of this great sport — each and every one of whom where dumped on the seat of their pants at various points throughout their glittering careers (some when against considerably less polished opposition than a larger, three-weight champion like Linares – remember Ray Leonard getting dumped by nonentity Kevin Howard, B-Hop getting dropped TWICE by the undistinguished Mercado or the great Louis getting ‘timed’ by the crude-as-hell Galento ?)).

      So getting dropped – especiallywhen engaging in such high profile contests against fellow multiple world champions – has nothing to do with ‘vulnerability’ (all fighters are inherantly vulnerable). It is simply part of the fabric of this great sport we follow – and demonstrates the Ukranian wonder can be caught like every other great fighter who has gone before him.

      Nothing more.
      .

      • Guy Grundy

        A fine reply

      • Dug Fisher

        This guy Desgrottes has always had an agenda. If you’re unfortunate dnough to stumble across most of his comments you’ll be on to him pretty quick.

        • Here’s Barley!

          Gotcha. That bias shines through.

      • Michel Desgrottes

        Neyo avoided bullets and blows in the matrix, Loma was caught

        • Mark

          AFAIK, Neo did got hit by a bullet. Well

        • Stephen M

          But that was Hollywood, this is boxing.

          • Michel Desgrottes

            marketing based off a hollywood film

          • Stephen M

            It’s a nickname, and a very apt one. That doesn’t mean it’s literally true,that he can dodge bullets like Neo in the movie. Not sure why I’m explaining this, you are not as dumb as you pretend to be.

    • LOMATARD

      I remember Mosley lands 2 heavy right hands to Floyd.

      • Michel Desgrottes

        floyd wasn’t a matrix

        • LOMATARD

          Shawn Marion

    • Michael Montero

      “Don’t believe the hype” Yet Crawford is da pound for pound number one.

      • Michel Desgrottes

        Undeafeated that unified titles for undisputed, Loma undeafeated????? Lmaooooooo

        • Michael Montero

          Look who he’s fought ffs. Trash resume. Loma took on Salido in his second pro fight and barely lost.

        • Michael Montero

          Okay Wakandan

          • Michel Desgrottes

            What does a fictional country from marvel comics have to do with an actual sport?

  • Ten Count Toronto

    I wouldn’t call it vulnerable, it just means that against a lightweight of Linares skill & firepower he Lomachenko can’t afford to improvise and play around as much as he did with ordinary fighters from the 120’s. When he got a little too comfortable and ahead of himself he got caught with that punch kind of like Roy Jones with DelValle. He got up quickly and wasn’t in trouble, just needed to wake up his “respect app” which briefly timed out in the background as Lomachenko tried to see how far he could push the envelope on Linares.

    What was established is that 135 is the upper limit for Lomachenko as far as high caliber opponents go, anything above that would be a very tall task that would need to be thoroughly strategized (and likely a stinkout).

    • TNT

      I think Loma was in some trouble. You could see it in his eyes. Linares was cautious (for good reason too). And Loma recovered well.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        Could be, I’ll have to see it again. Definitely the respect-meter went up a couple of notches.

  • John Grady

    When great fighters survive knockdowns or true adversity, they demonstrate the championship heart that dominating foes can’t reveal… it is that intangible that separates the greats from the all-time greats. We’ll see if VL continues to author a legendary career, but it seems like he has all the tools to become a fighter we’ll talk about for decades to come.

    • TNT

      We already had some indication of Loma’s heart by how he handled the Salido affair. This latest fight only further solidified that he is not going to just fold before adversity.

      • John Grady

        Very well said, TNT. Surviving a first knockdown is another level (most times, but not all), but VL did demonstrate evidence of courage, adaptability, and tenacity vs. Salido: Fighting that calibur of a fighter/experienced champion in his second pro fight (I know of his extensive amateur career but this is still impressive), enduring repeated low blows, fighting vs. a champion who didn’t make weight, working through the expectations that he couldn’t go the distance, etc.

  • Hollister Lowe

    I’m shocked no one is talking about the size difference Loma had to overcome. Linares was definitely at 150 lbs. + Huge weight difference at this division!

    • Stephen M

      I think everyone is well aware of it.

  • Mike M.

    I’m no boxing trainer but not tucking that elbow when throwing his cross might come back and bite Mikey in the ass one day.