It was a bit unusual to have a marquee fight on Friday night, true Main Event spectacle fights are typically reserved for Saturday nights in the prime time hours.
However last night proved to be different, the fighter many (myself included) have as the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world Vasyl Lomachenko started the weekend off for fight fans in style with a one-sided artistic demolition of rugged Brit Anthony Crolla who clawed his way into the mandatory spot for Loma’s WBA 135 pound title.
With IBF champ Richard Commey recovering from a hand injury and WBC Lightweight champ Mikey Garcia coming off his loss to Errol Spence Jr at Welterweight, Lomachenko was without a compelling matchup. However, he did as champions do and took on his mandatory challenger. A teak tough career Lightweight, the pride of Manchester England who helped pack the Staples Center with adoring fans Anthony Crolla.
Unfortunately for Anthony Crolla who looked flummoxed from the off, his moment in the main event spotlight looked more like a lamb led to slaughter and Vasyl Lomachenko would convert center ring at the Staples Center to an abattoir.
Joe Gallagher and the rest of Team Crolla acknowledged the monumental task ahead of them in multiple interviews and fighter meetings, they know Loma is good at range due to his phenomenal footwork, he’s good inside due to his underrated body punching, Loma’s also a consummate ring general with a myriad of feints and angles. Pretty soon Gallagher sounds like a someone describing how his man is going to lose not a path to victory.
There were some confounding stories coming out of Crolla’s camp prior to the fight with Lomachenko from picking Jazza Dickens, a capable but very limited fighter for as chief sparring partner to some of the shark tank style drills used in the hopes of preparing Crolla for the mental pressure he would face.
This all belies two obvious and uncomfortable facts, one: How can you prepare for a singular talent like Lomachenko? There literally is not one single fighter in a generation with his skill set. Two: the preparation only seemed to confuse Crolla who looked bewildered and gun shy from the opening bell.
Loma is typically a slow starter, probing for the first 3-4 rounds downloading data on his opponent only to pour on the pressure in the middle rounds and down the stretch.
Here though, Loma quickly realized what he had in front of him in Crolla and pressured the Mancunian with feints and cut the ring off with precision. Crolla never got a break, physically or mentally.
By the latter third of the second round, Loma was lacing Crolla with some hard shots particularly the right hook and straight left to the body as well as his uppercut/hook combo.
Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl’s father and head trainer likely didn’t have to tell his son there was blood in the water. Loma came out even more aggressively to start the third, we got to see some vintage Lomachenko moves as Crolla winged punches with increasing desperation, Loma slipped deftly only to materialize behind Crolla to unleash three or four unanswered punches.
Toward the end of the third round Crolla was backed up against the ropes with Loma unloading a multi-punch combo that went completely unanswered, Crolla’s knees buckled and he collapsed into the ropes, veteran ref Jack Reiss made the correct call ruling a knockdown since had the ropes not been there Crolla would have gone down from the barrage.
Lomachenko, however, was confused and thought the fight was being waved off - a TKO - he began to celebrate jumping on the ropes playing to the crowd. Two commission officials came in to admonish Loma and get him down, unbeknownst to Jack Reiss who had just finished his standing eight counts on Crolla, he turned around, saw the two officials and in Jack’s charmingly abrasive style yelled at them to get out of his ring -
what a ya doin? Get out! The fight is ova when I say it is!
Jack Reiss is my favourite ref in boxing for a reason.
By the time this whole scene had played itself out the third round had come to an end.
In hindsight, it may have been better if Reiss had stopped it there as just one minute into the next round, Loma launched another combo that once again had Crolla’s back up against the ropes before being stuck with a short stiff right hook on the temple that shut down Crolla causing a frightening face plant knockdown - Ctl+Alt+Delete…
Jack Reiss made it to the count of “3” before waving the fight off and tending to Crolla. The camera cut to Lomachenko who looked visibly concerned after such a hard knockdown. Fortunately, Crolla came to after a few moments and both he and Loma shared an embrace. There was never any bad blood between them only the drive to do battle and will to see it through no matter what.
After the fight, Lomachenko one again called for a unification title fight with Mikey Garcia and when Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was asked if the antipathy between he and Garcia would interfere with the matchmaking, he didn’t mince words:
Fu-- bad blood. It’s all about the Benjamins. And I would take joy in watching Loma beat the f-- out of Mikey.”
Nevertheless, there are significant financial and political roadblocks to getting that fight made. Next up for Loma is likely a unification bout with underrated Ghanaian puncher Richard Commey, the IBF champion, probably in late summer or early fall of 2019.
Before we go much further through, some uncomfortable facts must be faced.
Many will write off Loma’s performance against Crolla as nothing more than ‘business as usual,’ exactly what is expected against an overmatched mandatory challenger, they would be only half right.
Coming into the bout last night Anthony Crolla was a 43 fight veteran, more than three times the professional bouts of Loma. Crolla has only been stopped one time previously, that was seven years ago almost to the day. Lomachenko has fought in title fights 13 out of his 14 title fights and is 12-1 in that stretch.
His bout with Crolla only marked his 3rd fight at 135 and he now owns two stoppage wins. For a fighter who is really a natural Featherweight or Super Featherweight as best, this something to consider, when Manny was climbing the weight classes and scoring KOs no one hesitated to recognize his greatness!
There is no other active fighter that has done what Lomachenko is doing, only Terence Crawford can challenge him for that #1 Pound for Pound spot.
Others will say that Loma is not a box office draw, well the Staples Center was packed both with Crolla’s travelling fans coming all the way from Great Britain and many of the LA faithful, a passionate and educated fan base.
Only folks with an agenda or bias will deny Loma’s obvious ascent toward greatness.
Don’t take it from me, fellow fighters like Carl The Jackal Frampton, an elite fighter in his own right sees the writing on the wall, after the fight he tweeted:
When people get asked who their favourite fighter of all time is? You hear the usual names. Ali, Tyson, Leonard, Hagler, Duran, Chavez etc. Are we allowed to say Lomachenko yet? Cause I think he’s mine.
Me too Carl. Me too.