WE knew Vasyl Lomachenko was good. Frankly we’ve known he was good for the last decade, when he was boxer of the tournament at the Beijing Olympic Games. He was outstanding when he won his second Olympic gold medal in 2012, at a second weight. In 11 fights he became a two-weight professional world champion, an extraordinary feat. He also showed admirable ambition, challenging for a WBO crown in just his second contest, which he actually lost to Orlando Salido.
He’s gone to a new, extraordinary level since then. On Saturday he beat Jorge Linares, who was probably the best lightweight in the world, to become a three-weight world champion, in his 12th pro bout and his first at 135lbs.
The calibre of Linares, the thrilling nature of the fight – Lomachenko was put down, rose and took out the Venezuelan, all within 10 rounds of excitement, power and tremendous skill demonstrated by both – all confirm this as a remarkable achievement.
But this will also be seen as the night Lomachenko became an attraction. He’s now one of the (few) must-watch fighters in the sport. He was headlining at New York’s historic Madison Square Garden, in front of a crowd of 10,000 who revelled in seeeing the Ukrainian’s prowess.
Linares’ part in the occasion needs to be respected. He brought out the best in Lomachenko. The Ukrainian needed to be operating at his highest level to win. Linares’ hands were fast, his tactics clever and his power clear to see. He was capable of hurting Lomachenko and, for a brief moment, he did.
But the Ukrainian, and new WBA world champion, overcame all that. His footwork, the speed of it, the overall spacial awareness was wonderful to see. He moved his body so well, making his head hard for Linares to tag with jabs while Lomachenko worried him with feints and his lead right hand. The Ukrainian varied his approached, from moving deftly on the outside to going forward and breaking open Linares’ defences. It was a fight that lived up to expectations and then some.
In fact, it was a fight so good, who wouldn’t want to see it again? Linares could reunite with former trainer Ismael Salas to re-ignite interest and who knows what new levels he might be able to bring out of Lomachenko? Whatever’s next, over the coming years, we’re going to find out just how good Vasyl Lomachenko really is.