Arum compares Lomachenko to Muhammad Ali
By Chris Williams: Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was overjoyed with his fighter WBO super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko’s victory over Miguel Marriaga last Saturday night in saying he hasn’t seen anyone like him with his skills since Muhammad Ali. The fight between Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) and Marriaga (25-3, 21 KOs) was televised by ESPN in front of a small crowd of 4,102 boxing fans at the Microsoft Arena in Los Angeles, California.
Marriaga’s corner stopped the fight in between the 7th and 8th rounds. Marriaga was wincing and clutching the right side of his midsection after having been hit hard to the body by Lomachenko late in the 7th. The body shot that Lomachenko landed made a loud noise that you could hear on impact.
It was perhaps the hardest shot that he landed in the entire fight. It’s not surprising that Marriagan’s corner decided not to let him coming out for the 8th. He was too hurt to have the fight continue for another round.
Marriaga was knocked down by a trip in round 3 after his lead foot got tangled with Lomachenko’s at the same time he was hit by a punch. The referee counted the knockdown. In the 7th, Marriaga lost his balance while he was backing away from Lomachenko, and once again he was knocked down from a punch that wasn’t that hard. Marriaga brought this on himself by not standing his ground and fighting Lomachenko.
The hard hitting Marriaga took a strange approach of using movement and trying to stay away from Lomachenko. It was a plan that was doomed from the start. The only thing it did was delay the inevitable and removes any chance he had of winning the fight. Marriaga is usually the one that is attacking his opponents with his big power shots. But in this fight, Marriaga chose to move away from Lomachenko. He gave him zero resistance, making it easy for him to hit him with shots without worrying about anything coming back. Marriaga was the much bigger puncher of the two, but you wouldn’t know if due to him not letting his hands go in the fight.
Lomachenko still isn’t a big draw at this point in his career. Lomachenko is going to need to step it up if he wants to bring in the kinds of fans that we recently saw from Mikey Garcia in his fight against Adrien Broner. I’m not sure if Lomachenko will ever possess the kind of popularity that we’re seeing from Garcia and fighters like Saul Canelo Alvarez. Lomachenko needs to take drastic steps for him to take his career to the next level. Obviously, fighting featherweights coming off of a loss like Marriaga is not the right career move for Lomachenko to make him popular like Muhammad Ali once was during his lifetime.
Lomachenko hit Marriaga at will until his corner stopped the fight at the end of the 7th to save him from taking unnecessary punishment. Lomachenko wants to be the top pound -for-pound fighter in boxing, but it’s going to be hard for him to get to that level due to his lack of punching power and his finesse oriented style of fighting.
There are more exciting fighters even in Lomachenko’s own weight class than he is. Ultimately, it might be impossible for Lomachenko to make the leap to the number 1 position in the pound-for-pound list without major changes to the way he fights. Lomachenko’s win over Marriaga left a lot of boxing fans grumbling in the audience. Trainer Freddie Roach was not impressed with the way Lomachenko fought, saying,“Not impressed; just dancing around.”
“I never saw anything like this. He’s unbelievable,” said Arum via ESPN.com “Not only does he have the knowledge, he has the skill set that I’ve never seen before. Fast, reflexes, everything and he really entertains. Who else did that? Muhammad Ali.”
Lomachenko might be skilled like Ali, but he’s not able to excite the boxing fans the same way that he did. Ali was putting his punches together looking to get fans energized during his career. Ali was in tune with the boxing fans. He knew what they wanted, and he made sure that he was fighting in an exciting manner during the earlier and midpoint of his career. Near the end of his career, Ali didn’t have the talent to thrill the fans like he had earlier. Lomachenko is nothing like Ali at any stage of his career. There’s a huge difference between the two. Lomachenko was just tapping Marriaga with shots last Saturday night, and taunting him. Ali didn’t taunt his opponents nearly as much as Lomachenko was doing last night. Ali was mostly business inside the ring. He did most of his taunting outside of the ring. Arum comparing Lomachenko to Ali is really doing a disservice to Ali, because he was a much better fighter. Ali was an American with a lot of charisma, huge talent and he was well spoken. Lomachenko is from Ukraine, he’s just learning English now and he doesn’t have the huge boxing fan base that Ali had for a variety of reasons. Ali captured a gold medal in the Olympics for the U.S, and he would look to knockout his opponents. Lomachenko tends to drag his fights out before he goes for knockouts. He’s in the super featherweight division, and that’s not a popular weight class for the U.S casual boxing fans. I don’t think it ever will.
Lomachenko’s slow progress in making the move up to the lightweight division obviously isn’t helping his career. The fighters at super featherweight aren’t well known or popular in the U.S. Lomachenko’s best chance to make money is for him to move up to lightweight to take on Mikey Garcia and then move up to 140. For some reason, Lomachenko is taking his time in moving up in weight to take the Garcia fight. It’s unclear whether he’s trying to let the fight marinate or if he lacks the confidence to take that fight. Whatever it is, Lomachenko is almost 30, and he’s not going to be able to fight forever. It would be smarter for Lomachenko to take the Garcia now, and get a big boost from that fight to take his career to the next level. Lomachenko isn’t going to get that same boost by staying at super featherweight and fighting guys like Orlando Salido, Miguel Berchelt and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Those are the three fighters that Lomachenko wants to fight before he moves up in weight to lightweight. We even know if those are the only 3 guys that Lomachenko wants to fight before he moves up to the 130 lb. division. Once he gets done with those 3, he might choose to continue to fight at super featherweight. It’s going to take him at least another year to fight those 3, If he continues to stay at 130, then it could be a long time before he finally makes the move to fight Garcia.
Lomachenko, 29, took care of Marriaga without any problems. He was hitting Marriaga with light shots from every conceivable angle in the fight, but he was also getting hit back when the Colombian fighter had the confidence to let his hands go, which was on rare occasions unfortunate for the boxing fans. Lomachenko was nailed by a hard left hand from Marriaga in the 4th that caused a bruise on the side of his right eye. After the fight, Lomachenko’s face looked marked up from the few shots that Marriaga hit him with. Marriaga’s face looked unmarked. If you were to go by how each fighter’s faces looked after the fight, you’d think that Marriaga was the winner of the match. The reason for that might be due to Lomachenko lacking the power.
“I did everything by the plan that we had,” Lomachenko said via ESPN.
The plan that Lomachenko had was similar to the ones he’s had for his other recent fights. Lomachenko looks to hit his opponents with light shots repeatedly to break them down slowly over many rounds until they basically quit. Lomachenko’s 5th round knockout of Roman “Rocky” Martinez last year on June 11 was the rare exception where he knocked out an opponent with a big shots instead of an accumulation of punches. But in the case of Martinez, he came into the fight arguably depleted from back to back grueling affairs with Orlando Salido. Martinez too much more punishment in both of those fights than he did against weaker punching Lomachenko, who doesn’t have the same kind of power hat Salido possesses.
”I connected with some good punches, but I couldn’t get the result I was looking for,” said Marriaga to espn.com. ”I wanted to continue the fight, but my corner stopped the fight. He basically overwhelmed me with pressure.”
Marriaga landed some huge shots, but he was only connecting with 1 or 2 good ones per rounds. He looked afraid to throw a lot of punches for fear of getting caught with one of the counter shots from Marriaga. By not letting his hands go, Marriaga let Lomachenko hit him with a high number of light punches. The only reason Lomachenko was able to get away with fighting that way was because of Marriaga’s decision not to open up with his own big power shots He let Lomachenko have command of the fight by default.
Lomachenko’s face was bruised and cut, making him look like he had gotten the worst of it. He’s lucky that Marriaga didn’t throw a lot more punches. If Marriaga had thrown 3 times as many power punches in each round, there’s a chance that he would have stopped Lomachenko on cuts, because he bruising badly with the few shots that he was throwing at him. It makes you wonder what Marriaga could have done in the fight if he’d used a different tactic.
“You see my face? I didn’t like this,” Lomachenko said after the fight. “I need to work on my defense.”
There’s nothing that Lomachenko could have done in the fight to avoid getting hit. He didn’t have the reach advantage to fight on the outside. He needed to stay close to Marriaga. Lomachenko shouldn’t have wasted time throwing so many rapid lighter punches in the fight, which it look like he was still fighting in the amateur ranks. Back when Lomachenko was winning 2 gold medals in the Olympics, the idea was to tap your opponents with the white portion of the gloves to score points. It didn’t matte rif you loaded up or not, because they didn’t mean anything more than weaker ones. The only thing that mattered is if the white portion of the gloves were used when the punches were thrown.
Last Saturday night, Lomachenko looked like he was still stuck fighting with the same amateur style he’d used post a 395-1 amateur record. Boxing fans expect power punches to be thrown in the pro ranks. Gennady Golovkin, another fighter that had a long amateur career in Eastern Europe, realizes the importance of throwing power shots to please the U.S fans. That’s one of the reasons why Golovkin is so popular in the States. He shoots for quick knockout by throwing punches as hard as he can.
Lomachenko seems to be still mentally stuck fighting like an amateur. That’s going to need to change if he wants to become a star. He’s not going to be another Muhammad Ali no matter what his promoter Bob Arum says. There was only one Ali, and Lomachenko is nothing like him. Ali knew how to entertain the fans.
Lomachenko seems to have a tin ear when it comes to knowing what the U.S boxing fans want from him. Lomachenko spent so much time showboating and trying to entertain the boxing fans at ringside at the Microsoft Theater that he failed to land enough meaningful punches to make his work earlier. The fans were not impressed with the way Lomachenko fought. The crowd was not roaring with approval with the way Lomachenko was fighting. They wanted to see Lomachenko sit down on his shots. Instead, Lomachenko was just tapping Marriaga with shots. Perhaps that style of fighting goes over well for Lomachenko when he’s fighting at home in Ukraine, but in the U.S, the fans want a more pro-style fighting approach.