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Vasyl Lomachenko stops Jorge Linares

Image: Vasyl Lomachenko stops Jorge Linares

By Jeff Aranow: Vasyl Lomachenko did what many expected him to do in beating Jorge Linares to rip away his WBA World lightweight title on Saturday night in front of a large crowd of 10,429 fans at Madison Square Garden in New York to become the only fighter in history of the sport to win 3 division world titles in just 12 fights.

That’s an accomplishment, but it’s also a product of the promotional muscle of Lomachenko’s promoters at Top Rank for them to give him those opportunities.

Linares was getting to Lomachenko tonight with shots that tested his chin. Lomachenko got dropped hard in round 6. Linares landed the perfect shot to put Lomachenko on the deck. To his credit, he got back up and finished the round well.

Linares got the better of Lomachenko during the first half of the fight. Lomachenko came on in the second half, but Linares was far from done at the time the fight was stopped in the 10th. Linares was still landing and giving Lomachenko problems.

Lomachenko appeared to have finally met someone that could handle his slick fighting style. Linares skillfully handled Lomachenko’s movement as if it was child’s play. He adapted to every move Lomachnko made inside the ring, and nullified his attempts at out-smarting him. On the inside, Linares was able to land shots and fight Lomachenko to a standstill much of the time. In the end, Lomachenko needed to knockout to ensure that he got the victory, because the outcoe was still very much in doubt. We’ll never know for sure what would have happened if Lomachenko had fought a lightweight with more punching power like Mikey Garcia.

Lomachenko stopped the 32-year-old Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) in the 10th round in their fight on Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. Lomachenko knocked Linares down with a left to the body. Linares stayed down. He didn’t want anymore and you can’t blame him. He was hurt, and he’d been battered by Lomachenko. Four rounds earlier, it was Lomachenko who had been knocked down by Linares. Lomachenko got back to his feet and fought well to escape the round without going down again.

Adding the 3rd division world title to his resume looks good for Lomachenko, who captured Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012. Lomachenko finished his amateur career with a record of 396-1. Some boxing fans believe Lomachenko to be the greatest amateur ever. Of course, it’s a subjective thing. I don’t know if it’s possible to ever know for sure who the greatest amateur ever was. Lomachenko was a good one. That we do know.

“Linares is a great champion, and the fight was good for the fans and everybody,” said Lomachenko after the fight.

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Moist fighters with so few fights have no chance of fighting for even 1 world title, let alone three. The other promoters won’t give them a chance. Top Rank gave the 2-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) these opportunities, and you can bet they’re going to keep on doing it by eventually matching him against a light welterweight and maybe even a welterweight in time if he’s willing to agree to that.

Lomachenko’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank plans on bringing him back quickly for his next fight by having him fight on August 25 in a fight against WBO lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Arum promotes Beltran. He’s one of his Top Rank fighters. What’s interesting is that earlier this week, Arum had been saying that if Lomachenko beat Linares, he would have him face either Mikey Garcia or Beltran. Mikey isn’t one of Arum’s Top Rank fighters. The promoter has a habit of matching his fighters against each other rather than looking outside of his promotional company for fights. So, when Arum was saying that Lomachenko’s next fight would be against either Mikey Garcia or Ray Beltran, a lot of fans didn’t believe that Arum would even consider putting the Ukrainian fighter in with Mikey. Sure enough, after tonight’s fight, Arum revealed Lomachenko’s likely opponent for his next fight in August, saying to ESPN “Beltran is the obvious opponent.”

The 36-year-old Beltran recently won the vacant World Boxing Organization lightweight title last February in beating 39-year-old Paulus Moses by a 12 round unanimous decision. Beltran is not a big name like Mikey Garcia, but it doesn’t matter. He’s with Arum’s Top Rank company, so he’s likely going to be the one that winds up facing Lomachenko next.

“It was a great fight. That right hand [that knocked me down], it was a great punch,” Lomachenko said to ESPN. ”It happens. I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father told me, ‘You need to go to the body.”

Linares connected on 207 of 739 shots for a 28 percent connect rate. For his part, Lomachenko landed 213 of 627 punches for a connect percentage of 34. Just going by the punch stats, you can’t identify who won the fight. The reason for that is the fight knotted up on the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage in the 10th round. One judge had Lomachenko winning 86-84, while another had Linares winning by the same score at 86-84. The third judge had the fight even at 114-114. It was a close fight. If the match had continued to be played out the way it was going, it’s anyone’s guess who would have won the fight.

“The knockout punch was perfectly landed,” Linares said.

The loss for Linares ends his 13-fight winning streak and his 2-year title reign as the World Boxing Association World lightweight champion. Linares, 32, had been a champion since beating Anthony Crolla by a 12 round unanimous decision in September 2016. Before tonight, the last time Linares had lost was way back in March 2012 when he was stopped in the 2nd round by Sergio Thompson on a cut stoppage.

Linares, 5’8”, looked a lot taller than the 5’7” Lomachenko. The listed height for Lomachenko has to be off by at least 2 inches, because he looked a lot shorter than Linares tonight. Lomachenko also appeared much lighter. Linares seemed to be the much heavier guy of the two inside the ring. Between the height and weight advantage, Linares was a real handful for Lomachenko to deal with. It lucky for Lomachenko that he was able to find the right punch to get Lomachenko out of there tonight, because eif he hadn’t hit him with a hard body shot, the fight likely would have gone the full 12 round distance and the fight could have gone either way.

It was strange to see Lomachenko not dominating an opponent completely like he’d been doing at featherweight and super featherweight. Lomachenko often looked like the thicker guy in his fights in those weight classes. The size advantage that Lomachenko had over his opponents in those weight classes seemed to give him a big edge. Tonight, Lomachenko didn’t have the sie advantage, and he subsequently was struggling in a real fight. It was the first time that Lomachenko had to deal with adversity since his loss to Orlando Salido in March 2013. It was Lomachenko’s hand speed advantage that bailed him out. He wouldn’t have won the fight if he didn’t have the better speed, because he wasn’t the stronger, bigger or necessarily the better boxer of the two. He was mainly just the faster guy, and he had the better footwork. If Lomachenko ever fights someone with the hand and foot speed that he possesses, he could be in trouble.

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