On the night Vasiliy Lomachenko made history as the fastest to win his third weight-class world title in just his 12th professional fight, he also showed a hint of vulnerability that might help him attract top opponents. Lomachenko survived a sixth-round knockdown that was the first of his career before he took the WBA lightweight title from Jorge Linares by TKO at 2:08 of the 10th round.
When the bout was stopped, each fighter led by two points on one card, and the third had it even. The CompuBox stats also reflected a close fight with Lomachenko landing 213 of 627 for a 34-percent connect rate and Linares landing 207 of 739 for 28-percent. Linares landed more power punches, 139-101.
Lomachenko admitted he relaxed in the sixth round when a lead right from Linares scored the knockdown. Recounting a post-fight conversation, Lomachenko said, “I told [Top Rank vide-president] Carl Moretti in the ring. ‘It’s going to be much easier for you to get opponents for me because they all see I’m a human being. I just made an easier job for my promoter.’”
In moving up to the 135-pound class, Lomachenko might have reached the limits of his strength. Linares was the naturally bigger man, and while he got peppered with multi-punch combinations, he weathered it fairly well.
“Vasiliy has tremendous footwork, tremendous speed, he moves very well,” Linares said. “To be honest, up top I wasn’t really worried. His punches were coming from all angles but weren’t bothering me. His punches to the body surprised me. He caught me and surprised me. I have all the respect for him.”
After the knockdown, Anatoly Lomachenko, who trains his son, told him to go to the body. The final sequence began with a left hook the Ukrainian southpaw landed to Linares’ chin. He then shot two right jabs before firing a left to the body that landed like a thunderbolt, dropping Linares to his knees.
Linares said the stoppage by referee Ricky Gonzalez was “premature.” But the replay showed the 10-count actually lasted 14 seconds, and Linares gave no indication in the ring of wanting to go on. History belonged to Lomachenko.
Promoter Bob Arum said it’s possible Lomachenko will fight WBO lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran Aug. 25 in Los Angeles. The winner of an expected fight between WBC champ Mikey Garcia and IBF titlist Robert Easter also looms as a potential opponent for Lomachenko.
“This is why I came to this weight class,” Lomachenko said. “I look forward to unifying the titles.”