Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko had a staggering 396-1 amateur record that included two Olympic gold medals, but it seemed too soon to pronounce him one of the top 10 pound-for-pound pros in the world after six fights, including a loss to an over-the-weight Orlando Salido.
But Lomachenko showed why many are touting him as one of the best in boxing’s future as he scored a crushing knockout against Puerto Rican Roman (Rocky) Martinez at 1:09 of the fifth round in the main event of an HBO “Boxing After Dark” show Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The victory gave Lomachenko the WBO junior lightweight world title, his second world title in seven pro fights.
The southpaw Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) won the first four rounds on every card, controlling Martinez (29-3-2, 17 KOs) with his jab and mixing in a powerful lead left. In the third round, he put together a beautiful right uppercut-hard left combination.
But the fifth round was special. An early lead left made Martinez hop backward. Then, Lomachenko rocked Martinez with consecutive lead left hands that had him backing up. He never saw the right hook that landed flush on his chin and dropped him on his back to be counted out.
According to CompuBox numbers, Lomachenko connected on 55 of 95 power punches.
Promoter Bob Arum admitted he’s full of it at times, but he was adamant in saying, “I’ve been telling everybody how great this guy is. He’s the greatest of our time. Down the road, he’s going to beat anybody around.”
Lomachenko certainly impressed Martinez, who said, “I couldn’t see his hands.”
Now that he has moved up to the 130-pound class, Lomachenko said he’s ready to take on all-comers including Salido. “I need more fights,” Lomachenko said. “I want more wins to make history. I want to line up all the best fighters at 130 and see who the best fighter is.”
Mindful of the recent death of boxing icon Muhammad Ali, Lomachenko added, “I dedicate this victory to the greatest who ever laced up gloves — Muhammad Ali.”
The card also was intended to showcase Puerto Rican lightweight contender Felix Verdejo, who hopes to follow Miguel Cotto and Felix (Tito) Trinidad as a major Puerto Rican draw at the Garden. “El Diamante,” as Verdejo (22-0, 15 KOs) is nicknamed, shined brightly indeed while stopping tough Mexican Juan Jose Martinez (25-3, 17 KOs) at 2:47 of the fifth round.
Martinez did a good job cutting off the ring, but he lacked the quickness to punch with the Puerto Rican and suffered a cut under his right eye in the third. Verdejo used a sharp jab and mixed in effective right uppercuts to win the first four rounds on every card.
Verdejo opened the fifth with a beautiful three-punch combo and kept up the pressure until he fired a lightning-quick lead right that sent Martinez staggering backward. Unable to respond, he was a sitting duck as Verdejo went wild as if punching the speed bag until the fight was stopped. According to CompuBox, Verdejo landed 63 of 123 power punches, including 24 of 40 in the fifth.
“He was tailor-made for me,” Verdejo said of Martinez. “He came to fight. It was my kind of fight.”