Don’t sweat the technique
During the interlude between rounds six and seven of the bout featuring WBO super featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko versus Jason Sosa, “Don’t Sweat the Technique” was blaring into the audience at the Theater at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. This old-school cut was from DJ Eric B. and the all-time great emcee Rakim (and it says here he’s the best lyricist who ever lived), who came from an era in which hip-hop had much more substance and meaning.
And it was appropriate that this song was being played during another Lomachenko recital because, very simply – he “ain’t no joke.”
What Rakim was to rhyming, Lomachenko is to boxing.
Once again, Lomachenko put forth another display of artistry that simply can’t be compared to anyone else. It’s not just that he stopped the game Sosa in nine rounds it’s how he stopped him. The native of Camden, New Jersey, is probably competitive against just about any other 130-pounder in the world but against the Ukrainian stylist, Sosa wasn’t even so-so.
He was hit from all directions as Lomachenko gave him more angles than an AP geometry class. At times, Lomachenko seemed to disappear right in front of Sosa and then suddenly reappear to hit him with a barrage of quick, striking punches that came in rapid-fire succession. While some have compared him to Willie Pep, what Lomachenko does is part of the family lineage. “I model myself after my father (Anatoly). This is Lomachenko Sr.-style of fighting,” he said afterward.
In the sixth round, he mocked Sosa by mimicking a matador waving his cape at the oncoming bull. And indeed Sosa was getting gored, round after round, by slashing punches, the punishment accumulating to the point where, by the late rounds, you wondered at what point the towel should have been thrown in. Sosa is a solid professional prizefighter, who, with the guidance of veteran promoter J Russell Peltz, has willed himself into enjoying a productive career. But Lomachenko is a spectacular talent, who seems to have been ordained to box from the time he came out of his mother’s womb.
After the ninth round, in which Sosa was dissected in more violent fashion, Sosa’s corner did the humane thing by pulling their man outta there. With his latest conquest, Lomachenko moved his record to 8-1 (6). He is seemingly improving with every fight, evolving his amateur background to a point in which he is now also now a professional entertainer.
Can a fighter with less than 10 pro outings really be considered the best fighter in the world? Who knows? That argument should be pondered by those who care about such things. However, this much is clear: In his last three fights, Lomachenko has absolutely demolished and dismantled three respectable foes in Rocky Martinez, Nicholas Walters and now Sosa. No, it’s not exactly murderers row but the form he has shown recently cannot be downplayed.
But while Rakim could do one-man performances and go on concert tours, boxing is reliant on having suitable foils.
Currently the 130-pound class has other beltholders like Miguel Berchelt (WBC), Jezreel Corrales (WBA) and Gervonta Davis (IBF), who would all be substantial underdogs versus the “Hi-Tech” attack. The only realistic and makeable fight with a real storyline, left at this weight class, would be a rematch with Orlando Salido, who defeated him in dubious fashion in Lomachenko’s second professional fight back in March of 2014.
“When I fought Salido, the first time, it was like a third grader fighting a 12th-grader,” he said on Saturday night after his latest exhibition. “I have graduated to the university and I want to invite Salido to my university.”
The question is, will Salido overprice himself to the point in which Top Rank Promotions and HBO will simply move on? Regardless, Lomachenko, who came into the paid ranks with the boldest of initiatives (which was to compete for a world title in his pro debut), is as ambitious as ever.
“I want to start negotiating with all the other champions in my division. If they refuse to fight me, I’ll move up,” he said. Yes, he’s going big-game hunting, adding, “I want to make a Mikey Garcia fight soon.”
The highly-regarded Garcia is the WBC beltholder at 135 pounds but Lomachenko is looking to scale even higher mountains.
“I’m making my ways toward (THE RING Magazine/WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion) Terence Crawford.”
- The Theater at MGM National Harbor was “The House of Ukraine” as two of Lomachenko’s stablemates – who are also managed by Egis Klimas, whose stable of prizefighters is deeper than Bob Baffert and his thoroughbreds – Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, each notched victories.
Usyk, the defending WBO cruiserweight titlist, overcame another slow start to take care of the game Michael Hunter over 12 rounds. (And yeah, during the last 30 seconds of that fight, I had visions of Rocky Balboa being implored to “Throw the damn towel!” as Apollo Creed was getting hammered by Ivan Drago.)
For all the early talk from the HBO broadcast crew regarding Usyk’s heavyweight future, perhaps more time should be given to see just how good of a cruiserweight he is. While he’s certainly has some tools, Evander Holyfield he’s not. Usyk is very tough once he gets rolling, and puts his punches together, but it would be interesting to see how he’d fare against Murat Gassiev, with the high guard he uses to deflect punches. Could such a defensive tactic work against a true power puncher like him?
Gvozdyk, an aspiring light heavyweight, made a bit of a statement by dispatching the usual durable Yunieski Gonzalez, in three rounds, with a display of accurate power-punching that left Gonzalez concussed and dazed in the second round and staggering around the ring in the third. “The Nail” is a fighter who has put the rest of the 175-pound class on notice.
- This weekend was the debut of boxing in this brand new venue and there was a capacity crowd of 2,828 in attendance, much of it Ukrainian. I’m told that the plan is for Lomachenko to headline next in Chicago (which has a sizable Ukrainian population) during the summer and Usyk is going to fight back in Ukraine, where he will headline a card that will take place in a soccer stadium. It’s clear that Lomachenko has a bit of a fan base and now Top Rank is in the process of expanding it.
As for the DC/Maryland region, it’s obvious that this new building will be good for the boxing business. They have a “ShoBox” card next Friday and Gary Russell Jr. will be headlining there in May. That area has other boxers like Jarrett Hurd, Lamont Peterson, Gervonta Davis and our favorite cruiserweight Sam “Vanilla Gorilla” Crossed. And there are plenty of other venues – like the Verizon Center – in this area that can host bigger events.
“The Mean Machine” Egis Kavaliauskas scored a fourth round knockout of Ramses Agaton on this undercard. He could be Klimas’ next world champion…Patrick Harris, Mike Reed and Jesse Hart also won in Oxon Hill…Hart could face WBO 168-pound beltholder Gilberto Ramirez down the line…Madam’s Organ is quite the bar in D.C…I can now scratch Washington D.C./Maryland off the list of States in which I need to cover a fight…Russell Westbrook should be the NBA MVP for this season, end of story…And yes, Rakim is my choice as the greatest lyricist the rap game has ever seen. Case in point: the opening bars of “Follow the Leader” and that’s just one example…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.