The violent artistry of Vasyl Lomachenko
In what ultimately became an edition of “Boxing After Dark” on ESPN (more on that later), WBO junior featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko dismantled the usually game and durable Miguel Marriaga over seven one-sided rounds at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live.
It wasn’t so much a fight but an exhibition of the violent artistry of the Ukrainian stylist.
You get the sense it will take a special talent or a much bigger boxer to defeat this slashing southpaw, who has carried his amateur pedigree over and turned it into professional success, unlike so many other amateur standouts of the past, who aren’t nearly as good without headgear and smaller gloves. Punching for pay is much different than boxing for trophies and medals and Lomachenko is now a prodigious professional, among the elite practitioners of the “Sweet science.”
But as he showed this past weekend against Marriaga – who gave WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez all he could handle back on April 22 – he is now a consummate fighter, one who is more than willing to press the attack and work effortlessly inside the pocket, with an array of quick punches that come from a myriad of angles. And sensing what was coming his way, Marriaga was unusually timid and placid from the very first bell.
This meant Lomachenko had to pursue and make the fight, finding holes and, most of the time, creating them in Marriaga’s armor, occasionally leaving himself open for a rare counter right hand from the Colombian.
Lomachenko said afterward, “It’s very hard boxing when your opponent is just defense. It’s very hard. You always need to think about your defense and you need to think how you can open his defense. It’s very hard.”
At times, Lomachenko would throw a series of light taps to Marriaga’s guard, picking and probing, looking for small crevices he could touch. “It’s very hard to open his body, his head. He was always leaning down,” added Lomachenko, who also had to deal with Marriaga’s high guard.
Early on, he started taunting Marriaga, perhaps wanting him to break out of his shell more so than entertain the 4,102 in the audience and those watching on the four-letter network. This much is clear: As he gets more comfortable as a pro, there is a certain confidence – that perhaps seeps into outright arrogance – in which Lomachenko boxes. He is a master of the ring and has a mean streak in there. Recently he hasn’t just defeated his opponents but ridiculed them while dominating the action.
His body language and gestures during certain fights harkens back to what Mike Tyson once rhetorically uttered: “How dare they challenge me with their primitive skills?”
But there is always a price to pay in these affairs and a clash of heads in the middle of the fight left a mark on Lomachenko, who, despite the dominance of his outing, wasn’t necessarily pleased by it.
“Did you see my face? I didn’t like it,” said Lomachenko, who improved to 9-1 (7). Perhaps not wanting to risk any more unnecessary damage, he shifted gears in the sixth and seventh, when he started to really sit down on his punches and began to spray leather in all different directions, landing on the challenger with more and more force and frequency. When you face Lomachenko, it’s almost as if you face multiple foes, who suddenly come from all different angles all at once.
There’s a very stealthy element to his attack. He might seem to be right in front of you but still very difficult to detect and touch. Then, as he utilizes his spins and pivots, he disappears on his opponents who are often times left gasping for air with their futile counterpunches. Like Mikey Garcia, Lomachenko has mastered the fundamentals of the sport but, unlike Garcia, there is more grace and fluidity in his overall game, something akin to a much more brutal ballet. You could call him boxing’s version of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Marriaga’s corner did the humane thing by waving off the fight. after their man was sent down for the second time in the seventh and shellacked through much of that frame. It was already bad and, at this point, it was getting only worse. Lomachenko simply said of his performance, “I did everything as planned.”
What really separates Lomachenko from WBA junior featherweight beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux is he understand that providing entertainment value matters in this business.
“Unlike MOST fighters, (Lomachenko) realizes that professional boxing is part-sport and part-entertainment,”clarified Top Rank CEO Bob Arum.”He entertains when he fights. He really entertains. I think the public really loves what they’re seeing. Who else did that like that? Who else?
The question is now just who can realistically challenge Lomachenko? For all the well-deserved plaudits he receives, it has to be said that he’s doing what is expected of him. There’s no doubting how special his skill set is but, for him to be a ring legend, that will ultimately be judged by his dance partners. With all the allegiances and politics that exist in the business, will Lomachenko ever truly get an opportunity to show how truly sublime he is?
Unlike a Baryshnikov, in this racket, dance partners matter.
OK, has Jerry Jones finished his Hall of Fame speech yet?
Yeah, it was unfortunate that the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction show ran long on ESPN, therefore leaving viewers scrambling to find where the Top Rank broadcast would begin as the aformentioned program ran far beyond 10 p.m. ET. Top Rank even brought in a swing bout (which was a good scrap between Arnold Barboza Jr. and Jonathan Chicas) to help pass the time and eventually boxing was switched over to ESPN2. It wasn’t till the ninth round of the Ray Beltran vs. Bryan Vasquez bout of which ESPN picked up the coverage.
Hey, some things never change: Boxing being delayed on the “Worldwide leader.”
Yeah, there was outrage all over Twitter. And I get it; it’s inconvenient (especially for those who DVR’d the fights) but this is one of the realities of being on ESPN, which airs a myriad of other live sports. And I’ve seen plenty of football games that run long and the following games have to be shifted over to ESPNU or one of their other platforms. With live TV, things don’t always go according to plan.
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re going to DVR boxing on ESPN, extend your recording by at least a half-hour or just flat-out record the following show, also. Also remember that you can catch all the fights on the ESPN app.
But seriously, for those of you at home, is it really that difficult to just merely get the remote control and just switch over to ESPN2? Last I checked, most basic cable packages include “The Deuce” and also place it on on the channel right next to ESPN.
So yeah, this is a First World problem. Toughen up a bit. Good grief.
Now, more problematic is/was the start time for the night’s main event, which began well after midnight on the East Coast with the delayed start time. For too long, boxing has showcased its biggest events well after prime time ,which logic would dictate would naturally shrink ones audience over a period of time.
Yeah, it was “ESPN After Dark” this past weekend.
Hearing that October 31 and November 11 are dates on which ESPN will next feature cards with Top Rank. And Arum mentioned December 9 or the 23rd as the next slot for Lomachenko…A fight I’m told is being discussed is Brandon Rios vs. Omar Figueroa Jr. for the fall…Mauricio Herrera-Jesus Soto-Karass was everything you hoped it would be, coming in…Jay Cutler with the Dolphins, huh?…When does Jimmy Johnson get his call from Canton for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame?…Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” is back!…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.