By Andreas Hale
We’re a week removed from Vasiliy Lomachenko’s sixth round stoppage of Guillermo Rigondeaux and have had some time to digest what we witnessed on ESPN.
In a battle of two-time gold medalists and pound for pound professional fighters, Lomachenko made mincemeat of Rigondeaux with a dazzling display of footwork and offense that broke the Cuban’s spirit mores than his alleged hand injury (which wasn’t broken at all) before making him quit.
The quitting part is very important to his narrative as it is the fourth opponent in a row that Lomachenko has forced to retire.
Here’s the question: “Is Vasyl Lomachenko the #1 pound for pound fighter after 11 professional fights?”
Rather than pick a side, I’d prefer to give you both cases for and against Lomachenko.
Vasiliy Lomachenko is the #1 pound for pound fighter in boxing.
There was a point of contention that Lomachenko hasn’t quite faced elite competition that held him back from sitting atop the fictional list. However, what he did against a previously undefeated two-time Olympic gold medalist cannot be discounted. Yes, Rigondeaux moved up two weight classes for the fight. But nobody expected a fight between a pair of pound for pound fighters to be so savagely one sided.
Rigondeaux never stood a chance once the bell rang. With Andre Ward retired, only Gennady Golovkin has faced another opponent ranked as high as Rigondeaux. And whether you believe that GGG beat Canelo or if it was a draw, the fact of the matter is that GGG and Canelo were in a competitive fight. Lomachenko-Rigondeaux was the polar opposite of that. As for the other consensus top 3 pound for pound fighter, Terence Crawford, he has yet to face a top P4P fighter. The only fighter close would be Viktor Postol. While his resume is certainly impressive, his lack of formidable opposition keeps him out of the top spot.
There’s also this argument that exists about Lomachenko “only” having 11 fights and that being held against him. But there’s a fundamental issue with this line of thinking. For one, would you prefer a fighter who has ten victories against top competition and champions or a fighter who is 39-0 with 39 knockouts against a bunch of tomato cans? Lomachenko didn’t get much by way of tune up fights and was thrown to the wolves rather quickly with a steep learning curve in the jump from amateur to professional.
And then there’s performance. The level of dominance, athleticism and skill that the Ukrainian fighter has displayed could be compared to what Roy Jones Jr. accomplished during his torrid run in the 1990s. He’s not just winning, he’s making it look easy while also managing to be exciting. Not only that, he’s making his opponents quit. Say what you want about Rigondeaux’s injury, but it’s a lot easier to quit when you are losing than it is when you’re winning. And, to be clear, Rigondeaux was absolutely losing this fight.
The hand injury allowed him to hit the eject button with little consequence. This isn’t an anomaly, Lomachenko has made it a habit of outclassing fighters to the point of taking their ball and going home. Miguel Marriaga walked to his corner after being dropped in the seventh round and said he didn’t want any more. Jason Sosa had only landed 68 punches to Lomachenko’s 275 and his corner didn’t see the point of letting him come out for round 10 with absolutely no chance of winning. And then there’s Nicholas Walters, a previously unbeaten fighter who had a penchant for putting his opponents down.
After seven rounds, Lomachenko had put on a dazzling display while landing 114 punches while Walters only landed 49. He, too, said he was through after seven rounds. Poor Rigondeaux didn’t have a chance. Especially when you consider that he landed 15 punches the entire fight. Again, it’s a lot easier to quit when you’re behind.
It’s been an impressive run for Lomachenko and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. However, the P4P list is all about what a fighter has done for us lately and its very hard to argue against Lomachenko being the best fighter in the world at this particular moment.
Vasiliy Lomachenko is not the #1 pound for pound fighter in boxing.
As impressive as Lomachenko looked against Rigondeaux, there’s a lot to be said about an opponent that has been relatively inactive and is on the wrong side of 30. As much of a pure talent as we’ve labeled Rigondeaux as, he hasn’t fought anybody worth talking about since beating Nonito Donaire in 2013. And four years is a lot of time for a fighter to slow down. With the small frame, there were far too many disadvantages for the Cuban heading into the Lomachenko fight. So it’s not all that surprising that Lomachenko beat him. But to put him above Golovkin and Crawford might be a tad premature.
Golovkin has been incredibly impressive and proved he could fight through adversity when he faced Danny Jacobs and fellow pound for pound fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Crawford has dominated at every turn and is prepping a move to 147 pounds to challenge the one of boxing’s deepest divisions. Oh, and neither of them have lost.
If there’s anything that holds Lomachenko back from being the #1 P4P fighter in the world, it’s the fact that he has a blemish on his record against Orlando Salido. While he should be given credit for stepping up for a world title, he did suffer a loss. It’s something that neither Crawford or Golovkin can say that they have experienced.
It can also be argued that Lomachenko hasn’t faced the quality of opposition that GGG and Crawford have faced. It would be nice to see how Lomachenko fares against somebody like Mikey Garcia before we crown him as boxing’s best. This is not to say that Lomachenko doesn’t deserve to be on the pound for pound list, but it is worth dissecting to ensure that the right fighter is there.
After all, it’s fictional so why not pick apart ever little piece of criteria before naming him to the top spot. And he’s only had 11 fights as a professional. If P4P is about what a fighter has done lately, there’s still time for Lomachenko to prove his worth. It appears inevitable that he’ll be the best fighter in boxing. Let’s just get to that point first.
Which side are you on in this discussion?