By Michael Rosenthal
LOS ANGELES – No one is surprised that Vasyl Lomachenko dominated and then stopped Anthony Crolla in three-plus rounds Friday at a packed Staples center. That’s what we’ve come to expect from the Ukrainian boxing wizard, who has overwhelmed almost all of his opponents.
The thing that makes a victory like this particularly impressive – besides the violent, but beautiful ballet Lomachenko performs in the ring – is this: Crolla is a former champion, an experienced, world-class boxer, and he was made to look helpless. Lomachenko didn’t just beat the proud Englishman, he embarrassed him.
That’s why Lomachenko is seen my many as the transcendent talent of this generation. He does over and over again. Once more: no surprise, still marvelous.
Lomachenko, the WBA and WBO lightweight titleholder, wasn’t excited about facing Crolla. The plan was for him to take on IBF champ Richard Commey in a title-unification bout but Commey couldn’t fight because of an injury, which opened the door for Lomachenko’s WBA mandatory challenger, Crolla.
Lomachenko (13-1, 10 knockouts) wants meaningful fights, not mundane matchups against opponents with little hope of competing with him. Of course, if there was a let down on his part, he didn’t show it.
A buzzing crowd of 10,101, including some from the U.K. there to support Crolla, filled the arena with palpable energy as the fighters made their ring walks and were introduced. Many wanted to see Lomachenko up close, to witness in person something great. They weren’t disappointed.
The first round was fairly even, as the fighters used most of the period to measure distance and feel one another out. Crolla (34-7-3, 13 KOs) looked as if he belonged in the ring with Lomachenko for at least three minutes.
Then came a completely different second round. Lomachenko quickly figured out how to get to Crolla and shifted into a high gear to take advantage of his revelation, landing hard punches from all angles in rapid succession to the head and body of a suddenly shell-shocked challenger.
It got worse in the third. Late in the round, with Crolla’s back against the ropes, Lomachenko unloaded a flurry of precise blows that seemed to come in fast motion, as if a machine, not a man was throwing them. Referee Jack Reiss jumped in at the end of the barrage and ruled a technical knockdown, as the ropes prevented Crollas from falling.
That caused some confusion. Lomachenko and his team thought that Reiss had stopped the fight and began to celebrate. Two of his handlers actually made their way into the ring only to learn that the fight wasn’t over.
Of course, they didn’t have to wait long for the finish. Lomachenko was pounding Crolla as he had in the previous two rounds when a right hook behind the ear sent the challenger to the canvas face first. He had no chance of continuing, which prompted Reiss to wave off the fight and award Lomachenko another victory. The official end came at 58 seconds of the fourth round.
Crolla couldn’t say much afterward other than to praise Lomachenko.
“My pride is more hurt than my body as I wanted to give it my best but he’s just phenomenal,” he said immediately afterward. “I knew where I was when the shot hit me on the top of my head but I just couldn’t get up. I wanted to go out on my shield but the shot just caught me high and robbed me of my senses.
“He’s very special. He doesn’t waste a shot. He’ll go on to dominate and do whatever he wants to do in the sport.”
What will Lomachenko do next?
He wants to face fellow pound-for-pounder and WBC 135-pound champ Mikey Garcia in a title-unification bout. However, after Garcia went up to 147 pounds to face Errol Spence, he might decide it would be too difficult to go back down to lightweight.
And, again, there’s the possibility of a title-unification bout with Commey, assuming he gets healthy.
“I want to fight Mikey Garcia, but we’ll see. I don’t know,” Lomachenko said. “I stay at 135 as long as possible, and I want to unify all (the) titles.”
No one would be surprised at anything Lomachenko accomplishes.