By Lyle Fitzsimmons
The fun all started around 11:30 on Saturday.
Within seconds of the on-stool surrender in the small room at Madison Square Garden, the race to come up with the wittiest analogy linking Roberto Duran to Guillermo Rigondeaux began in earnest.
And once the truly meme-worthy material was exhausted, the focus switched to determining on which side of the “Lomachenko is an all-time great” line any particular keyboard-toting comics resided.
That question was answered in this space last week.
If the momentum continues at its present rate, he’ll be in Canastota precisely five years and 10 seconds from the moment he throws his last punch.
In the meantime, though, he’s got some more things to accomplish.
And just as high on the post-debacle priority list in midtown Manhattan was suggesting what fighter(s) out there had a chance to give the multi-skilled Ukrainian anything more than a token in-ring push.
Mikey Garcia took the lead after an unwatchable debate between ESPN blowhards Teddy Atlas and Stephen A. Smith – it was a Twitter suggestion I made four months ago, incidentally – but after hearing those two rant for what felt like an hour, I’ve decided to put my eggs in an even higher-profile basket.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Manny Pacquiao.
Yes, it’s true the Pac Man has recently campaigned at welterweight and Lomachenko is a full three divisions south at 130. But upon closer inspection, the dimensions and career arcs do make some sense.
While another occasionally suggested foe for the Ukrainian, Terence Crawford, has already leaped from 135 to 140 and seems destined to evolve into a welterweight, those around the aging Filipino star have long suggested he’d be more comfortable – and perhaps even more devastating – with a move down to 140, a division he invaded with a two-round erasure of Ricky Hatton in 2009 before chasing bigger names and purses at 147 and beyond.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum said last year that Pacquiao vs. Lomachenko “(is) a fight that I want to see, more than any other fight that’s out there.”
Lomachenko would stand a half-inch taller in a press conference staring contest while conceding the same narrow difference in reach, and a successful match with a certified pay-per-view stalwart would go a lot further toward putting the Ukrainian over with casual fans – and tilling the ground for even bigger shows – than middling unification duels at 130 with the anonymous likes of Miguel Berchelt or Alberto Machado, or even a summit at 135 with Garcia.
Toward that latter end, it’d be a whole lot safer, too.
It's the “eventually, he'll get Pacquiao” path that Arum used to suggest for Brandon Rios before age, weight and brawls took their toll on Bam Bam and made the duel more sparring than scintillating.
Lomachenko, though, seems in no danger of such precipitous fizzling.
"There’s no doubt who’s going to rise to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world," HBO’s Max Kellerman said after a defeat of Nicholas Walters a year ago last month. "You saw him this week. And it leaves us scratching our heads about who could fight him on this level."
Indeed, headliner shows warrant far better than bar-band encores.
And given the 29-year-old’s clear comfort on the big stage, there seems no reason not to start the tour right away.
* * * * * * * * * *
Weekly title-fight schedule:
WBO welterweight title – Brisbane, Australia
Jeff Horn (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Gary Corcoran (No. 10 WBO/No. 86 IWBR)
Horn (17-0-1, 11 KO): First title defense; Three KOs in four Brisbane fights (4-0, 3 KO)
Corcoran (17-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Never fought outside the United Kingdom
Fitzbitz says: He “beat” Pacquiao, but no one beyond Team Arum takes Horn seriously as the top man at 147. Still, while Corcoran has been a good UK fighter, he’s no world-beater. Horn by decision
WBA mini flyweight title – Bangkok, Thailand
Thammanoon Niyomtrong (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Toto Landero (No. 14 WBA/No. 28 IWBR)
Niyomtrong (16-0, 7 KO): Fourth title defense; Two KOs in four Bangkok fights (4-0, 2 KO)
Landero (10-1-2, 2 KO): First title fight; Seven wins by split or majority decisions
Fitzbitz says: Landero has one win in 12-rounders and has been a narrow winner in seven of his other nine triumphs, not to mention a TKO loss just 15 months ago. He’s not worthy. Niyomtrong in 8
WBO middleweight title – Laval, Quebec
Billy Joe Saunders (champion/No. 7 IWBR) vs. David Lemieux (No. 2 WBO/No. 5 IWBR)
Saunders (25-0, 12 KO): Third title defense; Never fought outside of the United Kingdom
Lemieux (38-3, 33 KO): Third title fight (1-1); Thirty of 33 career KO wins in Canada
Fitzbitz says: Saunders is no Sugar Ray Robinson, but after seeing Lemieux thus far I’m not convinced Sugar Ray Seales couldn’t handle him. Only concern is that he’s traveling. Saunders by decision
Last week's picks: 2-2 (WIN: Selby, Lomachenko; LOSS: Ogawa, DeGale)
2017 picks record: 93-29 (76.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 915-303 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.