By Tris Dixon
ALL but the very best will struggle to hang with Vasiliy Lomachenko. He reminded us of that with his fourth-round bludgeoning of Manchester’s game but outgunned Anthony Crolla on Friday night in Los Angeles.
Crolla was in the shape of his life and had trained like never before but it was in vain.
Against a certain level, and a very high level, hard work, dedication and commitment can persuade victory to come your way. At the highest level it’s futile, almost null and void. It will only take you so far. When the gap is so vast between world class and elite you can hit every rep in your dialled in prep, dodge every chocolate bar at every service station stop, eat every green and run every metre, it doesn’t count a jot when you’re in the Loma matrix, fighting in his time, in the space he allows you to operate in, throwing the punches he wants you to throw and making the mistakes he sees several moves ahead but that you don’t notice until you’re pitching face first into the canvas. Before you know it, you’re back in the dressing room none the wiser, still without answers to the questions having had minutes to digest them rather than micro-seconds.
Crolla didn’t surpass expectations, if anything, the exceptional Lomachenko did.
He’s an absolute master of efficiency. His footwork is widely commended because of what it allows him to do. It means he’s a milli-second from striking distance, a millimetre from being hit and all the while it looks like he might be burning energy but it’s so precise and immaculate that he is positively coasting, never rushed.
His accuracy, though, is particularly spell-binding. Crolla is a nimble mover and was picked off on the front foot, on the back foot and everywhere in between.
He was nailed when he came in and punished for moving out. He couldn’t do right from wrong. There was certainly nothing Joe Gallagher could have done in the corner. Again, those details were irrelevant. Anthony could have had Angelo Dundee, Eddie Futch and George Benton in the corner and he wouldn’t have made it to the fifth.
There’s the old adage that you cannot get in the ring without getting wet. Well, Crolla got drenched and he couldn’t find shelter anywhere; caught in a storm without protection.
Each time he ducked one way or dodged another he was hit. There was no safe haven, not in the middle of the ring and certainly not on the ropes, not after Lomachenko had synced his attack with the Manchester man’s defence. It was all but game over, then. Lomachenko had picked another lock and taken another good scalp. Crolla’s name now lies alongside those of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Gary Russell, Roman Martinez and Jorge Linares in an unprecedented 14-fight assault on the pros and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Loma could be in and out in 20 fights (the IBHOF doesn’t consider amateur credentials), which would be a record achievement. There are plenty of fighters who are in the Hall who have lost more fights than Loma would have had. Of course, stats alone do not make a great career but it’s hard to see how opponents can stay with the Ukrainian marvel, certainly not unless he decides to put on even more weight and move a weight or two north, which should be unrealistic. But you would forgive him for holding such grand plans.
And let’s not say Crolla wasn’t deserving because in the slippery political boxing game of snakes and ladders he had earned that shot, and not just on a nostalgic nod for services rendered to the sport but on merit. You can list countless mandatories who didn’t warrant their opportunity the same way the former WBA lightweight world champion did, and many took the chance to wheel out those lists on fight week. And it didn’t take long for Crolla to be placed on the lists of recent British sacrifices filling US American arenas afterwards, either. That’s unkind. As we well know, not every bout in this game is a superfight.
Lomachenko said afterwards that he wanted to face Mikey Garcia. That contest still has great value, but you would be lying if you did not admit that commercially it was hurt by the convincing nature of Garcia’s recent loss to Errol Spence. Then there’s Gervonta Davis, who could do with some career momentum before any huge event is sculpted. Those are the two most likely to give Lomachenko problems, while 2012 Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell is the man strongly being linked with being in the opposite corner next time out.
For Loma’s seemingly endless array of talents there is no end in sight of what he may achieve.
He’s like a gifted poet. We can all enjoy, marvel and admire his work but we could never do it. We couldn’t even imitate it. The Lomachenko way is unique. Sure, there are critics – aren’t there always? But they are clutching at straws that do not exist. They are trying to detract from a remarkable set of achievements that could yet be furthered and, should that be the case, it will surely be a fun ride to witness, let alone a historic one.
It will take someone with a thudding, pulverising jab, someone who can operate in his quantum realm of time and space, who can navigate his distance, time his bursts, match his output and, dare one suggest it, shutdown all the things he does so terrifically well. Does Garcia have the technical prowess, and if he does, will he have the confidence after Spence? Does Davis have the speed? And if he does, can he use it effectively?
They’re the pick of a pretty slim shortlist simply because elite operators only need apply for a job of this magnitude.