by Cliff Rold
The pre-fight report card posited the question of whether Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters might have been a tad overrated after his big featherweight wins over Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan; if maybe those wins had something to do with being a big featherweight against men who started their titled days at flyweight.
Since the Donaire win, Walters had fought only twice and not been quite as impressive. Saturday, he left an impression.
It wasn’t one he’ll likely live down soon.
Even if he was a little overrated, it still doesn’t explain what happened Saturday night. Walters was still, is still, a world-class fighter. The man in the other corner is all the explanation needed. Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko is good.
He’s very good.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Lomachenko A-; Walters B+/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Power –Lomachenko B+; Walters A/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Lomachenko A-; Walters B+/Post: A+; B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Lomachenko A; Walters A/Post: A; D
Let’s not mince words. Walters quit on Saturday. He didn’t claim an injury. He wasn’t seen staggering around, one punch from the floor, round after round. His corner didn’t save him from himself. He just said he didn’t want to fight anymore. He was outclassed and didn’t see any point in trying anymore.
As is always the case when this happens, there are varying schools of thought. Walters showed more guts than the average guy for getting in the ring in the first place. No one can doubt his courage. One can doubt his will in this fight. He never went for broke, never opened up hell bent for leather to try to reverse his fortunes.
The more sympathetic school of thought says its wrong to criticize his decision. Given the risks and total that boxing can take, who are the people in the bleachers to cast disdain?
It’s a fair point. The answer is they are the people that finance the sport. The ticket buyers and HBO subscribers pay for this form of entertainment. Walters got six figures knowing what he was getting himself into on Saturday. If he elected to make a rational decision to bow out of a fight he couldn’t win, so be it.
If the masses don’t want to risk their dollar on him again anytime soon because of it, so be it as well. It’s a tough market out there. No one is entitled to the entertainment dollar. Rational decisions can have their consequence.
Make no mistake: it didn’t appear he had any way to win. Walters was mesmerized by a fighter who was outfighting and out thinking him; chess versus checkers. Lomachenko was just too much better. We will probably say that about a lot of guys for the foreseeable future at 130 and perhaps even 135 lbs.
Saturday wasn’t a very entertaining fight even before the finish. Lomachenko’s technical efficiency is admirable but it’s not been high on drama. He was devastating in his last outing, routing and knocking out Roman Martinez. Most of his fights have been more death by a thousand cuts. He uses a high volume attack to pick away at guys, breaking them down while giving them less and less to hit while also leaving the impression he could put guys away faster if he just went a little quicker for the kill.
It’s the sort of style that can polarize the market. Given how good he is, he’ll probably have a while to overcome any objections. HBO is clearly all in on Lomachenko and he’s going to get chances to build a fan base. There just aren’t a lot of flaws there. His balance is impeccable. He changes speed on his delivery as well as anyone in boxing. He goes to the body. He’s accurate.
And he still doesn’t have ten pro fights under his belt.
Where does Lomachenko go from here? He still has a loss to avenge against Orlando Salido and that could fit nicely in a proposed four fight 2017. It’s absurd someone Lomachenko’s age fought only twice this year. That’s just a waste of prime. He’d be favored in that rematch and against anyone else at Jr. lightweight. The whole Manny Pacquiao idea is out there too but it seems a hair too soon for that.
For now, getting some more business in at 130 seems the logical choice and then a rise to lightweight will come. He will continue to adapt to and improve in the pro game. He’s already got dominant wins over Walters, Martinez, and Gary Russell Jr. in eight pro fights.
It’s probably true that we haven’t seen the best of this young man yet.
That should scare the hell out of anyone who will face him in the next few years.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 39-13
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]