Aftermath: Lomachenko vs Linares
Vasyl Lomachenko stopped Jorge Linares in round ten of a truly memorable lightweight world title battle on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Martin Chesnutt, Callum Rudge, Andrew Harrison, Daniel Morley, Michael Montero and Chris Williamson dissect the action and the outcome...
BM: What did you make of the fight and how had you scored it up to the time of the stoppage?
MC: I thought the fight lived up to expectations, and both guys came away looking good in the eyes of the fans. It had the big fight tension, and even a second without focus could be costly - as Lomachenko found out in the sixth round. Linares was big, fast, and competitive, but Loma’s footwork and punch variety were on another level. I had the Ukranian up 6-3, with a point to Linares for the knockdown.
CR: I thought that it was a close, high quality fight that Lomachenko was mostly winning. The Ukrainian couldn’t miss with his jab and was consistently landing combinations but Linares was always there and landing some quality shots of his own. When Linares let his hands go in combinations he gave Lomachenko problems, but he always had something coming back at him. I had it 86-84 Lomachenko at the time of the stoppage.
AH: I had Lomachenko two rounds up but he was winning the tenth big prior to the stoppage. It was a good fight – a pleasure to watch. Though he wasn't that far ahead on the cards, Lomachenko always seemed in control. Even after Linares had a great round in the ninth, Lomachenko moved up a gear and quickly snuffed out any notion to the contrary.
DM: What a fight! Here we had two of the sport's elite champions squaring off, both in their respective primes. As we entered the tenth round I had the fight even at 85-85. Lomachenko predominantly positioned Linares where he wanted with his superior footwork, landing the flurries that we've now come to admire every time he laces up the gloves. However, Linares proved himself a worthy champion, keeping Loma honest with crisp counter shots to both head and body and using effective angles to escape trouble. It became tedious listening to the Pro-Loma commentary on ESPN, who didn't give Linares' work the credit it deserved until round six. Ultimately the better man won, providing us all with the knowledge that his arsenal now includes a sturdy chin, great survival instincts and the grit to win tough fights.
MM: I had Loma ahead at the time of the stoppage. The scores were close due to the knockdown in the sixth, but the Ukrainian had clearly done more in the majority of the rounds.
CW: I loved the fight. It was a pleasure to watch two brilliant technical fighters engage and test each other in front of a thrilled New York crowd, especially after both had been on dominant runs. I didn’t score it formally but judged that Linares had won two or three rounds plus the point off the Ukrainian for the brilliantly-timed right hand which dropped ‘Loma’ in the sixth.
BM: Has Linares exposed chinks in Lomachenko's armour?
MC: Lomachenko switched off for a second and paid the price in the sixth round. I wouldn’t call that a chink in the armour, but a reminder that even great fighters can get punished. Linares is among the best lightweights in the world. Did anyone really think he’d have no success at all? However, I don’t think I’m alone in saying 135lbs is as heavy as Lomachenko should fight at.
CR: While Lomachenko was excellent I think his feet are a wee bit slower at 135lbs and he was caught far more often than normal. This was a big step up for Lomachenko and he deserves credit for taking the fight and getting the win against a quality operator like Linares. While it was an excellent performance, he was showing out to the ref a lot for borderline low blows and I saw that as a sign of a fighter not in complete control, the knockdown was a rare lapse in concentration for me, rather than him having any chin issues.
AH: I don't believe so. Lomachenko was caught squared up with a beautiful shot but handled it superbly. The only way I could see Lomachenko coming a cropper is the Icarus effect of moving up too far in the weights. In all likelihood, Mikey Garcia will prove too big for him (in the same way Terence Crawford would likely be too big for Garcia and so on and so forth). Linares - big, rangy, skilful and with a judge favouring his style it seems - was a real challenge for him last night. Amazingly, I still don't think we've seen the best of the Ukrainian.
DM: Not particularly, I think Linares brought us all back down to earth a little with the realisation that this 'Matrix man' is just - in fact - a superbly skilled human being. Mistakes at the highest level and especially against bigger man will be capitalised upon, it's how you respond to them that will define your legacy. Loma showed a sturdy ability to take shots and an ever impressive mental grit.
MM: Linares didn't 'expose' much other than that Lomachenko is human, and a natural featherweight who could comfortably make 9 stone right now. 135lbs is likely the cap for Loma going forward.
CW: Not at all. If anything Lomachenko showed he deals with a 'mini-crisis' extremely well. I noticed a terrific NY Post headline of ‘Reality ‘Chenko’ which might as easily have been ‘Gut ‘Chenko’ for the way ‘Loma’ dusted himself down and wrestled control of the bout back before the crunching tenth-round finish.
BM: Where next for both men?
MC: There is no shame in losing to Lomachenko, so after a period of reflection I’d expect to see Linares matched with another lightweight belt holder. Lomachenko is out next in August, apparently at 135lbs again. Most fans want to see him in with Mikey Garcia, but will Garcia do business with Bob Arum again? A unification fight with fellow Top Rank fighter Raymundo Beltran seems more likely.
CR: I expect Lomachenko to face his Top Rank stable mate Beltran for the Mexican’s WBO title sometime before the end of the year. After that the spectre of Mikey Garcia looms in what would be a dream fight for boxing fans around the world. With regards to Linares, he’s a man that’s had a lot tough fights but I don’t expect him to retire just yet, instead I think he’ll move up to 140lbs in search of a world title in a fourth weight class.
AH: Lomachenko will keep taking on all-comers, I'm sure. He's the best fighter in the world who, crucially, wants to prove it every time out. I find it hugely refreshing after the often turgid, risk-averse Mayweather era. The Garcia fight may prove difficult to make and I'm struggling to find an attractive dance partner in the lightweight top ten (taking nothing away from the likes of Robert Easter, Richard Commey and Luke Campbell). I'd love to see Lomachenko vs Gervonta Davis at 130lbs, but a more likely option is Manny Pacquiao at some odd catch-weight. I just want to see him fight again. Who doesn't?
DM: I think Loma vs Pacquiao would be a great move for Loma's career at this time, in a similar sense that De La Hoya vs Pacquiao was good for the Pacman. Loma is on the cusp of superstardom and although he has toyed with some of the sport's top names continuously, he is yet to defeat a real superstar name that will appeal to casual fans. Unleashing Loma against an ageing Pacquiao will draw viewers, who will react similarly to when the Pacman demolished an old De La Hoya. I can see this fight resulting in a meteoroic rise in popularity for the Ukrainian. As for Linares, a bout against Mikey Garcia could be an option. Linares has proved himself as a solid and active champion but has lacked the real big name opponents (until last night). The Linares vs Garcia fight would sell after last night's performance and would provide Linares with a second elite opponent and big payday to round off an illustrious career.
MM: Linares has carved out a very good career for himself and made for entertaining bouts all over the world. The sixteen-year pro wants a rematch with Lomachenko and he deserves one. If it does not come to fruition, however, Jorge has earned a 'soft touch' for his next bout. If we don't see LomaLinares2 next, I believe Top Rank will put together a lightweight unification fight between Lomachenko (WBA) and Beltran (WBO).
CW: If Manny Pacquiao was dubbed the ‘Mexecutioner’ for obvious reasons then Linares has been the Brit-bashing equivalent in recent years and it’s been a pleasure to watch him live. I’d love to see a rematch with Campbell in the UK or, indeed, land a rematch with Lomachenko. As for ‘Loma’, I’ve been keen on him facing Gervonta Davis for some time now and it seems the unbeaten American is now more focussed on making super-featherweight, a division I expect Lomachenko could still also boil down to with relative ease.