In this corner with Russ Anber: 'How can you not give him credit?'
Photos: Al Bello / Getty Images (top and bottom); Mikey Williams / Top Rank (middle)
Respected Canadian trainer and cutman Russ Anber was part of pound for pound king Vasyl Lomachenko's corner team on Saturday when the Ukrainian unified the WBA 'Super' and WBO lightweight crowns with a unanimous points win against Jose Pedraza. Here is Russ’ account of the fight, as told exclusively to Boxing Monthly's Luke G. Williams...
"You know what? The thing that has bothered me the most today is listening to all the negative, naysayers criticising Loma because he didn't knock Pedraza out. He's the first guy in eight fights who has gone the distance and the critics start piling in, saying things like Loma doesn't deserve to be pound for pound number one and so on.
"Well, if you don't think Loma deserves to be number one, you don't know what pound for pound stands for. Let me get that off my chest right away! You have no idea what the term pound for pound means if you don't think this guy is the number one guy in the sport. I don't care what anybody says, I'm 40 years in this game and believe me when I say this guy is number one.
"Pound for pound, as it was originally coined - and anyone who says differently just doesn't understand what it is - means you take every aspect of boxing and what makes a boxer complete: speed, power, balance, ring generalship, technique, the mechanics of boxing, the ability to throw the jab, the right hand, the hooks to the body - all this kind of stuff... and you look at it and say: who is the best in each of these categories?
"List all those categories and who's better than Loma with footwork? Or handspeed? Or whatever? There are going to be very few categories where somebody else gets close or gets ahead of Loma. That's what makes him pound for pound number one - just like Sugar Ray Robinson was. It's about who is the best regardless of what weight class you're in - not on how many wins you have or how many loses you have - it's about all the abilities of boxing.
"I think people judge and hold Loma to a higher standard than other boxers. I think that's a little unfair. As a matter of fact I think some of the judges gave some rounds yesterday to Pedraza not because he necessarily won them but because he didn't get overly dominated, or pounded from pillar to post.
"I used to feel a similar thing about Juan Manuel Marquez - he was so good that the judges would miss the subtleties of some of the things he used to do, things that would only be recognised by real fight guys. Against Linares when the fight finished two of the three judges didn't have Loma winning. How is that possible? It was absolutely insane.
"Loma is phenomenal to watch and it's been a good year for him. Everyone is looking for the slightest slip up, the haters are dying to come out of the woodwork and say: 'I told you so!' and not give enough credit for what this guy has done. I mean Loma has had 13 fights and been involved in 12 world championship contests and has won world championships in three wight classes, including a unification in what's not even his natural weight class. How can you not give him credit for that? How much of a hater do you have to be?
"Lomachenko is talented enough to be in the lightweight division, but clearly, with Pedraza yesterday and Linares earlier this year, you can see the size difference. It's only because of his massive abilities and talent that Loma is able to overcome that. He would be even more dangerous if he had their size and was a natural lightweight. He's clearly undersized for the division, so it evens out the playing field a little bit.
"Last night, Pedraza came prepared to minimise the damage he was going to receive. I think he fought an excellent fight. He was well prepared, he fought a smart fight. He made himself as difficult to hit as you could possibly be against Loma. That was the biggest factor in the fight - I don't think size was the factor, style was the factor. He made it difficult for Loma, but Loma was still able to score two knockdowns late in the fight. It was a clear-cut dominating performance by him, despite the fact Pedraza was able to make it competitive and got up twice from hard shots and was very difficult to hit. Full credit to Pedraza and the effort he put forth.
"Loma is so intent on wanting to thrill the fans, he's so committed to being a crowd pleaser. I mean he never clinches and, hell, before the 11th round last night, just like between Bellew and Usyk, I don't remember seeing the referee! It was a very, very good fight and Loma so much wants to please the fans that he takes chances, he takes risks and he takes punches sometimes probably unnecessarily.
"Loma was cut within seconds of the end of the first round. Egis Klimas, Loma's manager was in the corner and I was sat beside him and he said: "Russ, he's cut." I said: "what?" I didn't see it, I was getting the bucket ready. Then the bell rang, I went up and sure enough the left eye had about a half-inch cut just under the eyebrow and just above the eyelid. I got to it right away, thank God, and lucky for me, it wasn't a factor in the fight. I don't think anyone even noticed. Later a guy I know sent me a message saying Loma had a cut in the middle of the fight and I messaged him back saying it happened in the first round! So that's how long it was before anyone noticed! I don't think the commentators mentioned it, although I don't know for sure as I haven't seen the call of the fight.
"In terms of his shoulder injury [Lomachenko underwent surgery earlier this year on a torn labrum in his right shoulder], he didn't complain about it. I mean he was cautious with what he was doing with the right hand, his lead hand. I'm sure it was there in the back of his mind but, thank God, he didn't come back to the corner and say: "uh oh, we've got a problem", so that was good. It was not a problem but you could see he was being a little extra cautious.
"Loma did complain in the dressing room afterwards about the heads being a factor and they were. There were a couple of times unintentional headbutts occurred. That often happens when you have a guy like Pedraza who's switching between the right handed stance and the southpaw stance - orthodox to southpaw and back again. Pedraza was also moving his head a lot to get out the way of punches and when that happens there's bound to be head butts. That's unfortunate.
"In terms of the future, I don't like to talk negatively about other fighters. There must be some reason why Mikey Garcia is going up to 147lbs to fight [Errol] Spence. Whether it's money or what have you, but it's too bad because that's the fight Loma wants."