There are a lot of great topics for discussion in boxing, but there’s one question that seems perfectly clear.
If you want to know the identity of the best 5-1 fighter in the world, it is Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko. In his second pro bout, he fought for the WBO featherweight title, and lost a split decision to a talented champion who was fighting as a pro for the 55th time and had come in more than two pounds over the 126-pound limit.
In his third fight, he fought for the WBO belt that had been stripped from the previous champion, Orlando Salido, and won a majority decision over Gary Russell Jr., who came into the fight at 24-0.
Since then, Lomachenko has defended his fairly meaningless belt three times, the most recently coming Saturday when he dominated Mexican veteran Romalu Koaicha before stopping him in the 10th round. After six fights, people are calling for him to get a shot at linear champion Nicholas Walters – a shot that he would certainly deserve.
You see, Lomachenko hasn’t exactly had your typical preparation for a pro career. There are many active fighters who were great amateurs and one, linear junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux, who won a pair of Olympic gold medals.
Rigondeaux, though, won his gold medals in 2000 and 2004, and had to defect from Cuba to turn pro. His record was estimated an incredible 462-12 and he is widely considered one of the five greatest amateur fighters of all time. However, due to his problems getting out of Cuba, he’s 35 and was nine years removed from his second gold medal when he turned pro.
Lomachenko has him topped in almost every way. His gold medals in 2008 and 2012 were the top moments of an amateur career that saw him go 396-1, with his only loss coming to Albert Selimov in the 2007 World Championships. He beat Selimov in his way to gold in Beijing, and turned pro while still in his prime – his first fight coming less than a year after his gold in London.
Unlike 1956 Olympic champ Pete Rademacher, who faced heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson in his pro debut, Lomachenko’s title shot against Salido was no gimmick. Salido came in heavy, rehydrated to 147 pounds – 11 more than Lomachenko – and fought like Andrew Golata, landing endless low blows that went unpunished by referee Laurence Cole.
Lomachenko was the better fighter that night, despite going against the No. 1 contender to Nonito Donaire’s linear crown, and he followed it up by beating Russell, who is currently ranked No. 5. Judging by his demolition of a tough veteran Saturday night, Lomachenko is only getting better.
He wasn’t the only boxer putting on a show on that card, though. Timothy Bradley put himself right back into the welterweight picture with a one-sided demolition of Brandon Rios – a bad enough beating for Rios to retire after the fight.
Bradley won the linear junior-welterweight title at the Pontiac Silverdome, beating Devon Alexander in an ugly fight marred by head butts. He then knocked out Joel Casamayor before moving from 140 pounds to 147 to beat Manny Pacquiao in one of the most damaging victories of any fighter’s career.
A reasonable score for the fight was probably something like 117-111 – nine rounds to three in favor of Pacquiao. HBO’s Harold Lederman and ESPN’s Dan Rafael both scored it 119-109, or 11 rounds to one, but that seemed to give short shift to Bradley’s strong finish. Still, 52 of 55 unofficial cards gave Pacquiao the fight.
Two of three official cards, though, gave the fight to Bradley. Both Duane Ford and C.J. Ross scored the bout 115-113 for Bradley, while Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Pacquiao. The decision was so bad that Bradley came out of the fight looking worse than he would have had he lost a reasonably close decision. After all, Pacquiao hadn’t lost in seven years and, along with Floyd Mayweather, was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Losing a tough decision to him wouldn’t be seen as a negative.
Because of that, his ensuing wins over Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t get the attention they deserved. Last year, he gave Pacquiao a good fight in the rematch, then was robbed against Diego Chaves, getting a draw in a fight he had clearly won.
That dropped him to 31-1-1, but after beating undefeated Jesse Vargas in June and Rios last weekend, he’s rated fourth in a division with no champion, and would love a shot at No. 2 Kell Brook or No. 3 Keith Thurman while Pacquiao and Amir Khan fight for the vacant belt in the spring.