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27 MAY 2018

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Lomachenko Gets Off The Floor To Stop Lineras, Make History


pic Marcelno Castillo WBA
pic Marcelno Castillo WBA

By Jason Pribila: NEW YORK – On Saturday Night in Madison Square Garden, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jorge Lineras put on a boxing clinic that no doubt left the 10,429 in attendance, and millions watching worldwide wanting more. They left them wanting more back and forth action, move combination punching, more adversity, and most importantly, more examples of fighters demanding that their promoters make the fights that they want to see happen a reality.

 

On Friday evening, Lomachenko made history as being the first Ukrainian selected as the Boxing Writers Association - Fighter of the Year. However, the members of the BWAA who were in town would have to admit they were even more excited to see if Lomachenko could make more history on Saturday night by winning a title in a third weight class in only his twelfth professional bout.

If you would have polled the writers and boxing fans alike prior to the opening bell, many would have predicted that Lomachenko would indeed make history by late round stoppage. For those who stopped reading after my headline or only saw the ESPN Ticker confirming Lomachenko TKO-10 the result only begins to tell the story.

 

First and foremost, much of the narrative leading up to the fight neglected to mention the amazing journey Lineras had taken to see his name lit up on the MSG marquee. The pure boxer from Venezuela had already won titles at featherweight and super-featherweight, before facing Antonio DeMarco on HBO for a vacant lightweight title. Fans watching Lineras skillfully pick apart DeMarco could not be blamed for imagining just how high up the scale could Lineras climb, and what great fights would be waiting for him along the way. When Lineras suddenly suffered a nasty cut, all of his skill and confidence seemed to pour out of the wound, and a fight he was dominating suddenly turned into a demoralizing defeat.

 

His comeback fight was anything but a bounce-back fight, and Lineras was again stopped. This time he failed to absorb the padded hands of relatively unknown, Sergio Thompson in a ring in Cancun, Mexico. Out of sight and out of mind, Lineras suddenly seemed destined to be known as a fighter that looked great in the showroom, but just seemed to be lacking something under the hood.

It would take Lineras six years and 13 victories without a defeat to again find himself at the top of the lightweight division. Rather than seeking to unify belts, he sought out the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, and the stage was set for Saturday night.

 

The game plans for each fighter were pretty clear. Lineras would need to use his 3.5 inch reach advantage, as well as a clear fight night weight advantage to keep Lomanchenko at a distance behind his jab. He would need to be first in order to prevent Lomachenko from getting into a rhythm.

 

Lomachenko would need to apply the same pressure that led his previous four opponents quit on their stools. Whether at ringside or on TV, one often hears a trainer tell his fighter to get all the way in, or all the way out. Lomachenko has been making history by fighting in-between. His dazzling foot speed allows him to stay in the pocket to deliver punches, while implementing the head movement that frustrates foes because they are unable to return fire.

For much of the opening two frames, Lineras was able to fight behind his jab, and keep Lomachenko at a distance.

 

Lomachenko would then begin to land combinations at angles that Lineras was unable to counter. Frustration was beginning to swell on Lineras face as he stared at his foe in a bit of disbelief as round five came to an end.

 

Lomachenko was now moving around the ring like a prowler in an empty home until suddenly, in the form of a right hand, Lineras sounded the alarm that sent Lomachenko to the canvas for the first time in his career.

 

The knockdown seemed to be more the result of Lomachenko being off balance than being hurt. Replays and Lomachenko’s reaction when he got to his corner seemed to confirm that he was clearly buzzed.

“That right hand (from Lineras), it was a great punch,” Lomachenko admitted. “It happens.”

 

The minute in between rounds six and seven proved to be enough time for Lomachenko to recover, and he slowly began to find his rhythm.

It was now Lineras’ turn to face adversity as a cut opened above his left eye. Lineras would not only be at a physical disadvantage, but he would have to prove that he had become mentally superior to the version of himself that crumbled in the ring with DeMarco.

 

As the blood stopped, Lineras’ offense returned. He was not only throwing but landing punches against a man who had faced little resistance over his last nine fights.

 

The fighters continued to trade as they entered the championship rounds. Lomachenko was throwing and landing more punches, but Lineras would land enough straight rights to keep Lomachenko honest.

Lomachenko then threw a combination of punches that seemed to freeze Lineras, before he awkwardly fell to a knee. He would beat referee Ricky Gonzalez’ counted to ten, but he did not appear able to defend himself so the fight was correctly waved off.

 

Lomachenko had made history by winning a title in his third weight class via TKO at he 2:08 mark of round 10.

 

At first, I could not tell what punch caused the even fight to end so suddenly. After a first replay, I thought Lineras may have turned his ankle when he went down. And finally, a different replay showed that a perfectly placed left to the liver is what robbed Lineras of his ability to stand at attention.

 

Following the bout, a disappointed Linares said, “The fight was getting interesting. It was very close, but he did surprise me with that body shot. I wanted to continue.”

 

Lineras was correct. The scorecards at the time of the stoppage would have resulted in a Draw. Scores were 86-84. 85-85, and 84-86.

 

Both fighters were respectful throughout the promotion, and each said that they would be willing to do a rematch. If they were to meet again, Bob Arum made it clear that it would be a fight that would have to marinade for a while.

 

Arum confirmed that Lomachenko would return to the ring and on ESPN on August 25, from the legendary Forum in Inglewood, California. He will most likely face Top Rank stablemate and fellow title-holder Raymundo Beltran in a unification bout.

 

Beltran has little to no chance at winning a round, much less the fight. However, if anyone deserves a lay-up it would be the man who just won a title in his third weight class in only his 12th professional bout.

 

Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at pribs2000@gmail.com and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.

 

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