By Derek Bonnett
HBO’s visits to MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill was the network’s first visit to Maryland, USA for boxing purposes, but fans can know with a certainty that the talent showcases in the ring with not be seen for the last time. The triple-header featured the sport’s top three Ukrainian talents, arguably, in trio of standout performances against game, world class opposition with titles, contention, and Pound for Pound ramifications on the line. As one Ukrainian boxer set the bar, the next raised the height of his own performance to outshine his predecessor.
In the main event, Vasyl Lomachenko, 29, continue his dominance of world class foes with a thorough thrashing of former titlist and undisputed tough-guy Jason Sosa. For Sosa, the highlights would be few, but his will to establish himself against the superior Lomachenko was omnipresent. Lomachenko started the bout with a patient body attack, laying the foundation for a win inside the distance. Sosa took a left hook to the chin, but wobbled on the end of it, tasting Lomachenko’s vitality early. As we have become accustomed to seeing, Lomachenko used his feet, some of the best in the game, to create angle offensive and to create a defensive posture to trouble Sosa’s retaliation. The speed of foot clearly offset Sosa’s attack and by the third, a mercy stoppage was seemingly inevitable. Sosa went back to his corner with a lump on his left eyelid and a few ounces shorter on spirit. The jab continued for Lomachenko in the fourth and now possessed a target with the left eye damaged. The right hand landed crisply while the Ukrainian boxer pivoted tightly on his feet, crowding possible counters from the Puerto Rican fighter from Camden, New Jersey. Sosa pressed on in the fifth, but Lomachenko returned his attack to the mid-section, separately hurting Sosa to the left and right sides. Lomachenko taunted Sosa in the sixth, acting as matador to the bull in front of him, whom now seemed far more impotent in the ring than even the odds prognosticated. Sosa’s wild, ineffective swinging, prompted more playfulness from Lomachenko, who then stepped up his game in the eighth to force a stoppage. He almost earned it on his own, but a tolerant referee and a supportive corner gave Sosa one more round to work. The work never came and Sosa’s trainer pulled their fighter out following the conclusion of the ninth round of fight Sosa never came close to winning a single round.
Lomachenko raised his record to 8-1-0 (6) and added the second defense of his 130-pound title. Sosa, 29, dipped to 20-2-4 (15). The official time of the stoppage would be 3:00 of round nine.
In the opening bout of the evening on HBO airwaves, Oleksandr Usyk overcame another slow start to defend his cruiserweight strap against American Michael Hunter. Hunter, awkward and fast of hand, jumped out to a big lead on the SecondsOut scorecard, winning the first four rounds with well-timed jabs and hooks to the body. Hunter’s punches lacked pop, but the sheer volume of work was enough to take the rounds from the well-respected champion. Usyk, 30, had the support of the crowd, but appeared troubled in the early goings as he furled his brow in study of his title challenger. A strong student, Usyk made the adjustments and swept the final eight rounds on the unofficial card at SecondsOut. Usyk’s work was minus his jab for much of the contest, largely due to Hunter’s movement. The Ukrainian two hundred pound titlist, got his hooks going in round five and his right hand followed suit in the sixth. Usyk timed Hunter’s movements better as the fight progressed and by the eighth round he was looking to finish. Hunter, never badly hurt, was wobbled under Usyk’s pressure combos and punch accumulation. In the last two rounds a stoppage seemed imminent, but the American was able to hang on and live to fight another day. All three judges saw the bout 117-110 following a standing eight count in the last round, which was justly ruled as the ropes appeared to keep Hunter’s footing.
Usyk improved his dossier to 12-0-0 (10) and now eyes a potential clash with Mairis Breidis of Latvia later this year. Hunter, 28, established himself as a viable contender in falling to 12-1-0 (8).
Also on the card, Oleksandr Gvozdyk continued his impressive run up the light heavyweight ladder with a third round demolition of the usually sturdy Yuniesky Gonzalez. Gonzalez twice the loser in questionable decisions against top contenders, was game in round one as he pressured forward keeping Gvozdyk on the back foot and out of his comfort zone. That plan did not produce lasting outcomes as Gvozdyk found openings with his jab in the second and landed a nice uppercut to wobble the Cuban. The Ukrainian used his feet well to maintain punching range for the entire round. Gvozdyk dropped Gonzalez in round three with a right hand at the end of his combination. He further hurt Gonzalez with a follow up barrage, but the action was nullified when he pushed the Cuban down illegally. A second knockdown followed a barrage of power shots and the Cuban was left face down on the canvas when the bout was ended at 2:55 of the round.
Gvozdyk, 29, improved his record to 13-0-0 (11). Gonzalez, 31, fell to 18-3-0 (14).