LOS ANGELES — Vasiliy Lomachenko made quick work of Anthony Crolla, needing just four one-sided rounds to defend his two lightweight world titles in the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN card Friday night at Staples Center.
Crolla (34-7, 13 KOs) had been a durable fighter in his career, but he was simply no match for the mesmerizing skills of Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs), who took control of the action from the beginning and then began to pepper Crolla with a series of blinding combinations in the third frame.
During this barrage, referee Jack Reiss ruled that Crolla was being held up by the ropes and called for a knockdown. Everyone believed he had waved off the fight. Lomachenko even celebrated as if the fight was over by jumping onto the top of the neutral corner. But as this was all sorted out, the fight was eventually allowed to continue.
It was just a matter of time, though, as Lomachenko continued to blind Crolla with his flashing combinations until he finished off Crolla with a well-placed chopping right hook toward the top of Crolla’s head.
But the story on Friday wasn’t that he defeated Crolla, it’s the manner in which he did it.
Lomachenko seemed to be as good as new after undergoing shoulder surgery last year to repair a torn right labrum. Lomachenko suffered the injury in his Round-10 KO victory over Jorge Linares in May.
After the bout, his promoter, Bob Arum, was very impressed.
“I’ve been doing this for well over 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this guy,” Arum said. “It’s almost breathtaking.”
By next week, Arum, who reserves the right to change his mind, will be saying the same things about Terence Crawford, who faces Amir Khan on April 20 at the Madison Square Garden in New York.
“Look, it’s a different style. I mean, Crawford is unbelievable, but I’ve seen the likes of him before,” said Arum, who compares Crawford to Sugar Ray Leonard in style and ability. But when it comes to Lomachenko, he is the boxing unicorn.
“I have never seen a fighter that size like Lomachenko. I’ve never seen anything like it,” marveled Arum.
Crolla is also a believer after a humbling defeat.
“[Lomachenko is] very special,” Crolla said. “He doesn’t waste a shot. He’ll go on to dominate and do whatever he wants to do in the sport.”
Multiple options for Lomachenko
So what’s next for the 31-year-old Lomachenko?
Arum said the plan is to target IBF belt-holder Richard Commey (who was supposed to fight Lomachenko this weekend but suffered a hand injury in his most recent fight and couldn’t recover in time). Arum also said that if Mikey Garcia decides to vacate the WBC lightweight title, Luke Campbell could be an option since he is rated No. 1 by the organization.
And they would go overseas for that match-up.
“We’d love to go to England to fight Campbell,” Arum said.
Lomachenko has made it clear that he has reached his weight threshold at 135, after winning world titles at featherweight and junior lightweight.
“I stay at 135 as long as it’s possible, and I want to unify all [the] titles,” he stated.
Teofimo Lopez in the wings
While the highly regarded Teofimo Lopez was in attendance, he said it wasn’t a scouting missions.
“It’s just to ramp up [a potential] fight.”
Lopez faces Edis Tatli on Saturday, on the Crawford-Khan pay-per-view card. Lopez has said multiple times that he wants Lomachenko sooner rather than later.
“We’re ready whenever he is,” the 21-year-old said. “But we want to let the fans know we’re pushing for this fight.”
Arum envisions this scenario for Lomachenko-Lopez: “I would like to see Lopez, if he beats [Tatli], to fight for the world title against Commey. What I hope, what I envision, is Lomachenko with three world titles, Lopez with one — in one of the biggest unification bouts ever.”
Ramirez looks good in 175-pound debut
Gilberto Ramirez took care of Tommy Karpency in four rounds and it looks as though his days as the WBO 168-pound titlist are over.
Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs), a statuesque southpaw from Mexico, had a title reign as a super middleweight. After defeating Arthur Abraham in 2016, he then defended that belt against the likes of Max Bursak (W12), Jesse Hart (W12), Habib Ahmed (TKO6), Roamer Alexis Angulo (W12) and then Hart again in his most recent title defense.
It wasn’t exactly like he was facing Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, Joe Calzaghe or Andre Ward. But what made it worse is that he was more methodical than spectacular in those victories.
There had been some talk of Ramirez moving back down to face WBA belt-holder Callum Smith, but Ramirez (who weighed just under the light heavyweight limit for Karpency) put on more than 20 pounds overnight from the weigh-in on Thursday. That alone is a harbinger that his days as a super middleweight are over.
And the reality is that with the likes of Sergey Kovalev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Artur Beterbiev all being aligned with Top Rank and ESPN, the light heavyweight division is where his most appealing dance partners reside.
“I feel more comfortable at 175 pounds than 168. I’m looking for all the champions at 175. I want to be a pound-for-pound fighter,” Ramirez said.
It’s time to stop for Alvarado
What was a hard, often tumultuous career for Mike Alvarado will likely come to an end after he was stopped in three rounds by Arnold Barboza. Alvarado was floored in the round from a clean-up left hook that had him sprawled out on the canvas, dazed and disorientated. He rose gamely on his feet, though as Alvarado staggered, referee Thomas Taylor had no other choice but to wave off the fight.
From the very onset of this bout, it was the 27-year-old Barboza (21-0, 8 KOs) who was in complete control against the faded veteran from Denver, whose hard lifestyle and personal demons had hampered both his professional and personal life. Since his thrashing at the hands of Brandon Rios in their rubber match at the beginning of 2015, Top Rank had matched Alvarado carefully with a series of nondescript foes. While he had won six in a row coming into the Barboza bout, it was for the most part a mirage.
While Alvarado’s spirit might have been willing, the reality is that his reflexes are so dulled that he was consistently beaten to the punch time and time again by Barboza. He simply couldn’t fend off the younger, fresher Barboza, who looks to move up the ladder.
“That was a good fight, and now I want Jose Ramirez. I want Maurice Hooker,” Barboza said after the fight. “That’s what I want in my future. Alvarado is a tough guy, and I stopped him in three rounds. Hopefully, this performance will catapult me to a world-title opportunity.”
There was a time that Alvarado — who battled the likes of Rios (in what was a memorable series of fights), Breidis Prescott, Mauricio Herrera, Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez — was a world-class fighter. Unfortunately, those days have come to an end.
“My legs didn’t cooperate. Hey, you know, I got back up. That’s what I’m thankful for. I’m healthy. I’m safe,” Alvarado said.