Ant Crolla is a former world champion, and while there are way too many champions in boxing these days, he’s proven in those title fights to be a competent, solid professional.
He looked anything but that on Friday at Staples Center in his bid for the WBA and WBO lightweight titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko.
The Ukrainian star showed why many regard him as the finest boxer in the world in a dominant, fourth-round stoppage of Crolla. Lomachenko cracked Crolla, who had already been bleeding from his nose and mouth, with a straight left hand and quickly followed with a blistering right hook.
The shot landed just above Crolla’s left ear and sent him face first to the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss crouched down to count, but took a look at Crolla and immediately waved it off. The time of the finish was 58 seconds.
It wasn’t expected to be a competitive fight, not with Lomachenko favored by an absurd 80-1 in some sportsbooks. But it’s also fair to ask who from featherweight to lightweight at this point would be competitive with Lomachenko. The short answer is, there aren’t many.
The fight to make is one against Mikey Garcia, who suffered his first defeat last month in a welterweight title fight with Errol Spence Jr. But Garcia’s natural weight is lightweight and a match with Lomachenko remains the Ukrainian’s best bet for a big fight.
“I would like to fight with Mikey Garcia,” Lomachenko said, but the politics of boxing make that a difficult bout to put together. Lomachenko is promoted by Top Rank and fights on ESPN, while Garcia fights for the Premier Boxing Champions created by Al Haymon.
Top Rank and Haymon haven’t been able to do business regularly and easily, and these talks aren’t expected to change that pattern.
If they can’t put together a Garcia fight, fans are going to have to accept seeing one of the elite fighters in the world competing against fighters nowhere near his equal.
He’s likely to face IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey, but that isn’t expected to end any differently than the Crolla fight on Friday did. The one fight that is makeable is with budding star Teofimo Lopez.
Lopez is 21 and will face Edis Tatli on April 20 at Madison Square Garden on the pay-per-view undercard that features Terence Crawford against Amir Khan in the main event. Lopez is 12-0 and was the Yahoo Sports Prospect of the Year in both 2017 and 2018 and looks like a future star.
The question is whether he is ready for a mature, seasoned elite opponent like Lomachenko at this stage of his development.
Crolla, a former WBA champion who entered the bout with as many knockouts (13) as Lomachenko had fights, certainly wasn’t ready. He didn’t have the hand speed or the footwork to deal with Lomachenko, who took the first round to study him.
When the second began, Lomachenko began to dig hooks to the body and find ways to get through Crolla’s guard. It was just a matter of time once Lomachenko began to let his hands go.
He dropped Crolla late in the third and the bell saved the Brit. But he had nowhere to hide in the fourth and Lomachenko brutally ended it.
“My pride is more hurt than my body, as I wanted to give it my best, but he’s just phenomenal,” Crolla said. “I knew where I was when the shot hit me on the top of my head, but I just couldn’t get up. I wanted to go out on my shield, but the shot just caught me high and robbed me of my senses.
“He’s very special. He doesn’t waste a shot. He’ll go on to dominate and do whatever he wants to do in the sport.”
But for Lomachenko to truly become a superstar, he has to have a worthy rival. Whether it’s Garcia, or Lopez, or someone else, it would be good for all concerned, including Lomachenko, if he showed himself soon.
Otherwise, get used to these one-sided beatdowns.
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