Vasyl Lomachenko labeled a 'throwback to Ali' after another dominating performance

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Vasyl Lomachenko reacts after defeating <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1152098/" data-ylk="slk:Miguel Marriaga">Miguel Marriaga</a> by TKO in the seventh round. (Getty)
Vasyl Lomachenko reacts after defeating Miguel Marriaga by TKO in the seventh round. (Getty)

LOS ANGELES – They come little better than Vasyl Lomachenko. The two-time Olympic gold medalist from the Ukraine put on a mind-boggling performance Saturday at the Microsoft Theater, dominating Miguel Marriaga and forcing him to quit on his stool between the seventh and eighth rounds of their WBO junior lightweight title fight.

Lomachenko displayed everything a boxer could in the ring: A full arsenal of punches, brilliant footwork, outstanding timing, a shrewd mind and a smothering defense.

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Marriaga is a world-class fighter who entered the match with a 25-2-1 mark and 21 knockouts, but he was in no way a match for Lomachenko.

Lomachenko had swelling below his right eye and a cut alongside his left, visible damage he’d been in a fight. But it wasn’t that Marriaga was landing anything. He used his head and busted Lomachenko up with butts.

That didn’t make Lomachenko all that happy.

“You see my face?” he said. “I don’t like it.”

He made Marriaga pay in a brutal and vicious way, pummeling him with a series of big shots even though Marriaga spent most of the fight back-pedaling and fighting out of an exceptionally defensive posture.

That was the one other thing that didn’t sit well with Lomachenko, who had to work hard to create openings.

“This fight looked like a sparring session,” Lomachenko said. “It looked like work on the bag. I’m sorry to Marriaga for saying that, but that’s how it was.”

There seem few legitimate challengers for him, at least in and around his weight. He’s going to return to the ring in December, either on Dec. 9 or Dec. 23, and promoter Bob Arum said he’s contacted representatives of super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Rigondeaux, like Lomachenko, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who had a 463-12 record as an amateur and is 17-0 as a pro. He’s perhaps the only fighter in the sport with the overall skill that Lomachenko has, and combined they are 859-13 as amateurs and 26-1 as pros.

The fight, though, isn’t a cinch to be made.

“I offered Rigondeaux the fight and I talked with [promoter] Dino Duva,” Arum said. “We sort of agreed on a number, but the kid won’t get on the phone with Dino.”

Earlier in the day, super lightweight champion Terence Crawford, who faces Julius Indongo on Aug. 19 in Lincoln, Nebraska, in only the second bout ever for all four title belts, was pushing back on talk from sports writers who were suggesting that Lomachenko belonged in the top three pound-for-pound along with light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and Crawford.

Crawford questioned Lomachenko’s record, but Arum said they sat together at the fights and Crawford was duly impressed.

“Terence said he’s a great fighter,” Arum said.

That is obvious even to someone who has only seen a handful of pro fights. There’s next to nothing he can’t do in the ring and comparisons to fighters from the past are difficult.

Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello is one who comes to mind, but Arum said that matchmaker Bruce Trampler said Lomachenko would “play with him.”

Arum suggested a more famous name as a comparison.

“He’s the most unique guy around, and I said it before, but he’s a throwback to Ali,” Arum said. “Not only does he have the knowledge, but he has the skillset that I have never seen before. He’s got the fast reflexes, the defense, everything.”

It’s high praise, but that’s the type of fighter that Lomachenko has become.

“He’s really great,” Marriaga said, a major compliment most nights but an understatement on this one.

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