BELIEVE it or not, the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing today may just be a guy who has only nine fights in his resume.
The pound-for-pound title is a mythical crown given to the boxer whose fistic skills are deemed nonpareil, notwithstanding the weight categories that separate the fighters in the sport. Ukrainian Vasyl ‘High Tech’ Lomachenko recently made a solid pitch for the crown with his nine-round dismantling of Jason Sosa. In making his second successful defense of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior lightweight (130 lbs.) title, Lomachenko put on a brilliant and dazzling display of timing, precision hitting and lateral movement as he dominated New Jersey native Sosa from the outset. Lomachenko improved his record to 8-1 with 6 knockouts and left boxing experts visibly impressed.
The pound-for-pound list in boxing may be headed for a major revision following unexpected results in the last two months. Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez of Nicaragua and Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan, who had been ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the pound-for-pound ranking at the start of the year, posted lukewarm results in March. Gonzalez was dethroned as World Boxing Council (WBC) junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) kingpin after dropping a shocking decision to unheralded Thai challenger Srikaset Sor Rungvisai. On the other hand, the 23-bout knockout streak of world middleweight champion (WBA, IBF and WBC) Golovkin came to an end when he settled for a hard-earned decision win over American Daniel ‘Miracle Man’ Jacobs.
Gonzalez was knocked down in the first round and bled profusely on the right eye as he suffered his first professional loss after 46 straight victories. Golovkin stayed undefeated (37-0, 33 knockouts) but his aura of invincibility took a hit when he labored for 12 rounds and barely dodged defeat against Jacobs.
With Gonzalez a beaten man, it would be so convenient to promote Golovkin to the No.1 spot in the pound-for-pound ranking, but his pedestrian performance, followed by Lomachenko’s brilliant show, had the sport’s cognoscenti revisiting their respective pound-for-pound lists.
Lomachenko may only have nine fights, but in barely four years in the punch-for-pay business he has already captured world titles in the featherweight (126 lbs.) and junior lightweight divisions. The only blot in Lomachenko’s pro record came in his second pro fight in March 2014, when he dropped a split-decision to Mexican Orlando Salido for the vacant WBO featherweight crown. You read it right, Lomachenko fought for the world title in only his second professional bout. Lomachenko became a world champion in only his third pro fight, tying the record of Thailand’s Saensak Muangsurin, who won the junior welterweight crown in 1975, for the fewest fights needed to become a champion. Lomachenko became a two-division world champion in only his seventh pro fight, the fastest in the sport.
There is a reason why Lomachenko’s confidence in the pro ranks is unlike any other boxer. As an amateur, he won two Olympic medals (2008, 2012) and overall compiled an unbelievable won-lost record of 396-1, the lone setback against Albert Selimov duly avenged.
From where this writer sits, the southpaw Lomachenko is breathing down Golovkin’s neck. Further boosting Lomachenko’s stock is the impressive pay-per-view sales his fight with Sosa generated. Lomachenko’s showing drew nearly 900,000 buys while Golovkin’s win over Jacobs netted just 170,000 subscriptions. It is becoming clear that boxing fans want to see more of Lomachenko.
Indeed, it has been quite a journey for the 29-year-old Lomachenko. The son of Anatoly Lomachenko, a former amateur boxer/trainer, Vasyl grew up playing ice hockey. If his father did not introduce him to boxing, Lomachenko would have played professional ice hockey.
Ice hockey’s loss turned out to be the boxing’s hottest catch. Promoter Bob Arum has described Lomachenko as the most skilled fighter he has seen since Muhammad Ali. Boxing fans, on the other hand, are calling Lomachenko a more aggressive, exciting version of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The grounded Lomachenko is not one to blow his own horn. Asked about his personal pound-for-pound list, he mentioned Golovkin, former light heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev (30-1, 26 knockouts) and junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 knockouts) as his top three.
Then again, whether he likes it or not, Lomachenko seems destined to top everybody’s pound-for-pound list.