Vasiliy Lomachenko captured the World Boxing Association lightweight title from Jorge Linares in a wildly entertaining scrap on Saturday night, becoming a world champion in a third weight division in the remarkable and unprecedented span of 12 professional fights.
It’s so often looked easy for the sport’s most technically proficient fighter but Saturday’s outing was anything but. The two-time Olympic gold medalist showed he was human against the bigger, longer champion before him, coming off the floor at the end of the sixth round and roaring back for a devastating body-shot knockout in the 10th before a rollicking crowd of 10,429 in the big room at Madison Square Garden, bolstering an already compelling claim for boxing’s pound-for-pound throne.
Now the 30-year-old southpaw is a champion in three weight classes in fewer fights than it took division-spanning icons like Oscar De La Hoya (who needed 23 fights), Floyd Mayweather Jr (34) and Manny Pacquiao (41). The all-time record had been held Australia’s Jeff Fenech, who needed 20 bouts to capture titles at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight.
Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) appeared to loom even larger over Lomachenko at the opening bell than at Friday’s weigh-in and for once the Ukrainian wasn’t clearly the faster fighter in the ring. The 32-year-old from Venezuela and based in Las Vegas, a top operator and three-division beltholder far more worthy than the oddsmakers’ 10-1 price against him, took advantage of his opponent’s cautious opening, scoring from the pocket as Lomachenko carefully assessed the challenge before him.