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Where are the challenges for Vasyl Lomachenko?

Bob Arum says it’s clear that Vasyl Lomachenko is on another level, and could easily thrash other top fighters.

Vasyl Lomachenko v Guillermo Rigondeaux Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images
Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

Fresh off of his dominant performance over fellow pound-for-pound boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, one has to wonder if there’s anyone out there who can give Vasyl Lomachenko a run for his money. The most impressive part of Lomachenko’s win over Rigondeaux this past weekend wasn’t the fact that he won, but how he did it.

It was a technical dismantling of one of the best technical fighters of recent times. Loma was all over Rigo from the get-go, quickly anticipating where Rigo would duck his head to evade punches and met him there with uppercuts aplenty.

At that point it became readily apparent that Loma’s dynamic style was just too much Rigo to cope with. Rigo, for as talented as he is, fights in a staccato style while mostly relying on the same defensive maneuvers — which mostly involve him leaning to his left. And while he’s had great success with that in the past, it wasn’t good or clever enough to outsmart Loma, who himself is an expert tactician.

Loma’s legato style of boxing, combined with his swift footwork, meant that he could position himself to strike Rigo unlike any other opponent Rigo has ever encountered before. And the result ended up being a complete mental implosion for Rigo, who had no other recourse but to try and grab hold of Loma as often as he could.

Just imagine for a second being the best at something for your entire life, and being the best by a considerable margin. You’re absolutely convinced you’re the best on the planet because your skill and reputation precedes you. You’re also so confident that you’re the best that you continually shout it out for the world to hear. Then, one day, you run into another — one with a similar reputation. That person not only bests you, but does so in a manner at almost makes you look like an amateur.

You’ve been thoroughly dominant for as long as you can remember, and now it’s not like you’ve finally met someone who can give you a challenge, but you’re being completely overwhelmed in every aspect of the contest. This is a feeling you’ve never felt before, and you certainly don’t like it. The blow to your ego is worse than any punch you’ve taken in the ring, and now you’re not sure how to react. So you rationalize a way out...

That is what we witnessed this past weekend.

Rigo didn’t take serious physical punishment in this fight. His eyes weren’t swollen, his nose wasn’t busted, and there weren’t any visible knots on his head. He just had his will to fight broken by a better boxer who was simply having his way with him, and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Make no mistake, Loma was obviously the bigger fighter in this contest, but it was Loma’s skill that carried the day. He consistently beat Rigo to the spot and out-thought him, out-fought him, and out-worked him for as long as it would last.

So now at 130lbs, where Lomachenko currently reigns, there doesn’t appear to be any compelling challengers for Loma (at least none that are willing to take the fight). Therefore greater challenges may loom up the scale. Loma himself has said that he doesn’t know how far up in weight he could potentially move, but his promoter Bob Arum believes that a couple of notable lightweight titlists would be a breeze for Loma, telling RingTV:

“He’ll take anybody,” Arum said. “He’ll go to 135 pounds and he’ll make a joke of (Jorge) Linares. He’ll make a joke of (Mikey) Garcia. They’re really good fighters, but this guy is super special. You’ve never seen anything like this.

“MIkey Garcia’s an excellent fighter,” Arum said. “He’ll hang with him until he’s ready to get knocked out and then he’ll probably quit.”

Arum continued by saying that with his new platform on ESPN, the network has shown a commitment (and the money) to make the best fights possible, and he says he plans to deliver them.

Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares are both technical masters, and while close, neither of them are held in the kind of esteem that Loma is when it comes to skill. They’re also both larger men than the fighters Loma is accustomed to facing. Would that be enough to tip the scales towards an even and compelling match-up? That’s certainly debatable, and it seems like that’s exactly where we’re headed.

Sure, Lomachenko could cruise 130lbs for the foreseeable future and dominate along the way, but is that in itself going to draw any significant interest? Fans, while admiring Loma’s displays of genius inside the ring, generally aren’t all that interested in watching gloried exhibitions bouts where everyone knows the outcome. There’s no drama in that.

So perhaps it’s a little unfair to demand that Lomachenko move up to take on greater challenges, but that’s often the burden one bears when being head and shoulders above the rest. “Heavy lies the crown,” as they say, and up the scales is where the money and glory will ultimately be waiting.

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