Vasiliy Lomachenko was the favorite two years ago when he met Jorge Linares at Madison Square Garden, but he was not the defending champion. That was Linares, who came in with the WBA lightweight title, with Lomachenko moving up to look for a world title in a third weight class, something Linares had already achieved.
Lomachenko, 30 at the time, was already considered a pound-for-pound elite with his 10-1 (8 KO) record on the way in. He’d lost his second pro fight in 2014, but that proved merely a speed bump. He learned from the defeat, made some adjustments to the pro game after a legendary amateur career, and became the fighter he was expected to be.
After winning world titles at 126 and 130, Lomachenko had run out of willing opponents in a second weight class, so it was up to lightweight, where he found the highly skilled Linares (44-3, 27 KO coming in) waiting with open arms.
Linares, 32, had had his own setbacks, but more or less had become the fighter expected from his early days in the pros, when his upside was routinely lauded, and for good reason. At his best, Linares has been one of the best purely skilled boxers to come around in years. Vulnerable? Yes. But a wonderful boxer when on his game.
Linares was on his game against Lomachenko. He put Vasiliy down in the sixth round, but he wound up stopped in the 10th all the same, passing the belt to the Ukrainian star. It was as much a testament to Lomachenko’s skills as anything we’ve seen in the pro game thus far; Linares was fighting a good fight, and he got him out anyway. At the time of the stoppage, scores were 85-85, 86-84 Linares, and 86-84 Lomachenko.
In other words, this was a competitive, high-level fight between two guys with a ton of skills, and I think it’s worth another look. As we know, Linares still wants a rematch, and one would expect if he can fight his way back to one, Lomachenko would be plenty willing, if he’s still got belts by then.