By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
Last weekend we saw the crowning of Vasyl Lomachenko as a two-weight world champion in just seven fights, after he stopped Roman “Rocky” Martinez, a genuine, top quality operator himself, in the fifth round of their clash in New York.
It was fitting that Lomachenko did this in the first major fight since we lost “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. Ali, who I didn’t do a column on last week as I wouldn’t do the great man justice compared to some other greats who did, will go down for many as the greatest of all time. Lomachenko could well be the best of this generation.
Many, myself included, have run of out of superlatives for the Ukrainian and the bandwagon is getting busier with every performance. He is truly mesmerising to watch in the ring. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live at the 2012 Olympics and there aren’t many fighters that I would break my neck to see live. He is one of the few.
To stop Martinez in the fashion that he did was spectacular. He is as tough as they come and only beaten by top level fighters like Ricky Burns and Mikey Garcia, whilst his recent scraps with Orlando Salido will live long in the memory.
He tried to take a leaf out of Salido’s book with Lomachenko. “Siri” of course out-manned Lomachenko in the Ukrainian’s second pro fight to deny a record setting world title victory. It was tight, but Salido, who weighed over the limit and employed some debatable tactics, edged a decision, handing Lomachenko a first loss 2007 and creating a blueprint for others.
But sadly for everyone else, including perhaps Salido, that blueprint has vanished, as Lomachenko has learned and come back with a vengeance. In some of his previous fights, he has taken too long to finish off his opponent, but that wasn’t the case against Martinez.
I’m pretty confident that Lomachenko will never lose again and would love to see the Salido rematch next. He will have too much for the grizzled Mexican veteran, who was involved in a barnburner with Francisco Vargas the week before, which ended in a draw, although I did score it for Salido.
I can see Lomachenko also winning a lightweight world title before his 10th fight just to add to his legend, that began in his stellar amateur days. Treasure him whilst he is active, you may never see another on his level again for a long time.
Also on the card was Felix Verdejo, who is well on his way to becoming the next Puerto Rican idol, following in the footsteps of Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Miguel Cotto and of course the hall of famers “Bazooka” Wilfredo Gomez and “El Radar” Wilfred Benitez.
Verdejo will have to go some to be considered amongst them, but he didn’t let anyone down on Saturday, smashing his way through Juan Jose Martinez in five rounds. It was a welcome return to form in New York for Verdejo, who has appeared to labour somewhat under the expectation and pressure in his wins over Ivan Najera and William Silva at The Garden.
The lightweight mix is starting to build some interest again after a couple of years in the doldrums with the emergence of Anthony Crolla, Terry Flanagan, Dejan Zlaticanin, as well as Jorge Linares coming to the fore recently. Verdejo isn’t far away from being considered amongst them.
In particular he will have an eye on Flanagan who holds the WBO title, the favourite of Top Rank and Frank Warren, especially as Verdejo holds the WBO Latino belt. Flanagan and Crolla would be top of my list of fights in the division, however if the Verdejo fight happened then I might well dust off the passport.
Boxing’s missing man Demetrius Andrade was also back last weekend, showing us all what we’ve been missing with an excellent win over Willie Nelson. It was just his second fight since his win over Brian Rose back in 2014 in Brooklyn and it’s fantastic to see him back in the ring after promotional and contractual issues.
His pedigree is superb. He is the last man to win a world championship gold medal for the USA, whilst his time in the professional ranks, aside from an early trip to the canvas against Vanes Martirosyan, has pretty much been perfect. On top of that he’s a great guy, which I found out when I met him in Liverpool when he came to support his friend Vladine Biosse against Callum Smith.
I’m more than confident to say that he would beat Jermell Charlo for the WBC title, a shot he could get after beating Nelson in an eliminator, but I would love to see him in a massive fight that he deserves, although we’ll likely have to wait for till next year for that.
There are rumblings that Liam Smith will face Canelo Alvarez in September this year, whilst Miguel Cotto is looking to return. Erislandy Lara wouldn’t be top of anyone’s list to fight, but I’d still edge Andrade. For me though, I think going after the Charlo twins would be an easy way for him to get his name back out there and get people talking once more.
There is also the possibility of a step up to middleweight, which would certainly not be too much of a hindrance as he is a big guy.
Last week was a cracking weekend and a chance to see three fighters who could well be in everyone’s pound-for-pound top 10 lists in the near future. As a boxing fan it was a joy to watch all three.