By michael rosenthal
LOS ANGELES – No one is surprised that Vasyl Lomachenko dominated and then stopped Anthony Crolla in more than three rounds Friday in a center full of Staples. That is what we have come to expect from the Ukrainian boxing badistant, who has overwhelmed almost all of his opponents.
What makes a victory like this one particularly impressive, in addition to the violent, but beautiful ballet that Lomachenko performs in the ring, is this: Crolla is a former champion, an experienced and world-clbad boxer, and made him seem helpless. Lomachenko not only beat the proud Englishman, he embarrbaded him.
That is why Lomachenko is seen as a transcendent talent of this generation. He does it again and again. Once again: no wonder, it's still wonderful.
Lomachenko, the WBA and WBO lightweight titlist, was not thrilled to face Crolla. The plan was for him to face IBF champion Richard Commey in a fight for the unification of the title, but Commey could not fight due to an injury, which opened the door to Lomachenko's mandatory challenger, the WBA, Crolla.
Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) wants meaningful fights, not worldly clashes against opponents with little hope of competing with him. Of course, if there was a disappointment on his part, he did not show it.
A vibrant crowd of 10,101, including some of the New York State soldiers supporting Crolla, filled the arena with palpable energy when the fighters made their walks and were introduced. Many wanted to see Lomachenko up close, to witness something great in person. They were not disappointed.
The first round was fairly even, since the wrestlers used most of the period to measure distance and feel each other. Crolla (34-7-3, 13 KOs) looked like he belonged in the ring with Lomachenko for at least three minutes.
Then came a completely different second round. Lomachenko quickly discovered how to get to Crolla and moved at great speed to take advantage of his revelation, throwing hard blows from all angles in quick succession to the head and body of a suddenly shocked challenger.
It got worse in the third. At the end of the round, with Crolla's back against the ropes, Lomachenko unleashed a wave of precise blows that seemed to come in rapid motion, as if it were a machine, not a man throwing them. Referee Jack Reiss jumped to the end of the barrier and ruled a technical fall, as the ropes prevented Crolla from falling.
That caused some confusion. Lomachenko and his team thought that Reiss had stopped the fight and began to celebrate. Two of his handlers actually entered the ring only to know that the fight was not over.
Of course, they did not have to wait long for the end. Lomachenko was hitting Crolla as he had done in the previous two rounds when a right hook behind the ear sent the challenger to the face of the canvas first. He had no chance to continue, which led Reiss to reject the fight and give Lomachenko another victory. The official end came at 58 seconds of the fourth round.
Crolla could not say much more than praise Lomachenko.
"My pride is more hurt than my body, because I wanted to give my best, but it's just phenomenal," he said immediately afterwards. "I knew where I was when the shot hit me in the head, but I just could not get up, I wanted to get on my shield, but the shot caught me and stole my senses.
"He's very special, he does not waste a shot, he will continue to dominate and do whatever he wants to do in the sport."
What will Lomachenko do next?
He wants to take on Mikey Garcia, the pound for pound champion and the 135-pound WBC champion, in a fight for the unification of the title. However, after Garcia climbed to 147 pounds to face Errol Spence, he could decide it would be too difficult to return to lightweight.
And, again, there is the possibility of a fight for the unification of titles with Commey, baduming it recovers.
"I want to fight Mikey Garcia, but we'll see, I do not know," said Lomachenko. "I stay in 135 as long as possible and I want to unify all the titles."
Nobody would be surprised at anything that Lomachenko achieves.