Capping off a huge weekend in the world of combat sports was a boxing bout between four-time, three weight class world champion Jorge Linares and Neo from The Matrix reincarnated, Vasyl Lomachenko.
Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs before this one) made the move from featherweight (where he was the WBO champion) to junior lightweight in 2016.
It proved a success; after winning the belt in that class from Román Martínez, ‘Hi-Tech’ successfully defended it four times and in doing so made all four of his opponents retire on the stool in between rounds.
Lomachenko made the move up to 135 pounds for this one to challenge Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) for his WBA (Super) and The Ring lightweight titles.
The Ukrainian knew that if he could get the win, he’d set a record for the fewest fights needed to win world titles in three different weight classes.
Beforehand, the 30-year-old said that he always planned to make history since he got into boxing.
“I always said I wanted to make history and I know it would be another record if I win this title in my 12th fight,” Lomachenko said through his manager beforehand. “I am very happy and capable of doing what I was planning to do and what I wanted to do when I turned pro. I think already half of my pro career is over and I am very happy with what I have achieved, but I didn’t have a plan right in the beginning for the long run. My plan was to become a champion as soon as I could and the rest of it has just come. This part wasn’t planned.”
Primed to throw those plans into disarray was the Venezuelan champ Linares who came into this one on a 13 fight winning streak. To do so, he planned to resist Loma’s near-irresistible force.
“I’m about not just physical resistance, but mental resistance. He’s a really fast fighter. I won’t stand still at any time in the fight and fall into his trap,” Linares said beforehand. “I have the reach, the height, the speed. I’m stronger.”
The bookmakers gave Linares little chance in this one, installing him as the huge underdog at $8.50 while Loma was paying just $1.07 to become a three-weight champion.
The first two rounds could have gone either way, with both men feeling each other out, but Loma began to assert his dominance in the third with some good movement and body shots.
The Ukrainian showed off some of his sparkling footwork to take the fourth and fifth rounds, regularly getting on the inside of Linares to land good combinations.
But just when things were going so smoothly, Linares scored a knockdown in the sixth, catching Loma unawares with a crisp right cross that put him down. He got back up but that 10-8 round put the Venezuelan right back into the mix.
He followed it up by taking the next round, too, throwing punches in bunches and being the aggressor.
Lomachenko poured it on and came back in the 8th, outworking Linares and making him miss. But Linares came back again in the ninth, stuck with the jab and landed a hard left hook.
The stoppage came in the tenth; Linares opened the round with a four-punch combination but as they stood and traded in the middle of the ring, Loma landed a flurry of eight clean punches, including a hard hook to the body that dropped Linares.
He managed to get back to his feet but was unable to beat the ten count and referee Ricky Gonzalez waved the fight off.
Lomachenko came through one of the toughest tests of his career to make history and become a three-weight world champion after just 12 professional fights. Take a bow, Neo!