Ukrainian boxing sensation Vasyl 'Hi-Tech' Lomachenko retained his WBO World super-featherweight title with a sublime win over New Jersey's Jason Sosa in Maryland last night, bolstering his status as one of the finest pound-for-pound pugilists of the modern era after just nine fights.
For Balls readers unfamiliar with Lomachenko, here's a brief overview of his career:
Widely regarded as the greatest amateur fighter in the history of boxing, the 29-year-old won Olympic gold at both Beijing and Londonn - the former aged just 20. He's also a former European amateur champion at featherweight (Liverpool 2008), and a two-time world amateur champion, having won gold at both featherweight (Milan, 2009) and lightweight (Baku, 2011).
Lomachenko's record in the unpaid ranks was an astonishing 396-1; his sole defeat arrived in the 2007 World Championships final, when a 19-year-old Loma was defeated by Albert Selimov - then of Russia, now of Azerbaijan. Selimov, who beat Ireland's Seán McComb in the 2015 Europeans and eliminated David Oliver Joyce at Rio last summer, is himself considered one of the greatest amateurs of the modern era, but was dismantled by a vengeful Lomachenko in their second and third contests.
Lomachenko turned professional to significant fanfare after his second Olympic gold medal, signing with Mick Conlan's current promoters Top Rank in the States. After scoring a fourth round knockout on his debut, 'Hi-Tech' took a shot at history, battling teak tough brawler Orlando Salido for the WBO World featherweight strap in only his second outing - the first time such a feat has ever been attempted in professional boxing.
Loma's split decision defeat was controversial; Salido missed weight by a full two-and-a-half pounds and reportedly rehydrated to 147, meaning he was a full-blown welterweight at the opening bell. He was duly stripped of his crown after the weigh-in, meaning only Lomachenko could win the WBO World title. Salido's tactics come fight night, too, bordered on filthy, with consistent low-blows receiving just one warning from referee Laurence Cole - much to the derision of the boxing public. Even allowing for all of this, Lomachenko had the far larger Salido on the brink in the final round, but the rugged Mexican survived to inflict just a second ever defeat - pro or amateur - upon Lomachenko.
With Salido's world title vacant, Lomachenko fought for it once more in his third pro bout. An extraordinary performance saw the Ukrainian stylishly school one of the fastest and most skilled fighters in the world in former US Olympian Gary Russell Jr, who entered the contest with a record of 24-0. Lomachenko had become a world champion in three fights, equalling the 39-year-old world record set by Thai great Saensak Muangsurin.
He went on to win a world title at a second weight - super-featherweight - in his seventh contest, stopping another world class opponent in Roman Martinez in emphatic fashion to seize another slice of boxing history. Then, having dispatched a string of legitimately world class operators in his five (all title) fights since defeat to Salido, Lomachenko stepped it up a gear, making his first WBO World super-featherweight defence against one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet - Jamaican 'Axe Man' Nicholas Walters.
After seven rounds, Walters - having been befuddled, beaten and bruised by the dazzling Lomachenko - quit on his stool. It was a decision born of humiliation as opposed to physical damage.
Lomachenko told reporters after the fight:
After the fifth round I really enjoyed that. He said he was a warrior he would do this and that in the build up but what did he really do ? He's a good fighter, really strong, but he stood there and made it easy for me.
My goal is to be the No 1 pound for pound fighter in the world. I had my plan, I knew it would take about four rounds and then I went to work on him. In the end he just quit.
All of which brings us to his second WBO World super-featherweight title defence last night. Stood in Lomachenko's way was the giant-killing Jason Sosa, a recent WBA world champion undefeated since his fifth pro fight in 2010. The narrative surrounding the contest was quite straightforward; is it possible that Vasyl Lomachenko is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet after just three-and-a-half years and eight fights in the pro ranks?
As the debate raged on both sides of the pond, Lomachenko's answer was equally straightforward.
He might be.
Lomachenko v Sosa highlights
For the second time in as many fights, Lomachenko beat his opponent into submission, with Sosa like Walters before him facing the ignominy of having to quit between rounds. Not that he should be shamed remotely for what was an extremely courageous performance, mind; he was simply outclassed by a man many are now describing as a potential all-time great (indeed, former champ Barry Jones told BoxNation that Lomachenko might already belong in the ATG conversation).
The power punch stats regaled viewers with their own story from another dominant Loma display.
In all, the former two-time Olympic champion landed 275 of almost 700 punches. Sosa, who gave his all but ultimately was made to look like a practitioner of a different sport, landed just 66 punches, only getting close enough to throw fewer than 300 in total.
The boxing public, including more than a few of our own, were seriously impressed by the man once described by Steve Bunce - cheekily, it would be safe to say - as 'The male Katie Taylor'.
Flawless performance from Lomachenko. He's too damn good!! #LomachenkoSosa
— Katie Taylor (@KatieTaylor) April 9, 2017
Vasyl Lomachenko is p4p the best fighter on the planet... and about 6 other planets at that!! Footwork is exceptional!! #HiTech
— Jamie Conlan (@JamieConlan11) April 9, 2017
— Bible of Boxing (@ringmagazine) April 9, 2017
— BOXING IRELAND (@LoveIrishBoxing) April 9, 2017
Always reluctant to use this word, but @VasylLomachenko is a genius. He's Tiger, Federer & Ronnie O'Sullivan in a boxing ring. Joy to watch.
— Paul D Gibson (@PaulieDGibson) April 9, 2017
That @VasylLomachenko is something else,never seen anything like it.if your in his weight just forget it 😂🙈
— Gamal Yafai (@Gamal_yafai) April 9, 2017
Just watched Lomachenko v Sosa. He's easily beat up a fellow world champion again. Only way he loses is when he moves up too much in weight
— Chris McKenna (@cmckennasport) April 9, 2017
Let's get it right: Vasyl Lomachenko is the illuminati of boxing right now. He shuts out and stops world champion fighters.
— Ryan Songalia (@ryansongalia) April 9, 2017
Lomachenko himself, meanwhile, was already on to the next one, asking fans to vote for his next
— LOMA (@VasylLomachenko) April 9, 2017
Incredibly, despite having only recently climbed to super-featherweight, Lomachenko immediately called for a shot at WBC World lightweight champion Mikey Garcia [36-0, 30KOs] - himself a potential pound-for-pound superstar. Indeed, he's not ruling out career-defining fights with Terrence Crawford or Manny Pacquiao at light-welterweight, either.
Were Lomachenko to beat the lethal Garcia at 135lbs and become a three-weight world champion inside his first 10 pro fights, it might well accelerate his inevitable ascent to the pound-for-pound pinnacle of his craft. Truth be told, this alone compared with his other-worldly amateur record would likely legitimise the chatter suggesting he's an all-time boxing great in waiting.