Don’t these promoters know we only have two eyes?
Saturday was beyond busy for combat sports fans, with two major boxing cards and two huge offerings from the biggest MMA companies. The end result was a night that had everything we love about combat sports-violence, blood, controversy, crazy knockouts, brutal submissions, new stars emerging, and that feeling that can only happen when two great competitors push each other to a new level, and we as fans, are lucky and blessed enough to be along for the ride…
After Lomachenko-Linares opened the night and as UFC presented their latest pay per view, Bellator MMA and HBO Boxing vied for their slice of the combat sports fan pie. The end saw both platforms focus some hot action and lift some potential new stars.
Ever since Top Rank brought their business from HBO to ESPN last July, there has been one constant complaint from boxing fans-the lack of competitive main events. Yes, Top Rank was showcasing their top guys like Lomachenko, Terrance Crawford, Oscar Valdez, etc., but were we ever going to see any of them against other top-flight competition?
Enter Jorge Linares, the excellent three division champion from Venezuela who had been undefeated for nearly six years. When looking for someone to challenge Lomachenko, who had ripped through 126 and 130-pound divisions with ease, Linares was the name that emerged for many. But with Linares being promoted by rival Golden Boy Promotions, that bout seemed unlikely. Yet somehow, the rigid three-party politics that have plagued boxing for the past year were able to thaw and we were able to get this fight in the right place at Madison Square Garden.
The result was everything we could have hope for.
Linares (44-4, 27 KOs), looking huge and ripped, rehydrated up to 152 pounds, challenged Lomachenko from the start. He landed hard shots to the body early, worked hard to establish his jab, and hit Loma more than any other two opponents seem to every hit him. But the Ukrainian virtuoso responded by going to a new level, finding new angles to land his incredible combinations. By the fourth round, there was significant swelling over Linares eyes, and it seemed like Loma had figured out another puzzle.
But then, late in the sixth round, Linares caught Lomachenko during a rare straight-in attack and nailed him with a perfect right hand that put Lomachenko onto his seat for the first time in his pro career. The Garden rose to its feet and we suddenly had much more interesting fight. But “Hi-Tech” survived and responded with an excellent seventh and eighth round, rocking Linares repeatedly and cutting him over his left eye.
Ever undeterred, the Venezuelan kept going, landing some nice combinations to take the ninth round. It was beginning to look like anyone’s fight in the tenth, but then Lomachenko’s combinations took over again and as the round came to the close, a blinding salvo dropped Linares. You needed the replay to see that the final shot was a left hook to the liver that landed Linares on the canvas. The crowd of 10,429 rose to its feet and referee Ricky Gonzales gave Linares as long as he could for him to do the same, but the champion couldn’t be the count, giving Lomachenko the victory at 2:08 of the tenth round.
To the surprise of money, the fight was a draw on the scorecards with one judge having in 86-84 for Linares, another having in 86-84 for Lomachenko, while the last had it 85-85. Linares landed 207 out of 739 for 28 percent, while Lomachenko landed 213 out of 627 for 34 percent. The win of course makes Lomachenko (11-1, 8 KOs) the WBA lightweight champion and the fastest three division champion in history.
The co-main saw rising Dominican welterweight Carlos Adames move to 14-0 with a tough win over Mexican Alejandro Barrera (29-5, 18 KOs). Michael Conlan, the two-time Irish Olympian, crushed the tough Ibon Larrinaga (10-2, 2 KOs) over eight rounds to move to 7-0 with five knockouts.
Either Larrinaga has the kind of chin that we need to be making tanks out of, or Conlan isn’t that big of a puncher. Rising Brooklyn prospect Teofimo Lopez needed only sixty-four seconds to crush Brazilian Vitor Freitas to get his sixth knockout in eight wins. And Mikayla Mayer, the 2016 Olympian, had the best outing of her pro career, shutting out Kay Nansen of New Zealand over six rounds. Mayer is adapting to the pro style well and crushed Hansen with excellent combinations throughout.