With Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez losing his junior bantamweight title to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, albeit controversially, last month — and not looking all that good even if you thought he won (like I did) — it made most reconsider their pound-for-pound lists.
Gonzalez, a four-division titleholder, had been No. 1 by most everybody since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather in September 2015.
On ESPN’s list, voted on by a panel of experts, unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin took over No. 1 following a tougher-than-expected unanimous decision against Daniel Jacobs in the main event of the card on which Gonzalez lost.
Some look to unified light heavyweight titleholder Andre Ward as No. 1, but there are many who believe he got a gift decision in his fight against Sergey Kovalev in November.
There are still others who look to the brilliant and dazzling Vasyl Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs), the junior lightweight titleholder who looked absolutely sensational stopping legit contender but heavy underdog Jason Sosa on Saturday.
Lomachenko’s performance against Sosa, not to mention performances in recent fights before that, namely making Nicholas Walters quit in November and scoring a knockout of the year contender against Roman “Rocky” Martinez to win a junior lightweight belt in June, have many talking about him as the best in boxing. Those who don’t rate him No. 1, like me, believe he will be there soon.
As Sosa said after taking a shellacking for nine rounds: “He’s just a great fighter.”
Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Lomachenko’s Hall of Fame promoter, can’t get enough of him. He talks about him as though he walks on water. He often says, quite seriously, that Lomachenko has the best skills he has seen since Muhammad Ali, whom he also promoted.
Former featherweight world champion and Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan, who fought in the 1980s through the heyday of greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, couldn’t be more impressed with Lomachenko, already considered the greatest amateur by many thanks to two Olympic gold medals for Ukraine and a 396-1 record (loss avenged).
“Just watched Vasyl Lomachenko (and) announcers have run out of adjectives to describe this phenomenon,” McGuigan wrote on social media. “I’ve never seen anyone like him. Incredible.”
Matchmaker Ron Katz has been in boxing for 41 years. He spent many years as a Top Rank matchmaker and now has that role for Star Boxing. He has forgotten more boxing than most of us will ever know.
“In my opinion he’s becoming in this decade what Floyd Mayweather was in the last decade, the most dominant fighter in the sport,” Katz said. “Some of the things he does, with his feet more than anything, and his positioning, are things that you very rarely see any fighters in any era do.”
Then Katz compared Lomachenko, who became a two-division titleholder in his seventh fight (fewest needed in boxing history to accomplish that), to an all-time great, Hall of Fame former lightweight champion Benny Leonard, who boxed from 1911 to 1932 (go look him up).
“I reference him to Benny Leonard, who was so far ahead of his time,” Katz said. “Benny always said that a lot of the things he did in the ring came from the waist down, the movement of his legs, his feet, his positioning, how he would put guys in certain positions to make them miss and have the ability to counter.
“In his era nobody had ever seen anything like that and he was so dominant. It came to mind because of the way Lomachenko moves around the ring, the way he sets up his opponents to put him in position to do what he wants to do and they can’t.
“Lomachenko is the total package, the fundamentals, skill-wise, his technique. The only thing people might say is he doesn’t have that one punch power, but he is so well-schooled and has so perfected his trade. When you hear people make references to Willie Pep and Bennie Leonard and other all-time greats, when they talk about Lomachenko that speaks volumes.”
Katz believes Lomachenko should be ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound.
“I’m not a big pound-for-pound guy but there’s no doubt that if you made a chart of things boxers do and rate them on a 1-10 scale, if there are five or six categories, he would probably be as close to a perfect score as any fighter around,” Katz said.
Hall of Fame promoter and matchmaker Russell Peltz, who promotes Sosa, is not quite ready to anoint Lomachenko, although he was impressed.
“He’s probably one of the three best fighters today and maybe he is the best,” Peltz said. “He’s one of the three best amateurs ever, the others being [Hungarian] Laszlo Papp and [Cuban legend] Teofilo Stevenson. It’s tough to admire him when you’re hoping your guy can pull one out of left field and hit him. He only has a handful of pro fights. I say No. 1 is Andre Ward because of what he’s accomplished, and maybe Triple G. I just can’t get carried away in the all hype.”
Larry Merchant, who spent decades writing about boxing for newspapers and then calling fights on HBO, wants to see more before making Lomachenko No. 1.
“I’m not of the chorus who is a true believer that he is a great fighter yet,” Merchant said. “I would call him an excellent fighter and I’d want to see him fight the top guys before I could draw that kind of conclusion.
“I think that Golovkin is the best fighter in the world right now. I’d maybe put Ward and Kovalev after him. The rest of it is in the process of being resolved. I don’t see any reason why Lomachenko should be rated ahead of (junior welterweight champion) Terence Crawford or (lightweight titlist) Mikey Garcia. But, happily, those are fights Lomachenko could fight that could settle the issue.”
I would love to see Lomachenko face any top junior lightweight or lightweight and eventually Crawford. I may agree with Merchant that Lomachenko isn’t No. 1. Yet. But he will be before too long.