By Matt Richardson at ringside
Photos: Sumio Yamada
Vasily Lomachenko continued to make a strong case as the very best fighter in the world on Saturday night when he knocked out WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares in the tenth round of an excellent, high-paced action fight in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) may have won his third belt in as many weight classes but he had to fight to win the title, rising from a sixth-round knockdown and some scary moments later in the bout to break down the bigger, stronger Linares.
Linares (44-4, 27 KO’s), riding a multi-year unbeaten streak, showed a lot of heart, ability and technique. He fought on a high-level. But as the fight progressed, his face got busted up and by the time he was dropped with a left to the body in the 10th he was a thoroughly defeated fighter. He attempted to rise but the fight had been beaten out of him and the bout was called off with 52 seconds remaining in the round.
The scores at the time of the ending varied: one judge had Lomachenko up 86-84, another had Linares in the lead by the same tally while the third had the fight even, 85-85.
The scorecard of the fight underscored the back-and-forth nature of the bout, which is now in the running as one of the best of 2018.
Linares was more active in the first round but Lomachenko connected with a few clean body shots in the last minute of the frame. Linares scored well with a digging body shot in the second but Lomachenko returned fire with a clean uppercut. Lomachenko started to get into a groove in the third and it didn’t exactly benefit Linares. Darting in and out with clean shots, Lomachenko connected with shots to the body and head of Linares, seemingly frustrating the title-holder. Lomachenko connected with straight shots from the outside in the first minute of the fourth but Linares came back with a decent right of his own. Later in the round Linares was warned for hitting behind the head. Rapid combinations in the middle of the ring connected for Lomachenko, who sent Linares back to his corner with a bloodied nose.
The damage wouldn’t end there. Lomachenko continued to pound Linares with the uppercut in the fifth. A flush combination at the end of the round hurt Linares but the bell rang before Lomachenko could capitalize. Linares was warned for hitting low in the sixth, immediately prompting booing from the crowd but a textbook straight right down the middle dropped Lomachenko at the end of the round. Lomachenko was rocked but by the time he took his count the round had ended.
Linares connected with a hard right to the body to start of the seventh as Lomachenko appeared to slow down and take a breather. As the round progressed, Lomachenko’s activity rate increased slightly as he again began peppering Linares with quick combinations. Both men slowed in the eighth. Linares’ face was badly swollen and bruised.
Linares connected with a solid left hook in the first minute of the ninth and he connected with a series of combinations that kept Lomachenko cautious. Lomachenko connected with a few uppercuts in the tenth before dropping Linares with a beautiful left to the body, sealing the fight at the 2:08 mark.