Turning bullying into an art form, Vasyl Lomachenko forced yet another fighter to quit on Saturday as he retained his WBO super-featherweight title with a tortuous display of genius against Miguel Marriaga.
For the third straight fight, the Ukrainian teased and tormented his opponent into surrender as Marriaga failed to make it off his stool for the eighth round.
The Colombian simply had no answer, out of sync, off balance and twice floored, Lomachenko was in complete control at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
His mastery of the sweet science is well documented but the level of authority he commands over his opponents is borderline abusive.
Indeed, Marriaga is a solid fighter, a two-time title challenger who welted both of Lomachenko’s eyes and landed hard body shots.
But when the Ukraine native brought to life the brutal reality of their yawning technical abilities the cognitive collapse was the equivalent of watching Chinese water torture.
The 29-year-old perpetually tapped his feet and then his fists in the early rounds before decking the challenger with a left cross in the third session.
As Marriaga rose to his feet, Lomachenko taunted him by pinning himself into the corner, inviting punches only to slip and slide away as the round rang out.
A clash of heads in the fourth saw him cut for the first time since his pro debut but it didn’t slow his oppressive urge to get behind the 30-year-old’s high guard using his otherworldly footwork and precise punches.
By the seventh stanza, Lomachenko was in full flow and after nearly three minutes of punishment, earned another knockdown with a swinging left hand to close the round.
No knockout followed but the tortuous exercise was complete and Lomachenko had the answer he needed as Marriaga’s corner said “no mas”.
The question now is who’s next?
“For me it doesn’t matter,” Lomachenko said post-fight. “I will fight anybody. I want to fight, and I want to unify titles. [If I fight Guillermo] Rigondeaux I think it looks the same as [the fight with Marriaga].
“It is not my job [to find opponents]. My job is to work my best boxing in the ring.”
Right now his boxing is among the best in the world, although Teddy Atlas, who was commentating ringside for ESPN, zealously claiming he’s No1 pound-for-pound is still slightly premature.
It’s hard not to get carried away with Lomachenko as he sweeps fans and fighters off their feet but No1 on the planet he is not – not yet anyway.
His record is an impressive one, a world title in his third pro fight, a two-weight champion in just his seventh and an absurd 396-1 amateur record.
What blocks his path to the No1 zenith is the level of victims when compared to the widely recognised P4P supremo Andre Ward.
Gary Russell Jr and Nicholas Walters remain the only fringe elite-level scalps on his resume but a clash with the supremely gifted 122lbs king Rigondeaux could offer the opportunity to plug that hole.
“I think there’s a few guys. There’s Rigondeaux if he answers Dino’s call,” said Lomachenko’s Top Rank promoter Bob Arum as he explained that he and Dino Duva of Rigondeaux’s promoter Roc Nation Sports had “sort of agreed on a number [of dollars] but the kid won’t get on the phone with Dino”.
“There’s [Orlando] Salido and there’s [Miguel] Berchelt, who has a world title. We’ll get guys in with Lomachenko. You just have to pay them.”
More often than not, though, his opponents end up paying for it in the ring.
Everything about Wladimir Klitschko’s retirement from boxing feels right. The timing, the circumstances and the dignity with which it has been conducted are befitting of a man who will go on to take his proud and rightful place in the Hall of the Fame.
Having drifted beyond his peak years and following consecutive losses to younger men, one more roll of the dice would have been unwise. And while history has shown us that fighters seldom possess a capacity for the sincere and honest introspection required to resist that temptation – Klitschko is not your average boxer.
Indeed, in the murky world of prizefighting, with its many shady practices, macabre tales and troubled souls, he has been the personification of all that is good about the fight game.
An authentic sportsman among the unscrupulous capitalists, a voice of reason rising above the chorus of trash talk, a champion who respected his lofty position at the head of the sport and, more than anything, a role model who valued the heritage of the belts he carried and the responsibilities which came with them.
He had compelling reasons to carry on. A mammoth payday was on offer for a rematch with Anthony Joshua in Las Vegas this November, and with it another chance to become a three-time heavyweight king like his idol, Muhammad Ali.
In April, the 41-year-old was just one solid right hand away from beating Joshua, as the English fighter desperately clung on after taking a prolonged beating in the fifth round and was then floored for the first time in his career in the sixth.
Klitschko’s reluctance to go all out for the stoppage ultimately cost him as his 27-year-old opponent steadied the ship and delivered his own brutal finish in the 11th.
Four months later, the Ukrainian magnanimously accepts the torch was passed that night at Wembley. And despite having stood on the brink of victory in those thrilling middle rounds, he doesn’t need a rematch to assuage any nagging sense of what might have been.
Victory in London would have enhanced his already illustrious resume, but in the bravery of his defeat and the honesty of his effort, he won the wider public over in a way that he had previously failed to do so. He was raucously cheered from the ring as people’s respect gave way to a deep reverence.
For all of his accomplishments, that intangible accolade was perhaps the one thing he craved the most, and is surely now a contributing factor as to why he no longer feels the hunger to carry on.
The consensus is that Klitschko sits alongside the greats, but just outside of the all-time elite heavyweights. Yet back in 2005, few would have predicted he’d carve out such a rich legacy after he suffered crushing losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.
But with his career seemingly in ruins, he enlisted the help of the late Kronk trainer Manny Steward to steer him back to the top. It began one of the great modern fighter/trainer relationships and together they devised a style which accentuated his strengths and cloaked his frailties.
The result is a body of work which includes a record 29 heavyweight title fights, victories over 10 current or former world champions and the second longest title reign ever, behind Joe Louis.
The technical adjustments he used to salvage his career and a questionable level of opposition drew frequent and often unfair criticism, but in a 22-fight winning streak which lasted 11 years, he cleaned out the heavyweight division. It’s a feat that commands immense respect.
Ironically, the acclaim he surely always deserved arrived in defeat. The warmth that followed his stunning effort at Wembley was perhaps all that was missing. There is simply no reason to carry on, nothing left to prove.
Along with elder sibling Vitali, the younger Klitschko ruled the heavyweight division for an entire generation and only a select few in boxing’s rich and colorful history can say the same.
Wladimir Klitschko has announced his immediate retirement from boxing.
The 41-year-old former world heavyweight champion had been considering a lucrative rematch with Anthony Joshua but instead will bow out on April’s dramatic defeat by the IBF and WBA champion.
Joshua is likely to instead fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, of Bulgaria, while Klitschko ensures his legacy remains in tact as one of the finest heavyweights in history.
Klitschko said: “I deliberately took a few weeks to make my decision, to make sure I had enough distance from the fight at Wembley Stadium.
“As an amateur and a professional boxer, I have achieved everything I dreamed of, and now I want to start my second career after sports.”
After an unbeaten run that lasted 11 years, Klitschko lost his final two fights, conceding his IBF, WBA and WBO titles when being outpointed by Tyson Fury, while he was stopped by Joshua in the 11th round at Wembley.
Even in the second of those defeats, the Ukrainian recovered from a fifth-round knockdown to heavily drop Joshua for the first time in his professional career.
That final fight – he has chosen not to exercise his rematch clause – was widely considered the most entertaining at heavyweight since the glamour era of the 1990s, and was also perhaps the biggest since Lennox Lewis overcame Mike Tyson in 2002.
Speaking immediately after the Joshua defeat, Klitschko said he would consider his future and that the only fight that could tempt him to continue would be a rematch with the 27-year-old Briton.
In the build-up to April’s fight his trainer Johnathon Banks also said that if he felt his fighter was no longer able to perform at the level he long had, he would encourage him to retire.
Wow! So many people interested in my statement. Server broke down. So look here…https://t.co/iZnjFtxHeT— Klitschko (@Klitschko) August 3, 2017
Joshua’s promoters Matchroom had the necessary logistics in place for a November 11 date at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, but despite him impressing at Wembley Klitschko has left “the best choice of profession” before a significant decline.
“I would have never imagined that I would have such a long and incredibly successful boxing career,” he continued in his statement.
“I’m very thankful for this. Thanks to everyone who has always supported me. Especially my family, my team and my many fans.
“It was the best choice of a profession I could have made.
“At some point in our lives, we need to or just want to switch our careers and get ourselves ready for the next chapter. Now it’s my turn.”
While at his peak, around the time of his one-sided, 2011 victory over David Haye, Klitschko held three of the four world heavyweight titles, at a time when his older brother Vitali was the WBC champion.
He also worked with the late Manny Steward, then widely considered the world’s finest trainer, and lost only five of 69 fights.