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.