The Ukrainian became the fastest fighter ever to claim titles in three different weight classes after recovering from a sixth-round flooring to suck the soul from the now-deposed WBA lightweight champ Linares with a vicious liver shot.
If ‘High-Tec’s’ status as the pound-for-pound king was ever in question before Saturday night’s bout at New York’s Madison Square Garden, there can be no doubt after this performance, a marriage of pure skill and raw will.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist is fast beginning to transcend boxing, no longer should the debate centre on his sovereignty atop the sweet science but instead the topic of discussion should be on his standing across all of sport.
He is that good. It is not promotional hyperbole, as Bob Arum can often be accused of, when the Top Rank head honcho ponders Lomachenko’s place among the all-time greats.
There is no other fighter on this planet right now with his silk-and-savage skillset, a beautiful combination of athleticism and technique with the mental gifts of heart and IQ.
It is absurd that in his 12th professional fight he adds a third belt in as many divisions. To put the feat into perspective, generational geniuses Oscar De La Hoya (22), Floyd Mayweather (34) and Manny Pacquiao (41) all took significantly longer to match the mark.
His resume can scarcely be believed. An amateur record of 396-1, a two-time World Amateur Champion, a two-time Olympic Champion, a first world title in his third pro fight, two-weight champ after seven and now three just five fights on.
And this latest victory was sensational. He faced a world-class champion, who was bigger, more experienced and who in the sixth-stanza had knocked him down for the first time as a pro and first time since 2007.
But he demonstrated a new thread to his bow in getting up, resetting and returning to his relentless output. In the 10th, he found the highlight-finish following a clean eight-punch flurry with a viciously placed hook to the body.
Linares bravely rose to his feet but the Venezuelan was unable to beat the count as referee Ricky Gonzalez waved him off at 2:08.
It’s difficult not to eulogise and celebrate Lomachenko because he is so talented. He is more complete than the self-proclaimed TBE, a fighter as comfortable on the inside as he is on the outside.
Yet, while he bossed an established bigger man, this may be the time for his ascent through the divisions to be halted, at least for now.
Lomachenko’s physique and stature is naturally suited to 126lbs but up at 135lbs, the knockdown proved a period of acclimation and unification should follow.
Not that there are no less exciting contests at lightweight. The vulnerability exposed by Linares, who make no mistake is a beast, should encourage the likes of WBC champ Mikey Garcia in particular who at 135lbs is a huge puncher with a very sharp grasp of the fundamentals.
“It was a great fight. That right hand [that knocked me down], it was a great punch. It happens,” Lomachenko said. “I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father [and trainer Anatoly Lomachenko] told me, ‘You need to go to the body.’
“Linares is a great champion, and the fight was good for the fans and everybody.”
“I thought the fight showed Linares is a helluva fighter, and Loma just stayed in there and knocked him out with a body shot,” Arum said. “He established himself as a great fighter. He has a fighting heart.”
Talk of course immediately turns to what is next for boxing’s most dynamic star but for now, boxing fans should just soak up this performance, one almost at odds with the violence of this sport it was so pretty at times.
Indeed, Loma’s displays belong in a gallery and we should rejoice his canvas is in a squared circle.
While David Haye is considering retirement after he dramatically lost in the fifth round to Tony Bellew on Saturday night, the Liverpudlian’s reputation is at an all-time high.
Here, we explore each fighter’s potential next move.
Aged 37, increasingly injury-prone and following successive defeats to an opponent who was a light-heavyweight while he was at his peak and the WBA heavyweight champion, Haye has run out of options.
In his two pay-per-view fights with Bellew he would have been paid well, but he proved shot, and the damage done to his reputation means he will no longer be able to command the money he would expect to fight on.
Regardless, as his latest defeat demonstrated, he no longer has the reflexes and speed which once made him such a fine fighter, and would have to reinvent his fighting style – which is that of a young man – if he is to stand any chance of succeeding. There looks to be no way back.
The 35-year-old has secured his financial future since achieving his ambitions of fighting at Goodison Park and winning a world title.
His two fights with Haye, at heavyweight, also means he no longer has the title he won at cruiserweight to defend.
Given he is unlikely to achieve anything new, there is no better time for him to retire.
Return to cruiserweight
Bellew’s natural division is thriving because of the World Boxing Super Series and in his absence, the emergence of Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and Russia’s Murat Gassiev – that competition’s finalists – would present significant challenges.
He would also be the underdog against each, and risk undermining his recent successes.
Remain at heavyweight
By his own admission, Bellew is not a natural among the world’s biggest fighters, and has long insisted he only fought Haye because he too was once a cruiserweight.
When asked about the two world heavyweight champions, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, he says they are too big and powerful for him.
The heavyweight division is where he can earn the greatest money, but he would need to be matched very carefully.
Pursue Andre Ward
Bellew mentioned Ward – presently in retirement – as a potential opponent. Ward has won world titles at both super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, so even with his extraordinary skills, he would not prove too big an opponent for Bellew.
If the American could be tempted to return and fight in the UK, Bellew may yet enjoy one last big night.
Provided by Press Association Sport
The former WBA heavyweight champion proved shot beyond doubt when, in their rematch at London’s O2 Arena, he was dropped three times before being stopped in the fifth round.
At 37 Haye’s punch resistance and once fine footwork was gone, and to the extent that he struggled and became desperate from the moment Bellew landed the explosive right hand that changed their fight in the third round.
He had previously recognised he would have no choice but to retire if he again lost to a fighter who was a light-heavyweight when he was a world champion and at his peak, and will struggle to secure the financial opportunities his reputation once demanded.
Under his new trainer Ismael Salas and until the first knockdown he was winning and had improved on the poor performance he had produced when losing last March.
But, of his future, he told talkSPORT: “I’ll have to go back and review exactly what happened then make a decision. It’s never good to make a decision when everything is up in the air.
“Tony boxed better than I did, plain and simple, and the better man won.
“Nobody can say they didn’t get a good night’s entertainment. They definitely got their money’s worth, but the better man won on the night, Tony Bellew, so congratulations to him.”
Bellew, the former WBC cruiserweight champion, was again considered the underdog but is enjoying the finest run of his career.
Despite struggling until the knockdown, the 35-year-old said: “I was waiting for the perfect moment. I’m a clever cat. Not bad for a fat Scouser. I’m a clever man, I have brains, I have skills. I know what I can do.
“Doubt me now. Doubt me now, you fools.
“You all judge me on aesthetically how I look. You all judge me, just because I am a little fat Scouser.”
Bellew had since their first fight suffered the death of his brother-in-law Ashley Roberts, and having also spoken of his desire to fight the great Andre Ward, he said: “(It has been) the most horrible eight months of my life.
“(My wife) is my toughest fight. I said this would be my last one, but I know I have got to keep fighting because I live for nights like this.”
His promoter Eddie Hearn added: “If he retires tomorrow, I would be the happiest man in the world. If he wants to carry on then there’s some great fights for him.
“But I am just so proud of him and everything he has been through, he deserves so much credit. He really is a great man.”