By Joshua “JDB” Brewer
10 pounds! That’s all that separates us from one of the most compelling match-ups in the last several years. That would-be Terence “Bud” Crawford, 30-0, 21 KO’s Vs Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko, 7-1, 5 KO’s. While 10 pounds isn’t far out of reach in many scenarios, this particular 10 pounds has some extra baggage. Bud Crawford is the reigning champ and man to beat at junior welterweight, 140 pounds. Lomachenko is a champion two fights in at junior lightweight, 130 pounds, and from all indications is most certainly the man to beat at that weight. Given such talent, the intrigue of this match is through the roof. The problem is, unfortunately for us die-hard boxing fans, timing and this 10 pound difference will likely be the major issue that prevents us from being able to see his fight. This puts more emphasis on the phrase time is of the essence.
Lomachenko by virtue of his amateur career is one of the most remarkable stories in boxing and by that same token, though on completely different terms, Crawford’s story is just as remarkable. Lomachenko is a Ukrainian fighter who while as an amateur won not one, but two Olympic Gold medals. This feat is beyond remarkable. What may be even more scintillating is his amateur fight record of 396-1.
Yes, you read that right. In nearly 400 amateur fights he only suffered one loss. On top of that, the greedy son of a gun avenged that lone loss. Even with those facts having been stated, you don’t get a true understanding of how talented the lad is until you actually witness him fight. Please do yourself a favor and don’t just take my word for it. Upon turning pro and joining Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Lomachenko made his intentions clear from the get go. He was only going to sign with the guarantee that he’d be able skip the assembly line and immediately test the finished product. It was title shot within his first couple of fights or bust. Two fights into his pro career on March 1, 2014, he was matched up with a rugged and durable throwback fighter in Orlando “Siri” Salido for his World Boxing Organization (WBO) Featherweight title. If you don’t know who Salido is, ask Juanma Lopez. Anyway, in only his second fight he battled it out with this warrior at a disadvantage.
For starters, Salido came in nearly four pounds overweight and lost his title on the scale. Lomachenko being the gladiator that that he is still proceeded with the fight. Turned out to be a nice gem for us fans. If you know Salido, well, you know that he uses every trick in the book, hence me referring to him as a throwback fighter. The fight contained many rounds of sustained action that allowed for us to witness a true style clash.
Lomachenko is the epitome of finesse. On top of that he is so determined to make a statement that he doesn’t slack a minute of any round. Salido is the perfect example of hard work and attrition. His career started off rocky but as time has passed he’s aged in similar fashion to a fine wine as his best days have come here in the later part of his career. During the fight Salido, being the bigger man by virtue of not making weight, used many veteran, rough-house tactics. Lomachencko took what Salido had to offer and gave it back to him while also overcoming a multitude of low blows that weren’t seen by the ref. Lomachenko ultimately lost via split decision but learned more in this one fight than many fighters during the first few years of their career.
In his next bout on June 22, 2014, Lomachenko took on the highly touted Gary Russell, JR. in what was considered his stiffest test for each fighter. Russell, JR. was highly regarded as a prospect and given his skill the fight was expected to deliver. Lomachenko won the fight via unanimous decision in what turned out to be a fight that while tactical at times, was clearly controlled by Lomachenko. This essentially solidified what had been the thought all along, Lomachenko had arrived.
A few weeks back we were able to witness Lomachenko easily dispatch of Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters in what may have been Lomachencko’s most impressive win to date. Walters was widely considered one of the biggest punchers in boxing and was undefeated to that point. Lomachenko punched with so many angles one would have thought he was giving a geometry lesson. This is a part of the finesse that is Lomachenko. His pivots are bar none and I don’t recall another active boxer who can pivot and turn in and out of punch sequences quite like Lomachenko can at this point.
This is one of the things that makes him stand out. For those who’ve seen many amateur boxing fights, picture the absolute best version of an amateur pedigree being translated into the pros at the highest level and you get Lomachenko. Even this doesn’t do justice in defining his style. As I mentioned earlier in the article, don’t take my word for it and go see for yourself.
Now that I’ve given you the background on Lomachenko, I must divulge into the greatest of Bud Crawford. A few things you need to know about Crawford up front. He won a couple of national championships as an amateur as well as the 2007 Pan American Games at 132 pounds. As an amateur, unlike Lomachenko, Crawford never made an Olympic team. Crawford wasn’t highly regarded in likes of Lomachenko upon turning pro. As a matter of fact, for practically his first 20 or so fights, few boxing fans outside of his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, knew who he was. These are the things that make Crawford very compelling as a boxer when factoring in where he currently stands in the opinions of boxing scribes and fans alike. Fate would have that Crawford took on Breidis Prescott on the televised under-card of Brandon Rios Vs Mike Alvarado II winning a unanimous decision and showing viewers what he was capable of. This is essentially the start of what was has been an incredible run by Crawford.
Two fights later he travels across the pond to Scotland and took WBO Lightweight strap from Ricky Burns. This was Crawford’s big moment and he prevailed. The statement fight and fight that really put him on the map and solidified him as a start was one that took place in his hometown on June 28, 2014, against one of the most electric Cuban fighters of this era, Yuriorkis Gamboa. This fight would be the first defense of Crawford’s WBO Lightweight title. Gamboa is a fighter that who’s best defense is his offense, so this ensured that we were going to witness an exciting fight. Crawford has never been one to back down from an exchange. The early rounds saw Gamboa using his speed to somewhat keep Crawford honest, landing a few good shots that let Crawford know he was in for a fight. Eventually, as with many Gamboa fights, caution was thrown out the window and he pressed with seemingly no regard, or expectation, for what Crawford had to offer. This would ultimately be his downfall as Crawford is a master at making adjustments to seemingly any style. Crawford, a long lightweight, was able to control range and land thunderous shots to the open guard of Gamboa and dropped him in the fifth round. Gamboa, never one to back down, seemingly undeterred kept pressing forward and even at one point landed a shot that hurt Crawford before he was once again dropped in the eighth round.
At this point Crawford had fully adjusted to his style and was booming with confidence which could be seen at the end of each round as he headed back to his corner. The ninth round Crawford close the show in dramatic fashion as he dropped Gamboa twice and forced the referee to step in and call a halt to the fight. The fight, as expected, turned out to be one for the ages and one that helped to win Crawford the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) 2014 Fighter of the Year crown. Crawford had arrived.
Fast forward to May 3, 2016, with Crawford now the number one fighter at Junior Welterweight, Crawford took on Viktor Postol in a unification bout to decide who was the rightful owner of the 140 pound throne. Postol was undefeated and coming off of a statement KO of Lucas Matthysse having broken Matthysse’s orbital bone in the process. In addition, Crawford was also giving up height and reach advantages in this fight. The fight was highly regarded in the boxing community and had a lot of interest in the buildup. The fight started in a tactical manner with each fighter aiming to stand their ground and control with their jabs.
The first few rounds didn’t separate the two much. Then Crawford doing what he does best started to make adjustments. We soon saw Crawford getting the better of the exchanges and then finally broke through with two knockdowns in round five. At this point even Postol realized the greatness of Crawford. The fight played out with Crawford pretty much dominating the remaining rounds as we saw Postol become more and more reluctant to exchange. Crawford won a unanimous decision and showed the world that he is without a doubt one of the top pound for pound fighters.
This past week Crawford took on the game but severely over-matched John John Molina, JR. and secured an 8th round TKO in a fight that was more of a stay-busy fight for Crawford. Had it been up to him I’m sure he would have loved to take on one of the top guys at 140, but who can blame them for not wanting those problems? At this point we’ve realized that Crawford may be too good for his own good and will have to move up in weight to secure more lucrative fights. This is what makes him great. Without the accolades and seemingly out of nowhere, we’ve seen a fighter become one of the top stars in boxing.
These points all the more make the prospect of a Lomachenko Vs Crawford fight even that much more interesting. Should we get this fight, this would be the most intriguing match-up since the prospective of us witnessing Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao when they each were at their peaks. The thought of Crawford adjusting to Lomachenko or Lomachenko frustrating Crawford with his multiple angles and pivots is a boxing fan’s dream. As I mentioned in the opening, 10 pounds is the differences. Lomachenko is currently two fights in at while Crawford just had his fifth fight at 140 and is likely on the verge of moving to Welterweight, 147 pounds, within his next two fights. It’s a matter of timing as Crawford will have likely outgrown 140 by the time Lomachenko moves up to 135. It’s not completely out of the picture at this point but chances are without a doubt slim. Given that, we can only do what the die-hard boxing fans do best and argue over opinions of who we think would have been victorious.Contact the Feature Writers