The Liver Punch: We Need Another Reckoning

No matter how gifted you are, ultimately you will be judged by your opposition. In fact, the more talent you have, the more people will want you to be tested. There’s a reason that average kids who get B’s are lauded and intelligent kids who do the same are disappointments. People might give you the canard about owing it to yourself, but they just want to see how good you really are.

There is no greatness without a reckoning. Last weekend on HBO Pay-Per-View, we got one between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, but like damn near everything else in life, the conclusion left more argument and disappointment than anything else. The contest itself was everything you hope for in such a confrontation, but lacked the definitive ending so desperately seek.

Tonight, HBO is bringing us another such bout. The supremely talented and skilled Vasyl Lomachenko will meet Nicholas Walters in a junior lightweight fight from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KO) is the subject of more man crushes than I can recall. He’s the amateur dynamo who decided to take on ageless soul stealer Orlando Salido in just his second fight. No matter how many amateur fights you’ve had, that struck me as hubris, to the point that I was wishing for a Siri win by fight time. The fight convinced me that Lomachenko was legit. He handled Salido’s pressure, fouls, and missing weight with calm. He came on down the stretch. That little bastard can fight like hell.

If you don’t believe me, watch any footage of him pantsing Gary Russell, Jr. over 12 rounds or his knockout of Roman Martinez. He’s absolutely beautiful to watch — perfect balance and amazing athleticism matched with an almost clinical dispassion for his foe. This is a guy who needs a fucking challenge.

Nicholas “The Axeman” Walters may or may not be the fighter capable of giving him one. He’s definitely the best available option at the moment. Walters (26-0-1, 21 KO) really only entered our consciousness a couple of years ago by destroying undersized and over-aged Vic Darchinyan, then doing the exact same to still world class (if undersized) Nonito Donaire in his very next fight.

Walters is an terrific puncher with an excellent beard and underrated skills. He’s also tough as nails. He’s not as athletically gifted as Lomachenko, or remotely as skilled, but a big punch and strong will have felled as many gifted stylists as anything but time.

We had to wait a little longer than we wanted for this fight, but I don’t think it will matter. At any point, and at any weight, Lomachenko is still a full level above Walters. But Walters can, and will hurt Lomachenko. Now we get to see if the little Ukrainian can get through that. I think he will, and I think we’ll get to see something just slightly less satisfying than a reckoning. We’ll get to see brilliance be forced to improve on itself in real time.

Pick: Lomachenko by late stoppage