A super-exciting matchup we’d waited for forever turned into a mismatch followed by a quit job of epic proportions on HBO Saturday night, as Vasyl Lomachenko outclassed a toilet paper-soft Nicholas Walters to force Walters to give an actual “no mas.”
This was honestly one of the best couple pairings that could be made in 2016, so the puss-out from Walters stands up as one of the worst in boxing history. It ruins what was turning into a masterclass from Lomachenko, in a fight where Walters showed flashes of being able to compete.
The first three rounds were tight. Most scored it 3-0 for Lomachenko, but this writer had it 2-1 for Lomachenko, giving him the 2nd. Some saw the 3rd for Walters, too. Lomachenko was moving brilliantly, pumping his jab and eventually working in hard left hands and combinations. But the 4th, though, Walters seemed to be getting hurt.
It’s worth noting — as we did beforehand — that Walters, for all his power and top-notch wins, has not beaten anyone of significance at 130 pounds. Despite that apparent disadvantage, Walters still recovered in the 5th to box smartly, and HBO and CompuBox were both ignoring quality work from Walters with his jab and body shots.
Yet Walters quit in the 7th. It was baffling. There were rumors Walters didn’t take his training seriously. But Walters was never in serious trouble. He was competing, albeit losing. He was in no danger by any standard.
This blog has made a habit of devoting itself to boxing safety; it’s an inherently unsafe sport, but it’s a sport that can be made as safe as possible. I’ve never criticized a fighter severely for quitting, for the first time in his career, when his corner or the referee or the doctor or excessively brave on his behalf. It’s another thing if you quit repeatedly — it says you maybe shouldn’t be a boxer. But if you never quit, and then do for the first time, you might be in company with great boxing warriors (Israel Vazquez, Vitali Klitschko, Roberto Duran).
Walters was a pussy Saturday, pure and simple, unless we learn somehow that he came in with a nasty undisclosed injury or a freaking disease. To be clear, boxing is a sport that takes more bravery than most people can comprehend to participate in, so we’re judging him by the standard of the sport at its highest level.
It robs us of appreciating how excellent Lomachenko is. To be clear, this was pure boxing. This wasn’t about power. Guys who hate “boxing technicians” love Lomachenko, still, which might be about weird favoritism toward Top Rank, because somehow boxing fans get pompoms out for specific promoters. Or maybe it’s racial. Who knows.
Lomachenko said afterward that his goal is to become the best boxer in the world, pound-for-pound. We always hear from defenders of alphabet titles that they “matter” because boxers care about them. Those same people say they hate the idea of p4p, even though many a top boxer has said he wants to be considered no. 1 p4p. Whatever. Newsflash: Boxing writing is loaded up with hypocrites and idiots incapable of clear thinking.
Lomachenko said he wants Francisco Vargas next. It’s a wonderful fight. It’s probably a one-sided one, too. A rematch with Orlando Salido, coming off a loss to Vargas, seems more likely. Either will do. And we know, from what we’ve seen of Vargas and Salido in their careers, that neither will throw in the towel when it’s easy to do so.