The version of Vasiliy Lomachenko who picked a game Richard Commey apart Saturday night was a completely different fighter than the world saw lose to Tefimo Lopez, Jr. In other words, the old Lomachenko is back.
Lomachenko scored a knockdown in the seventh round and took command of the fight from start to finish, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-108 X 2 and 117-110 at Madison Square Garden, in New York City.
“I will stay at 135. I want to become undisputed lightweight champion,” said Lomachenko after the fight, put together by Top Rank and screened on ESPN. “In this weight division, we have a lot of great fighters. We can organize a lot of great fights in the future.”
Too slick, too skilled, too strong
Lomachenko of Ukraine (16-2, 11 KOs) made Commey of Ghana (30-4, 27 KOs) look plodding. Lomachenko is constantly in motion, moving his feet, changing angles, showing feints, and slipping out of range despite Commey's reach advantage. This is Lomachenko's ultimate and unique ring genius. He's never where his opponent expects him to be. It's physically draining and mentally bruising to stand in front of Lomachenko, trying to figure out how to hit him without getting hit. Lomachenko is so well-conditioned and strong, he's also willing to wrestle and lean on his opponents to drain them even more.
Commey had some success going to the body of Lomachenko, but he returned fire most effectively with combinations ending in hard lefts to the head.
In round seven, Lomachenko forced Commey back to the ropes with a barrage of short chopping punches, dropping Commey with a left hand. He pointed to Commey's corner, indicating they should consider stopping the fight. Pounding Commey into the ropes on shaky legs, Lomachenko waved again at the corner, telling them to save their fighter. An uppercut wobbled Commey, and with referee Steve Willis hovering, Commey punched back to keep himself in the fight. The proud Ghanaian made it to the bell.
Trainer Andre Rozier asked Commey, “Are you OK? Are you in the fight?” Commey told Rozier yes. Rozier said if he saw Commey getting hurt again like that, he would stop the fight.
“I saw his situation,” explained Lomachenko. “It was very hard for him. That's why I said, ‘hey, stop the fight'. But he's a true warrior. He has heart. We continued, and we showed the people 12 great rounds.”
Commey's trainer Rozier said he warned Commey he would stop the fight but pushed him to stay the course. “Richard is a warrior. Vasiliy is a great champion. When he signaled to stop it, for me to take his pride, his energy, and his diligence away would have been a horrible thing to do. I told him to get it together. As you see, he went the entire 12 rounds in this fight, and he fought his heart out.” Rozier said Commey had moments but gave Lomachenko too many openings.
Commey came out for round eight on steadier feet, but the end was inevitable. Lomachenko peppered Commey and kept him too busy defending himself to land any single hard shot. Lomachenko moved as lightly on his feet as he did at the opening bell.
Lomachennko put the eighth round on cruise control, the only round of the fight Commey won on the scorecards.
Lomachennko remained in complete control of the fight, able to control the tempo and land on Commey as he saw fit and content to ride out the rest of the rounds.
Give Richard Commey credit for refusing to fold where previous opponents called it a night. Commey is too proud and determined to give up, even with any chance of a win faded away.
“He's a little bit quicker. He throws combinations very well, and that makes him special,” said Commey of Lomachenko.
For Commey, so much more rides on his fight than his record. “I fight for my country. I fight for my people. I let them down, but I believe I'm going to come back stronger. I just took my eyes off him, and that's it. It is what it is. He's a great fighter. It's just hard for me to take it. I'm the only one representing (Ghana) now.”
Commey said he would continue his pursuit of a title.
Lightweight belts in Loma's gunsights
Lomachenko is firm about regaining his titles at lightweight. Asked if he would fight currently unified champion George Kambosos Jr., Lomachenko replied. “Yes, of course. Of course. I need this chance. If God gives me this chance, I take it.”
Asked if he would fight Kambosos in Australia, Lomachenko smiled as if to say, ‘is this even a question?'
Anyone who's ever taken even a few of the most basic boxing lessons gets it and is in awe of Loma's skills. They take a lifetime to develop. It's inexplicable why Lomachenko seemed utterly asleep at the switch for the first half of his bout against Teofimo Lopez Jr.; his shoulder injury doesn't begin to explain it. If Lomachenko needed a wake-up call, he answered loud and clear.
It's hard to see Devin Haney or George Kambosos Jr. presenting a challenge to this version of Lomachenko; the Ukrainian is more impressed by Ryan Garcia.
Sign us up for all of the above in 2022.
Undercard results: Early night for Jared Anderson, Keyshawn Johnson, Xander Zayas
Heavy-hitting Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson of Toledo, Ohio (11-0, 12 KOs) spent more time on his Ohio Players big pimpin' ring walk than his fight, scoring a second-round knockout win.
Anderson came out quickly in a southpaw stance in round one. He switched back to orthodox in round two and closed the show in round two against Oleksandr Teslenko of Ukraine (17-2, 13 KOs).
Anderson explained later the southpaw stance was designed to throw Teslenko off. His jab set up a stiff right hand.
Referee Charlie Fitch counted Teslenko out at 1:33.
“I'm here 11-0, co-main event, Madison Square Garden, the best team in boxing,” said Anderson. “Be on standby. There's big business coming.” Is Anderson the next great American heavyweight? “It's still a question, isn't it?” smiled the 26-year-old Anderson.
2020 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis (4-0, 3 KOs) put on a show against Mexican veteran Jose Zaragoza (8-3-1, 2 KOs). He scored his first knockdown with a triple uppercut, then sealed things with a wicked left hook to the body at 2:51 of Round 2.
“Today was a great day, man,” said Davis. “We trained hard for this. Keyshawn Davis got the job done today.”
Davis praised the hard work in camp with trainer Brian McIntyre and sparring with Terence Crawford and Jamel Herring for making the actual fight easy. . “Every time I step in the ring, I have fun. When I'm comfortable, most relaxed, that's when I look the best.”
The ambitious Davis says he wants to be fast-tracked against more difficult opposition. “If that means moving fast, let's go! I promise I will not let you down!”
In two rounds, Davis landed 70% of his power punches.
Engaging junior middleweight prospect Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico (12-0, 9 KOs), made no secret of his desire to be named 2021 “Prospect of the Year,” writing it on his shoes.
Zayas made a good case for himself by blasting out Alessio Mastronunzio of Italy (9-2, 3 KOs) in one round. Zayas scored four knockdowns before referee Charlie Fitch stopped the bout at 2:52 of the round. Zayas fights with composure and patience, especially when you realize he's just 19 years old.
Nico Ali Walsh of Las Vegas (3-0, 2 KOs), grandson of Muhammad Ali (if by chance the dozens of mentions on ESPN got past you), faced down a serious challenge from Reyes Sanchez of Topeka, Kansas (6-1, 2 KOs) but prevailed by majority decision. Scores were 40-36, 39-37, and 38-38. “I learned a ton tonight,” said Ali Walsh. “Obviously, I fought against a very well-matched opponent. He's 6-0. I'm humble for my victory. He saw my right hand. Luckily I saw his as well.”
Ali Walsh acknowledged being fast-tracked due to his famous name. “A lot of guys with three fights don't fight someone like him. But because my career has been fast-tracked due to my name and grandfather, I'm fighting these types of opponents like Reyes Sanchez.”