“Yo, can I get a encore? Do you want more? Cooking raw with the Brooklyn boy so for one last time I need y'all to roar. What the Hell are you waiting for?”
—Jay-Z, from “Encore” at Madison Square Garden during the epic Fade to Black
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“You are appreciated.” On this day, Mother's Day, the immortal voice of Tupac Shakur reigns supreme for bearers of life all around the world ????????. Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1, 9KOs), the brilliant new WBA lightweight world champion and defending pound-for-pound king, displayed a dark majesty rare enough to earn an encore in the world's most famous arena.
With a thunderous left hook to the body punctuating an assault on the proud Jorge Linares (44-4, 27KOs), Loma's greatest hit halted his reign at 2:08 of the 10th round in an instant classic. What a magical and radiant night for Madison Square Garden and boxing lore, as Top Rank and ESPN put a death nail in PPV with a free TV extravaganza sure to reignite hot water cooler talk all over the planet. This– was the “sweet science” at its finest.
It wasn't Ali V Frazier I at “Da Gahden”(that would be Vasyl Lomachenko V Mikey Garcia… Bob Arum use all of your powers), but was at least Ali V Norton I, only with Ali coming back to “body” Norton for the FOTY in May. Can you imagine Floyd Mayweather V Manny Pacquiao inside of MSG for the most vindictive $100 PPV of all-time and then hearing Sinatra crooning, “…start spreading the news,”? Me either. True pageantry and spectacle is built on word of mouth with promise, not a mouth full of broken words. Linares V Lomachenko was a full color ode to an era of black n white, and it would be an error to go back to things for mere green again.
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There are those who still don't really believe Vasyl Lomachenko is anything special, but your beliefs don't really matter in boxing or in life, for you're either a force of nature or ultimately “Made in China”. There's nothing artificial about Vasyl Lomachenko, as it is important to understand that what you witnessed LIVE or in your living room from Madison Square Garden was Art Official.
To that end, there's not much that seperates belief from arrogance quite like being punched in the face and knocked on your ass, for it can make one instantly rearrange pride and prejudice. For fighters of hubris, it is a primal caveat; the greats will adapt and adjust, the good will ponder and wonder.
The legends will rise after the fall.
Lomachenko ran the gamut in this regard, after willing himself through the gauntlet of Linares with a courage and humility we didn't know he had. Now, we know why he swims through Hell in freezing water and holds his breath.
This was an iteration of an IV-free and Venezuelan Oscar De La Hoya V Manny Pacquiao draped in the flag of Ukraine content to walk Oscar down. Only this “Pac-Man” could gobble himself into “The Matrix” and turn a “Golden Boy” into a copper coin. There is no way the prime Pacquiao that forced an old De La Hoya to submit, would've had a gargantuan Bernard Hopkins' left hook in him to “body” a younger De La Hoya. For that, Vasyl Lomachenko deserves an Oscar for starring in “Whoa.”
Someone else who deserves one of Lifetime Achievement is the aforementioned Arum, arguably the greatest promoter in the history of sports, who acknowledged that Todd DuBeof and Top Rank received a call from Mayweather with interest in a bout between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Loma recently. Having taught Tank all that he knows, there is mounting evidence emanating from social media and large circles in boxing of a seismic rift between “Money” and Tank, one where Mayweather wants to see his prized pupil turned malcontent blown up by the fight game's Art of War.
Tank is not a man– yet, and if he keeps hanging out with Adrien Broner at Valero gas stations extolling the virtues of “Thug Life” with choppers and techs full of air holes, he'll be remembered as an airhead that never became a man. For as much as he's accomplished at a young age, his career deserves more – as does he; he'll have to prove worthy of Loma V Tank. As of now… he's not.
But Mikey Garcia is worthy, and would push Loma into a time vault of June 1980, where the great Roberto Duran vanquished a vain Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal. That is the only fight worthy of an encore in the Big Apple at the “Big House,” befitting of boxing tradition and purists from every nation. Perhaps even Colin Cowherd, who told some of us that “boxing was dead,” felt alive last night because of a sport that belongs to all of us.
As Kendrick Lamar and SZA sizzle over The Garden's sound system with a fitting parting song “All the Stars”…
…I'm reminded of my friend Brad and his other half that I've finally gotten a chance to meet.
As I'm making my way to the post fight presser, I'm seeing the joy on Garden employee faces and reflecting on how he once said that we're in an abusive, one-sided relationship with boxing that won't end. But then again, Linares V Lomachenko is the reason we keep coming back, with [the belief] that they'll make us feel special by trying to kill each other.
Irony is cruel.
Linares is not only present, but as classy as Lomachenko is now humbled. Facial recognition cameras record “The Matrix” as defeated by the honor of victory, as two sportsmen put aside national boundaries and bonded in respect. Maybe they get it from their mothers.