Va­syl Lo­machenko de­fends belt, stops Mar­riaga after 7 rounds

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Al­though Va­syl Lo­machenko had bat­tered Miguel Mar­riaga around the ring for 6 1/2 su­perla­tive rounds, the Ukrainian star couldn’t break his Colom­bian op­po­nent’s will un­til he landed a body punch that told him the end was fi­nally near. “I hear his ‘Ugh­h­hhh,’ and then I punch the body (again),” Lo­machenko said with a smile.

Mar­riaga’s cor­ner stopped the bout after seven rounds Satur­day night, and Lo­machenko de­fended his WBO 130-pound ti­tle for the third time in nine months. Lo­machenko (9-1, 7 KOs), the two-time Olympic gold medal­ist, show­cased his vir­tu­osic tech­ni­cal skill and ath­letic prow­ess in an­other one-sided vic­tory. He knocked down Mar­riaga (25-3) in the third round and sys­tem­at­i­cally took con­trol with pre­cise punch­ing and grace­ful foot­work in the en­su­ing rounds.

Lo­machenko floored Mar­riaga again in the wan­ing sec­onds of the sev­enth, and the chal­lenger’s cor­ner had fi­nally seen enough. “It was very hard to open his de­fense,” Lo­machenko said. “He was al­ways look­ing down. I was happy when I fi­nally got it.”

Ray Bel­tran also fought through two cuts to squeak out a ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion over Bryan Vasquez be­fore a lively crowd of 4,102 at the down­town Mi­crosoft The­ater. The main event was an­other show­case for Lo­machenko, whose su­pe­rior abil­i­ties have made him a fa­vorite of knowl­edge­able fight fans ever since his am­a­teur ca­reer. Given a US show­case on ESPN, he put on a show in break­ing down Mar­riaga with skill and vi­o­lence.

Lo­machenko started to land big shots in the sec­ond round, and he sent Mar­riaga sprawl­ing back­ward onto the can­vas with a straight left hand in the third. He also put on a show, back­ing into a neu­tral cor­ner and con­fi­dently beck­on­ing Mar­riaga to­ward him with a flair that re­called his sim­i­lar ges­ture to Rus­sian am­a­teur world cham­pion Al­bert Se­limov in his dy­na­mite first fight at the Bei­jing Olympics.

“Un­like most fight­ers, he re­al­izes that pro­fes­sional box­ing is part sport and part en­ter­tain­ment,” pro­moter Bob Arum said. “He en­ter­tains when he fights, and I think the pub­lic likes it. Who else did it like that? Muham­mad Ali.”

A clash of heads left a cut near Lo­machenko’s left eye in the fourth, but the cham­pion shrugged it off and kept slug­ging. He hurt Mar­riaga no­tice­ably in the fifth and sixth rounds, and Mar­riaga fi­nally couldn’t keep his feet. “For one round, I could just see out of one eye,” Lo­machenko said. “Other than that, I did ev­ery­thing by the plan.”

Lo­machenko be­came the great­est am­a­teur boxer of his gen­er­a­tion with a 396-1 record and gold medal vic­to­ries in Bei­jing and Lon­don. He turned pro in 2013 and rock­eted to the top, win­ning a 126-pound belt in his third fight in 2014. He moved up to 130 pounds in 2016 and im­me­di­ately claimed a ju­nior light­weight ti­tle. After three de­fenses, he could move up to light­weight soon - or he could con­tinue to show off his skills against all com­ers at 130 pounds.

Lo­machenko was fight­ing for only the sec­ond time in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where he has set up train­ing camp since turn­ing pro. He lives and works 90 min­utes west of Los An­ge­les in Ven­tura County, and his wife and chil­dren were at the Mi­crosoft The­ater to watch.

Bel­tran (34-7-1) im­proved his chances to re­main in the US with an­other vic­tory, al­beit in an oc­ca­sion­ally mo­not­o­nous fight. The 140pound con­tender, whose non-im­mi­grant visa is near ex­pi­ra­tion, sur­vived a rough 10th round in which he took sev­eral big shots be­fore the fi­nal bell from Costa Rica’s Vasquez.

“He hurt me a lit­tle,” Bel­tran said. “Be­cause of the cut, I couldn’t see. I was a lit­tle sur­prised the judges had the fight so close. I only feel I lost the last round.” US Olympian Mikaela Mayer won her pro­fes­sional de­but on the un­der­card, stop­ping Wid­nelly Figueroa in 75 sec­onds.

—AFP

LOS AN­GE­LES: Va­syl Lo­machenko of Ukraine re­acts after de­feat­ing Miguel Mar­riaga of Columbia by TKO in the sev­enth round dur­ing their WBO World Championship Ju­nior Light­weight ti­tle fight at the Mi­crosoft The­ater on Satur­day in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia.

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