Vasyl Lomachenko showcased himself Saturday in a rare performance off pay TV, dominating Miguel Marriaga on ESPN before stopping his outclassed showcase-friendly opponent.
Lomachenko is technically brilliant, so you can substitute most names for Marriaga and it would still be an outclassing. And Marriaga had his moments, especially early, bruising Lomachenko’s right eye and doing some mean body work on occasion.
But there was little mystery besides — even if Loma outclasses folk like this all the time, Marriaga has already lost to two inferior fighters. So, this was a showcase.
Lomachenko did have a bit of trouble with Marriaga’s defense. He also had some trouble with a head butt that opened a 4th round cut. But he knocked Marriaga down in the 3rd round with a left hand that was aided by a foot stomp. He did it after Marriaga pissed him off somehow — a head butt, he seemed to signal? — followed by a bit of showboating, where he danced and invited Marriaga into a corner.
Loma continued to toy with Marriaga, who appeared to irritate him as he began to cover and pivot his upper body like he was a G.I. Joe toy in the hands a spastic child. In response, Lomachenko patted his head condescendingly.
By the 6th, fed up with this shit, Lomachenko unleashed the full arsenal against Marriaga (including some much needed body work), who was really just trying to survive. In the 7th, Lomachenko scored a late knockdown with a looping left hand.
That was it for Marriaga’s corner, which appropriately called it quits for their man.
So what purpose did this serve?
Lomachenko is a remarkable boxer, and the idea of getting him before a wider audience is a good one. I guess they wanted to play it safe with the opponent, while still putting him in versus one who could put on a credible show.
The constant shifting around of the programming from ESPN to ESPN2 and back probably won’t help with audience numbers, though, nor will getting him on well after midnight on a Friday.
Lomachenko’s in a weird place in that he commands a nice purse, but opponents probably don’t want to get embarrassed by him. He moved up from 126 lbs. to 130 lbs. in search of perhaps better competition, but his promoter doesn’t want to put him in against Mikey Garcia at 135 saying he’s not a big enough star. There’s some bad blood there between Top Rank and Garcia, given their long court fight, but another ideal opponent, featherweight king Guillermo Rigondeaux, is in a similar position — bad blood with Top Rank, and with far less star wattage than Garcia besides.
Gervonta Davis would be a good match-up, too, but we’re dealing with yet more promotional political nonsense there, too.
Lomachenko, despite having so few fights, is more than ready for a career-defining bout against one of those men, or perhaps one I can’t imagine right now. You gotta hope this helps him get it, somehow.
(LOS ANGELES — Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine reacts after defeating Miguel Marriaga of Columbia by TKO in the 7th round during their junior lightweight fight at the Microsoft Theater; Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)