Vasyl Lomachenko vs Anthony Crolla: Brit too brave for his own good in brutal and callous mismatch

Poor Anthony Crolla’s face was flattened on the canvas in a round he should never have been in and a fight that was conjured up by a circle of men each desperate to avoid blame for the fixture.

At the Staples Centre in downtown Los Angeles late on Friday night, Crolla walked out smiling to fight Vasyl Lomachenko for two versions of the world lightweight title; nine minutes and 58 seconds later, after landing a jab and one solitary body shot, Crolla went down and out in round four. Crolla does not need to offer any excuses for the slow boxing execution and as expected he stood proud until the short right to his temple, a deliberate and intentional incapacitating punch, dropped him.

At the end of round three, the referee, Jack Reiss, prolonged the mismatch by giving Crolla a standing eight count when he reasoned that had the Manchester boxer not been against the ropes, he would have gone down. Reiss is the man, praised after the fight, who allowed Tyson Fury the time to stir from slumber in round twelve of his world title fight in the same ring against Deontay Wilder last December; Reiss was a genius then, this time he was wrong.

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Crolla heard the bell at the end of the third and just about made it back to the corner.

At that point, after three completed rounds, Crolla had moved his feet, tried to con Lomachenko, thought about letting his hands go, but at every turn, after every tiny grin, Lomachenko had adjusted his dancing feet and landed with a punch from one of his glittering fists. It was the fight I expected, perhaps the easiest fight to predict, and one the WBA, a sanctioning body originally from Venezuela, insisted on happening after another fighter injured his hand.


Vasyl Lomachenko vs Anthony Crolla





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Make no mistake, people lobbied for this fight and that, under boxing’s loose code of conduct where morals are rare, is acceptable. It’s the brutal game, mismatches are part of our tainted fabric.

And it was at that bloody ruthless point after three rounds, a few lingering and disturbing moments after the bell to end round three, as a starry-eyed Crolla teetered back to his corner, that all of boxing’s most callous tendencies and the sing-song denials of the complicit were in plain sight for the world to view. And that includes me. Lomachenko is considered the finest boxer in the world right now and his fights do not slide under radars. 

Crolla was, as we knew, too brave for his own good and hopefully there will not be another mismatch like this in British boxing this year. The pathetic and worn-out lines about opportunity or ‘life-changing money’ or some other drivel should never drive a fighter to have a night like Crolla did in Los Angeles.

In my preview I wrote that he would not quit like others had in fights with Lomachenko and he never quit, but I wish I had been wrong and that Joe Gallagher, his devoted trainer, had yanked him out at the end of three rounds. Gallagher, a decent man, will go over that decision for a long time and I will probably lose a friend for even suggesting it.

Crolla went out for a fourth round, had nothing left but heart and Lomachenko dropped him. It really was that simple in the end. Lomachenko has major opportunities in big fights, but his body after 20 years in the sport is hitting back. He had shoulder surgery last year and damaged his right hand on Friday night; perhaps time will be his enemy.

It has been 13 long and often difficult years for Crolla as a professional, a survivor from a fading circuit, British champion, real world champion, hero away from the ring and a nice man. He leaves Los Angeles with his blood money and hopefully he can work on his retirement speech on the plane. He has been a class act, a pleasure to cover.

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