LOS ANGELES — Pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko was a massive favorite to retain his unified lightweight world title against mandatory challenger Anthony Crolla, and he did just that in the expected dominating fashion on Friday at Staples Center.
Lomachenko knocked Crolla out face first with a right hand in the fourth round in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card before 10,101, on the anniversary of the streaming service’s launch.
Lomachenko was as dominant as ever as he retained his title for the second time against Crolla, a former titleholder who was completely outclassed.
It was a fight that Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) didn’t really want and only took because it was against a mandatory challenger.
Lomachenko, the brilliant two-time Olympic gold medalist, had unified two 135-pound belts with a one-sided decision over Jose Pedraza in a December fight in which he dropped Pedraza twice in the 11th round to punctuate the victory. Lomachenko expected to further unify the division by facing fellow beltholder Richard Commey (28-2, 25 KOs) on Friday night.
Top Rank had in place a deal for the winner of the vacant world title fight between Commey and Isa Chaniev on Feb. 2 to face Lomachenko next. However, when Commey won the title by drilling Chaniev in the second round he injured his right hand, putting him on the shelf for several weeks and making him unavailable to face Lomachenko on Friday.
That turn of events dropped the bout in Crolla’s lap, although Lomachenko likely will face Commey, who was cleared to return to training last week, later in the year.
Lomachenko, a 31-year-old southpaw from Ukraine, began the fight like he always does, methodically stalking his opponent and looking for any opening. He eventually began to find them against Crolla, landing his right jab and a few body shots. Crolla (34-7-3, 13 KOs), 32, of England, meanwhile, barely threw any punches and continually backed up against the slicker Lomachenko.
Lomachenko began to let his combinations flow in the second round and slipped in an uppercut that rocked Crolla’s head back in a dominant round.
Lomachenko had a huge third round. He was landing everything from all angles like it was target practice. Straight left hands and body shots were doing damage. Crolla was in tremendous trouble and eating punches along the ropes when one shot knocked him hard into the ropes.
Referee Jack Reiss called a knockdown because the ropes were responsible for keeping Crolla on his feet but Lomachenko, the crowd and some of the California State Athletic Commission officials thought he had waved the fight off. He had not.
Lomachenko had climbed the ring post to celebrate the victory and had to get down and collect himself. The ring was cleared and the fight resumed but moments later the bell rang to end the round.
When the fourth round began, Lomachenko pointed to Crolla across the ring and asked him if he was OK, and then proceeded to continue taking him apart.
He was landing punches at will and then forced Crolla toward the ropes. He threw a left hand and followed with a clean right hook to the side of the head that crumpled Crolla. He went down face first. Reiss began the count but quickly waved it off at three, giving Lomachenko a dominating victory at 58 seconds.