NEW YORK – Jorge Linares did just about everything right in attempting to defend his WBA lightweight title against Vasiliy Lomachenko on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
He fired off crisp combinations. He dropped Lomachenko with a straight right to the head. He fought like a star.
And still, he was finished by the great Ukrainian, who caught him with a wicked left to the body and stopped him at 2:08 of the 10th round of a close fight.
“I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father told me, ‘You need to go to the body,’ ” Lomachenko said.
The cards were close, with Lomachenko up two on one, down two on another and the third one tied. It was that kind of a match, in which each guy had his moments and each showed his class. Yahoo Sports had it 85-85 after nine.
But Lomachenko’s speed and power proved to be too much. He started a five-punch combination that would end the fight with an uppercut, but it was a blistering left to the body that dumped Linares onto the floor.
He gamely pulled himself up, but was wobbly as he arose and referee Ricky Gonzalez waved it off. That made Lomachenko the lightweight champion and gave him a title in a third weight class in just his 12th professional fight.
It was a brilliant display of boxing from both men, but Lomachenko’s speed took over the fight as it wore on. He fought at mid-distance where he was comfortable and was landing fast shots that swelled Linares’ left eye nearly closed by the middle of the fight.
After Linares took the first, Lomachenko adjusted and was just getting comfortable when Linares reminded him that he was in a real fight. As they were battling in the center of the ring with about 30 seconds to go in the sixth, Linares fired a straight counter right that busted Lomachenko in the nose.
Lomachenko went down, appearing to startle the crowd, and the complexion of the fight seemed about to change.
But Lomachenko got himself together quickly and showed his class by boxing smartly the rest of the way. He was never in danger after the knockdown, though he was never home-free, either.
The crowd was fully engaged as the men tore at each other with hard, punishing shots until Lomachenko landed the body shot that ended the fight and gave him his eighth consecutive knockout.
Promoter Bob Arum said after the fight Lomachenko will return to action Aug. 25 at the Forum in Los Angeles.
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