It was one of the most anticipated matches of the year, ostensibly a battle between two of the very best in the sport. Vasyl Lomachenko is a gifted and extraordinarily skilled pugilist. Nicholas Walters is a fearless warrior and huge puncher. Or so we thought. Both men were looking for challenges and opportunities and a chance to assert themselves as the best of the best. They found that chance in each other and so who could blame an eager fight fan for thinking this was a recipe for a great fight, an exciting battle between two warriors on a quest for glory. Alas, no one can blame that earnest “boxinghead,” but he was wrong. Dead wrong.
No one was surprised to see the quicker and more mobile Lomachenko, aka “Hi-Tech,” break out to an early lead, as he out-punched Walters by a considerable margin and otherwise took control of the match. Even those who picked “Axe Man” to dethrone the Ukrainian champion anticipated Lomachenko winning the early rounds courtesy of his greater speed, activity rate and superior athleticism.
However, it wasn’t as if Walters just stood there and watched Lomachenko put on a clinic. The challenger kept throwing shots, his body punches connecting with some regularity. In round six the challenger struck with a few heavy left hands to the body and naturally everyone looked forward to what the challenger might instigate once the champion began to tire a bit and slow his pace. Alas, such hopeful thoughts proved themselves completely illusory. After round seven, a round which saw the Jamaican staggered as he took some solid and hurtful blows, Walters told the referee he did not wish to continue. The contest was immediately stopped and Lomachenko retained his title.
Lomachenko told HBO’s Max Kellerman that it was an easy win. “I really enjoyed that,” said the champion. “He said he would do this and that in the build up, but what did he really do ? He’s a good fighter, really strong, but he stood there and made it easy for me.”
There is no way to sugar-coat things. Walters turned in a pathetic performance and it is the hope here he is fined by the athletic commission. Everyone knew that his prime chance to win lay in the late rounds when the strong and powerful challenger might have started reaching a tiring champion with some hurtful shots. Instead of giving himself that opportunity, Walters quit. He wasn’t cut; he hadn’t been knocked down, yet he meekly surrendered. In so doing he deprived boxing fans of a competitive match and he deprived himself of a legitimate opportunity to attain greater success.
Ideally, this should have been either an exciting, competitive battle that made fight fans look forward to a rematch, or a major step forward for Lomachenko as he overcame Walters’ late charge to clearly establish his superiority with a dominant win. Instead we got the worst possible outcome: one of the two men clearly was not prepared to give their all and compete for the victory. Walters now falls a long way down everyone’s rankings, while Lomachenko looks more and more like a future all-time great. Meanwhile fight fans have to wait to see if anyone can truly test “Hi-Tech.” Given his combination of speed, movement, ruthlessness and intelligence, it’s possible we may be waiting a long time indeed. — Robert Portis