Super featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko dashed any hope that Nicholas Walters could win a belt in a new division by dismantling and stopping the Jamaican over seven rounds. Walters’ trainer repeatedly told referee Tony Weeks “No mas!” following a difficult, if not quite desperate 7th round for their fighter, who also expressed his desire to bow out, bringing an end to the contest.
Very little separates a quitter from a prudent fighter in a boxing ring. A few punches too many and the result is a panicked ambulance ride and a grim prognosis; too few punches and the result is a hooting crowd and a damaged reputation.
It’s not clear what would have justified an early exit from Walters. Another round or two of embarrassment may have been sufficient, but simply getting bothered by a few shots in round 7 wasn’t enough for most fans in attendance at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas or watching on HBO.
There is no question that Lomachenko, now 7-1 with 5 knockouts, is an extraordinary talent. Rather than be troubled by anything Walters brought, the Ukrainian slowly picked up his pace and varied his attack more and more as the fight wore on.
Following a close opening round that was likely edged by Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist began targeting a southpaw left hand over the top that caught Walters repeatedly at the close of the 2nd round.
From round 3 on, it became increasingly clear that Walters would box with Lomachenko and allow him to work how he pleased. Walters’ strengths — body punching and a hard jab — were taken away completely, and Lomachenko’s deft movement and counter-punching discouraged Walters from taking any chances.
A quick combination in the 7th buzzed Walters and made him hold on. He attempted to fight his way out of being hurt and had brief success, but then Lomachenko’s accuracy had him backpedaling and clinching at the bell.
What seemed like an abrupt decision to pull the plug on the contest actually turned out to be a fully lucid decision by Walters and his corner. Walters, 26-1-1 with 21 knockouts, immediately walked about the ring shrugging before congratulating Lomachenko.
It was a disappointing affair indeed. What was supposed to have been a competitive high level fight wound up a domination followed by a questionable stoppage, and now Walters should see his already-dwindling marketability drop.
Lomachenko did nothing wrong, and may have done everything too right. Like many stylists before him, he sometimes wins so effortlessly that it wins up totally disengaging. But he called out burgeoning badass Francisco Vargas in his post-fight interview, earning himself a dose of good will after a meaningful win.
Rebounding from a loss — even by surrender — isn’t impossible. Nicholas Walters could make a huge comeback and negate this loss entirely. What should be concerning is how altogether comfortable he was with his performance and the result.
Nobody wants to see fighters linger in the ring for too long, risking their health to take punches for no reason. But when there’s no apparent immediate danger, it won’t be easy to convince viewers that it was the correct decision.