ESPN Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jorge Linares, Carlos Adames vs Alejandro Barrera, and Michael Conlan vs Ibon Larrinaga\
By Kid Hersh
From the mecca of boxing; Madison Square Garden in New York came Tops Rank and Golden Boy Promotions boxing broadcast on ESPN.
First up on the telecast was Michael Conlan (6-0, 5KO's) vs Ibon Larrinaga (10-1, 2KO's). In the first round, Conlan showed a very good defense and patience as Larrinaga circled around the ring and was not looking to engage due to getting countered with hard shots when he did fire punches. Conlan had much faster hands and was catching Larrinaga any time he unloaded, which is why the rounds were very slow: he did not want to engage. Conlan finally got to Larrinaga in the fourth round; buzzing him with a right hand in the final minute of the round. Larrinaga shook it off, however, as he came out still very sharp and defensive minded in the fifth round. The writing seemed to be on the wall for him though, as he was taking heavy shots periodically throughout the rounds and staying upright but yet still getting broken down a small piece at a time. Despite this, he finished the fight upright and never hit the canvas. To me, once again, Conlan showed some flaws early in his career. I think he is going to have to be a very pure boxer and stick to fundamentals to rise to a world-class fighter.
Next up was Carlos Adames (13-0, 11KO's) vs Alejandro Barrera (27-4, 17KO's). In the first round, Adames was stalking Barrera right from the get-go. He was not able to land anything big but it looked like the body shots he was landing were already having a slight effect on Barrera. In the second round, Adames was further breaking down his man with both body and headshots. he also stunned Barrera at the end of the second round, with everyone wondering if Barrera was going to make it to the third. Make to the third is exactly what Barrera did, and he actually had his moments in the third round but you could tell that it seemed like only a matter of time before the heavy-punching tank in front of him caught him with something big. It seemed like Adames' punches were really doing a number on Barrera even if they did not land flush. Adames could not miss with right hands but Barrera is one tough cookie as he was continually taking them and staying upright, while also firing back his own combinations and digging to the body of Adames. Barrera staved off the constant pressure of Adames until the end of the fifth round, where Adames massively stunned Barrera with a heavy right hand that stood him upright. Barrera took a few more flush punches but once again showed his fighting spirit as he flurried back with combinations to hold off Adames, who looked a bit arm weary. As the mid rounds ticked by Barrera was clearly behind on points but the fight took on a feeling that he was starting to gain control, or ring generalship, just a tiny bit. Especially at the end of the seventh round when he flurried combinations to end the round that were hitting the mark on Adames. This pattern continued into the eighth round, with Barrera gaining some momentum as the ring general, just a bit. Barrera was able to trap Adames on the ropes in the eighth round and go to work on him. Although that "work" was not doing real damage to Adames you could see the chink in the armor of the heavy hand pressure fighter because it is never a good thing if the heavily built power puncher is spending time on the ropes. Adames won the unanimous decision but he showed some vulnerabilities. No doubt Barrera came to fight and is a veteran of the sport - one tough dude that put up a helluva fight - but really Adames absolutely cannot be getting backed into the ropes like he was with the style he employs.
Main event time; the bout everyone has been waiting for in Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8KO's) vs Jorge Linares (44-3, 27KO's). In the first round you could see the Lomachenko had the quicker hands, but Linares was doing a pretty good job of keeping Lomachenko just out of range and clinching with him a couple times he found a way in. Lomachenko landed some good head shots but Linares was scoring well to the body. In the second round Linares was having his moments early on with a couple thudding body shots but the Lomachenko took over the round as he was getting into his "matrix" groove where he has a really good rhythm and it seems like no one can play to his tune. He ramped this up in the third round, where he moves laterally around his opponent and toys with them; giving them entirely different looks offensively and defensively to confuse them. Linares was even looking slightly frustrated already at times because he could not get any punches off or find the mark for the most part. This continued into the fourth round, where Lomachenko was now pouring on the punishment and noticeably hurting Linares with some of his flush power shots that he was sitting down on. Linares was getting broken down bit by bit until we got a massive shocker at the end of the sixth round when Lomachenko was put down for the first time in his career by a right hand. He rose and made it through the final twenty seconds of the round but was noticeably buying more time. The seventh round was closely contested but it was Linares who seemed to land just a few cleaner blows than Lomachenko, who may have still been slightly clearing his head from the knockdown. In the eighth round Lomachenko was fully back and in control as the ring general, moving very quickly in and out on Linares and using his fast hands to get off first from unpredictable angles. The ninth round was a very close one, with both men having success in their own respects. Linares, when he lets his hands go with combinations, is doing a very good job hitting Lomachenko more than he has ever been hit before. In the tenth round, Lomachenko was getting going with his offense again and the end of the fight came a little over two minutes into the round when Lomachenko landed a beauty of a left hook to the body and Linares crumpled to the canvas. He beat the count of ten but could not continue as the referee waived off the fight.