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LEGEND has it that in the pubs of Leith, Edinburgh, Ken Buchanan has been known to greet well-wishers with a handshake and proclamation: “Shake the hand of the man who shook the hand of Duran” — in reference to Roberto Duran, with whom the Scottish lightweight legend famously shared a ring at Madison Square Garden in 1971).
Manchester’s Anthony Crolla now has claim to being afforded the right to greet well-wishers in like manner, after going down to a crushing one-sided defeat against the otherworldly talent that is Ukraine’s Vasily Lomachenko at the Staple Centre in Los Angeles last weekend.
For make no mistake, the Ukrainian unified lightweight champion is the closest thing to The Terminator professional boxing has witnessed since Roberto Duran’s halcyon days, combining fierce power, preternatural timing and balance, and footwork that belongs to mankind’s evolutionary future rather than present.
In other words Lomachenko is that good, is so complete, that even in second gear, the gear he remained at over the four rounds in which he dismantled Anthony Crolla, he is the closest thing to impregnable you will find in human form.
It is for this reason that when the Mancunian and former WBA champion was announced as Lomachenko’s next opponent back in February, it instantly pitted the pessimism of the intellect against the optimism of the will. The fight was a mismatch on paper — reflected in the fact that the bookies had Crolla at 100-1 going in — and sadly so it proved in the ring.
Surely, though, no-one would begrudge Crolla’s right to have tried to achieve the impossible and receive a significant payday for daring to do so.
By common consensus the former world champion is one of the good guys in boxing, a gentleman who never turns down a request for a selfie or an autograph from a fan; whose respect for his opponents throughout his career has been a refreshing rejoinder to the antics and histrionics that have sadly come to be associated with pre-fight build-ups.
But no matter, the squared circle is a place where talent and ability not manners and decency determines the fate of those who dare to dream of the greatness it bestows. It is a place with the glory of victory walks alongside the cruelty of defeat.
Most are fortunate if they experience the former and most certainly endure the latter.
Crolla now has a decision to make. After his brutal one-sided defeat to the Ukrainian, he admitted that this might now be the end. If so, there is no shame on going out on the back of a defeat to Lomachenko.
It would, however, be a shame if he went on too long, determined to salvage the glory days and risking his health in the attempt.
If I were he, I would err on the side of caution. Because long after the roar and adulation of the crowd has passed, a fighter has to deal with the consequence of “just one more fight” when “just one less” would have made all the difference.
As for Loma, what Julius Caesar would have given for the kind of domination the Ukrainian currently enjoys in his chosen profession. He likes the idea of going up against another Brit next time out in the shape of Luke Campbell, the current number one mandatory challenger for Mikey Garcia’s WBC belt.
There is talk of Garcia vacating and remaining at welterweight, where he recently went down to defeat against Errol Spence, instead of coming back down to defend against the 31-year-old from Hull.
If so, it sets up the juicy prospect of Loma slugging out with Campbell for the last belt the Ukrainian needs to make him undisputed king of the lightweight division.
Campbell will have other ideas, of course, but not to put too fine a point on it, in his shoes I would be seriously contemplating a career in darts right now.
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