Ringside Report: Ukrainian Invasion A Big Success

OXON HILL, Md. — It’s a tired cliche, but “the more things change, the more they stay the same” was an apt description for the boxing event at the new MGM National Harbor in Maryland on Saturday. Five years ago at the London Olympics three boxers from the Ukrainian team were waving their nation’s flag in celebration after capturing medals. In Maryland on Saturday, three members of that team were again fighting at the same event, and were again celebrating, solidifying their world-class credentials in front of an HBO audience.

Yet while the form of the boxers has remained consistent, much has changed in Ukraine since Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk claimed Olympic medals in 2012. The yellow and blue national flag that they waved on Saturday now carries an added significance. In 2014 Ukraine was plunged into turmoil, becoming a scene of civil unrest resulting in nearly 10,000 deaths to-date. The country has a long and complicated history, resulting in recent conflict driven by swatches of the population that identify as Russian separatists versus nationalists who view Ukraine as a distinct, pro-European entity.

As such, the words and actions of national stars such as Lomachenko, Usyk and Gvozdyk mean a lot in Ukraine. All three note that they are proud Ukrainians, but in press interviews they have been eager to remain neutral and distance themselves from the political situation.

“I try to stay out of it. Too bad a lot of innocent people are dying,” said Lomachenko, who is now based in California. Notably, Usyk, who previously sported a patriotic Ukrainian Cossack haircut – shaved on the sides, with a long lock on top – now has a more generically trimmed coiffure.

Instead of making political statements, they let their fists to do the talking in an effort to create positive headlines for Ukraine and attain some relief from the recurring news of political and financial instability. On Saturday they did just that, cheered on by a capacity crowd of 2,828 comprised mainly of their countrymen that made the fighters feel right at home.

While the three Ukrainian boxers were heavy favorites to win their bouts, tickets sold out in just two days such was the appetite of the fighters’ fans. The crowd was not disappointed as the trio delivered in compelling fashion, roared on by vociferous chants of “U-kray-ina” throughout.

Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Lomachenko, 9-1 (6 KO), was a -2500 (1/25) favorite to successfully defend his WBO version of the world 130-pound title against Jason Sosa, a fighter who only took up boxing at age 20 when Lomachenko had already won his first of two Olympic gold medals. But the Ukrainian fans in attendance didn’t care about the odds, they were here to have a celebration and cheered every deft movement the slick Lomachenko made.

The contest didn’t prove much, with Lomachenko outclassing the game Sosa, 20-2-4 (15 KO) for every minute of the nine rounds it lasted. Even beforehand Lomachenko wasn’t overly enthused by the choice of opponent stating:  “I’m getting very disappointed, because I came to unify titles. I couldn’t do that at 126 (pounds). I move to 130, and it looks like 130, the same thing, People are not fighting. So I will have to move forward.”

Lomachenko hardly broke a sweat as he peppered Sosa with punches from various angles and swiftly evaded his opponent’s seemingly crude offense. As the rounds wore on the punches landed with greater regularity and after nine rounds Sosa’s corner sensibly withdrew their fighter to save him further unnecessary punishment. Lomachenko will likely now pursue a rematch with Orlando Salido in an effort to avenge the sole blemish on his professional record.

In the previous bout Gvozdyk, 13-0 (11 KO), made short work of Yunieski Gonzalez, knocking the Cuban out at 2:55 of the third round. After an energetic and competitive opening couple of rounds, Gvozdyk found a rhythm in the third, measuring his opponent and landing a variety of concussive counter shots. After eating a series of uppercuts, hooks, and right hands, Gonzalez, 18-3 (14) was knocked down in the third and soon felled a second and final time before the bout was waved off.

Earlier, Usyk, 12-0 (10 KO), retained his WBO version of the 200-pound cruiserweight world title with a unanimous points victory over former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter. In a spirited battle, Usyk proved too strong, with a knockdown in the final round punctuating the win and delighting the crowd. However, Hunter, 12-1 (8 KO), was competitive throughout and gave the southpaw Usyk plenty of trouble thanks to a sharp jab. Even after he was badly hurt from a relentless barrage in the twelfth round, Hunter hung tough, gamely swinging back until the final bell. All three judges scored the contest 117-110.

The trio of Ukrainian victories also highlighted the changing landscape in the professional boxing scene. The fact that three Ukrainian fighters were the A-side names in an HBO event on U.S. soil is further evidence of the rising pugilistic power of nations from the former Soviet Union. But for now the professional game remains a nascent entity in Ukraine and the big money remains in the United States.

While the three Ukrainians may ply their trade abroad, their hearts remain at home. And given their profile, that results in extra responsibility during the current climate. But an increased awareness of boxing during troubled times is nothing new. From Joe Louis’s battles with Germany’s Max Schmeling in the 1930s to Barry McGuigan uniting Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland during the 1980s, boxing has long provided nations with a welcome distraction to political strife.

Lomachenko, Usyk and Gvozdyk could be on their way to becoming folk heroes of similar stature among their compatriots. The crowd at the MGM on Saturday, decked out in yellow and blue, may claim that Lomachenko and co. already have. And based on their enthusiasm not many would argue with them.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Ronan Keenan can be contacted at ronankeenan@yahoo.com or @rokeenan 

Check out TSS’s Frank Lotierzo’s pre-fight break down at The Boxing Channel.

COMMENTS

-ZonaDeBoxeo.com :

<img src="http://www.zonadeboxeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mikey-Garcia-celebra.jpg"> Mikey García y Anabel Ortíz ganaron, mientras Carl Frampton no peleó -En animado fin de semana boxístico internacional, el estadounidense Mikey García venció a su compatriota Adrien Broner, mientras la monarca mundial mexicana Anabel Ortíz hizo lo propio ante su coterránea Nancy Franco, pero en el continente europeo el irlandés Carl Frampton quedó sin rival por un accidente del mexicano Andrés Gutiérrez. Superior sobre el encordado, a pesar de combatir por primera vez en la categoría súper ligera (140 libras), Mikey García (37-0-0, 30 KOs) retuvo su condición de invicto y al mismo tiempo se adueñó del cinturón Diamante, que entregó al ganador el [url=http://www.wbcboxing.com/wbcesp/]Consejo Mundial (CMB). Exhibiendo una técnica más elaborada e igualmente mayor contundencia en los impactos, García aventajó en la gran mayoría de los asaltos a “El Problema” Broner (33-3-0, 24 KOs), quien resultó una sombra de sus momentos brillantes, incluidas las actuaciones que le reportaron cuatro títulos ecuménicos en divisiones diferentes. Al concluir el pleito, dos de los jueces, Don Ackerman y Steve Weisfeld, votaron 116-112, mientras el otro -igualmente estadounidense como los anteriores-, Eric Marlinski otorgó boleta de 117-111. Tarjetas del combate Broner vs Garcia Durante la misma velada y en reyerta eliminatoria de la división mediana, el gemelo estadounidense Jermall Charlo Charlo (29-0-0, 14 KOs) anestesió en el cuarto asalto al argentino Sebastián Heiland (28-5-2, 15 KOs). Tras una caída de Heiland en el cuarto episodio, el árbitro Benjy Esteves detuvo las acciones, cuando el oriundo de Richmond, Texas y ex monarca súperwelter de la Federación Internacional (FIB), era absolutamente superior. El sudamericano, conocido como “El Gauchito de Pigüé”, también cayó a la lona en el segundo asalto y a partir de ahí se agudizó su problema en la rodilla izquierda, un trauma que fue visible durante el pesaje del viernes. En Europa, frustrados quedaron los fanáticos irlandeses al informarse la suspensión del pleito entre el local Carl “El Chacal” Frampton y el mexicano Andrés “El Jaguarcito” Gutiérrez, que sufrió un accidente, que impidió la confrontación en la SSE Arena, de Belfast, Irlanda del Norte. Según reportes de los allegados del boxeador azteca, Gutiérrez resbaló la noche del viernes después de cumplir con el pesaje y en consecuencia sufrió múltiples heridas en el rostro, tras golpearse con un tubo de la bañera. El trauma requirió de una cirugía plástica en la cara, que obligará a Gutiérrez a guardar 15 días de descanso e igualmente someterse a atención dental, aunque se afirma que el golpe no resultó tan grave en el interior de la boca. Y en el Oriental Sports Center, de Shanghai, el japonés Sho Kimura (15-1-2, 8 KOs) enmudeció al público, al noquear en el undécimo asalto al chino Zou Shiming (9-2-0, 2 KOs), quien comenzó bien, pero poco a poco cedió ante el empuje del visitante, ocupante antes del duelo de la séptima posición del ranking y regresa a la Tierra del Sol Naciente con el título de la Organización Mundial (OMB) en las 112 libras. Bicampeón de los Juegos Olímpicos de Beijing-2008 y Londres-2012, Zou había conquistado la corona mosca, en noviembre último, al imponerse al desconocido tailandés Prasitsak Phaprom, en el Thomas and Mack Center, de Las Vegas. [url=http://www.thesweetscience.com/newforum/forum/main-forum/1104-mikey-garc%C3%ADa-y-anabel-ort%C3%ADz-ganaron-mientras-carl-frampton-no-pele%C3%B3]SI DESEA COMENTAR SOBRE ESTA PIEZA EN NUESTRO FORO CLIQ AQUI. Lea también: [url=http://www.zonadeboxeo.com/noticias/noticias-destacadas/32360-garcia-hace-validos-los-pronosticos-y-domina-broner]García hace válidos los pronósticos y domina a Broner