Junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko did what he usually does: He made it look easy in the ring.
Lomachenko put on a masterpiece against Nicholas Walters, toying with him for seven one-sided rounds before making him abruptly quit Saturday night at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
"Walters is a good fighter," Lomachenko said through a translator. "He's really strong, but I think he just stood there, which made it easy for me to win."
The fight was the main event of the 2,000th card promoted by Top Rank's Bob Arum, the Hall of Famer who is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a promoter this year. Arum has been Lomachenko's biggest fan since signing him out of the 2012 Olympics, in which Lomachenko won the second of his back-to-back gold medals for Ukraine.
Leading up to the fight with Walters, Arum said Lomachenko "is technically the best fighter that I have seen since the early Muhammad Ali."
Arum promoted 27 of Ali's fights, as well as those of many other all-time greats, such as Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Alexis Arguello.
After Lomachenko's easy disposal of Walters, Arum stuck by his assessment and said he was not surprised how easily Lomachenko won.
"I wasn't surprised all," Arum said. "I have been his biggest cheerleader from the beginning, sometimes obnoxiously. He's great. Anybody who loves boxing has to love this kid and the way he performs. If people watch him perform, they will start to love boxing again. He's better than these regular fighters. He has such special talent that we've never seen anything like it."
Walters said electing not to continue was the right decision.
"It wasn't about quitting," Walters said. "If you look at the last round, he caught me with some pretty good shots, and I was holding on just to survive the round. It would be stupid to come out after that last round."
Lomachenko, 28, is considered by many to be the greatest amateur boxer in history, going 396-1 in the unpaid ranks, with the single loss avenged multiple times. A southpaw, he was making the first defense of the title he won by a blistering, highlight-reel, fifth-round knockout of Roman "Rocky" Martinez in June.
Lomachenko-Walters was a fight that had been anticipated for more than a year, since both were featherweight titleholders, and it was expected to be a competitive showdown between a gifted technician (Lomachenko) and a power puncher ("Axe Man" Walters).
But it was not that. Not even close.
"If people watch him perform they will start to love boxing again. He's better than these regular fighters. He has such special talent that we've never seen anything like it."Top Rank's Bob Arum on Vasyl Lomachenko
Instead, Lomachenko played with Walters like a cat would a mouse. He negated Walters' strong right hand, befuddled him and frustrated him.
All the while, Lomachenko peppered Walters with a two-handed attack.
"It's not about being just strong or being just fast. A lot of things take place," Lomachenko said. "You've got to train, and you have to be highly functional in the ring. So all those things are a combination of what makes me good."
Lomachenko stuffed jabs in Walters' face and tagged him with straight left hands. Walters never got off any big shots; he was unable to cope with Lomachenko's speed and lateral movement. He simply had no answers for Lomachenko.
Lomachenko grew more comfortable with Walters as the rounds went by and really began to open up on offense in the seventh round. Lomachenko pounded Walters with a pair of clean right hands midway through the round and then rocked his head back with a straight left hand.
Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs) continued to pick up the pace and was lashing Walters as the round wound down. Still, Walters had not been knocked down, he was not cut and did not appear to be hurt. Yet, when referee Tony Weeks went to his corner to check on him after the seventh round, Walters' trainer Celso Chavez, told him, "No mas."
When Weeks asked Walters (26-1-1, 21 KOs), 30, of Jamaica, directly if he wanted to continue, he said, "No." Weeks waved off the fight, bringing the much-anticipated bout to an abrupt and wholly unexpected conclusion.
"Nicholas could not get his punches in on Lomachenko. He was unable to do it," Job Walters, the fighter's father and assistant trainer said.
Arum said Nicholas Walters told him in the ring after the fight that a left hand to the temple area really hurt him in the seventh round.
"He told me he was going to get knocked out. He said he got really hurt," Arum said.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Lomachenko landed 114 of 437 punches (26 percent). Walters landed 49 of 264 (19 percent), and none of them appeared to be clean.
Walters, who had not boxed in 11 months while holding out for the best deal he could get for Lomachenko -- a career-high guarantee of $550,000 to Lomachenko's first $1 million purse -- sounded as though he was blaming his self-inflicted layoff for his poor performance.
"Almost a year without fighting. I went up in weight," Walters said. "He was more active. So if you watch the fight, you see he's been scoring more than I do. My good shots, they are not connecting. He's connecting more clearly than I am touching him. In the last round, he started catching me more and more. He's a good fighter."
Walters was stripped of his featherweight belt in June 2015 for missing weight against Miguel Marriaga, and he moved up to face Jason Sosa last December, fighting him to a heavily disputed draw that most saw Walters winning easily. Walters could have faced Lomachenko in June but declined the offer, and Lomachenko took a title off Martinez instead.
By beating Martinez, Lomachenko set a boxing record by becoming the only fighter to win world titles in two weight classes by his seventh fight. He won his first world title in his third fight, tying the record for fewest bouts needed to claim a title.
Next up, he said he would like to be the fastest to unify titles, calling out fellow titleholder Francisco Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs), a 31-year-old former Mexican Olympian.
"I want Vargas," Lomachenko said.
Arum said he would be happy to make the fight but said he did not believe that Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya would allow Vargas anywhere near Lomachenko, who would be a massive favorite.
"If De La Hoya won't let Canelo [Alvarez] fight [Gennady] Golovkin, there's no way in hell he'll let Vargas fight Lomachenko," Arum said.
Arum said he'd like to match Lomachenko in a rematch with former titleholder Orlando Salido, whom Lomachenko faced in his second pro fight for a vacant featherweight belt in 2014 and lost a split decision. Arum said he spoke to Salido's camp before the fight about doing a rematch early next year.
"That's unfinished business," Arum said. "And then maybe I'd take him to England to fight [Terry] Flanagan for his lightweight title. I've been talking to [Flanagan promoter] Frank [Warren] about it."
Beyond that, Arum said he envisions an eventual showdown between Lomachenko and the great Manny Pacquiao at a catch weight of around 138 pounds in late 2017. Arum promotes both fighters and said it is possible.
For Lomachenko, revenge against Salido, a third title against Flanagan and a possible victory over Pacquiao would go a long way toward accomplishing his ultimate goal.
"My goal is to be No. 1 pound for pound," Lomachenko said.
After his brilliant display against Walters, he appears to be on his way.