Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko continues to write his own history as a professional, becoming the fastest boxer to win a world title in two weight divisions.
In just his seventh pro fight, on Saturday, Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) made a successful debut at 130 pounds with a spectacular, fifth-round knockout of titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York.
Lomachenko bested the mark of Japan's Naoya Inoue, a current junior bantamweight titlist who needed eight fights to win titles in a second division in 2014. A 28-year-old native of Ukraine, Lomachenko previously set a record by winning his first title, at featherweight, in just his third fight two years ago.
"I need more fights; it's not enough fights for me," Lomachenko said through a translator. "I need more fights to get better as a fighter."
Lomachenko outlanded Martinez (29-3-3, 17 KOs) 87 to 34, according to CompuBox research, and thoroughly dominated the fight from the opening bell with superior hand speed, footwork and slick punching from a variety of angles.
But Lomachenko saved his best for last, stopping Martinez with a beautiful left uppercut/right hook combination to knock him flat on his back in Round 5. Martinez, a native of Puerto Rico, was unable to beat the count as referee Danny Schiavone waved off the fight at 1:09.
"The reason I like Olympic boxing is that all the best fighters come together and find out who the best fighter is," said Lomachenko, who moved up to 130 pounds after he was unable to secure fights against top featherweights.
"I want to do the same in professional boxing. I want to line up all the best fighters at 130 and see who the best fighter is."
Lomachenko suffered his lone defeat in his second pro fight by split decision in a featherweight title bout against Orlando Salido in 2014. Salido, who was ringside Saturday, fought to a draw against 130-pound titlist Francisco Vargas last week in the front-runner for fight of the year.
"Hey Salido, I'm ready to fight you at any time," Lomachenko said. "Before the Vargas fight, I told him to win the fight but I never told him I wasn't going to fight him if he didn't, so let's do it.
"I really already forgot about this loss. It was a great experience for me and it made me a better fighter. I want to revenge Salido for my fans and give them a win over him."
Verdejo dominates Martinez
On the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York, unbeaten lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo gave the partisan crowd something to cheer about.
Verdejo (22-0, 15 KOs) shook off lingering criticism from a pair of decision wins in 2016 and stopped Mexico's Juan Jose Martinez in five rounds.
"My career depended on this fight and I knew that, but we trained with lots of dedication for this fight," Verdejo said through a translator. "I came to give it my all in the ring."
Preferring to counter his aggressive opponent throughout, Verdejo outlanded Martinez 90 to 36 and connected on 51 percent of his power shots.
Verdejo, 23, buckled Martinez's knees in Round 2 with a sweeping left hook and opened up a cut above his right eye in Round 5 with clean left hands. Verdejo pinned Martinez against the ropes later in the round and teed off until referee Michael Ortega jumped in at 2:40.
"I lost focus [in recent fights] with distractions that every man has," Verdejo said. "I lost focus but we are refocusing now in my career. I want to fight the best of them and that's all I want."
Zou outpoints Atjai
Chinese star and former two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming had no trouble with teenage opponent Jozsef Atjai of Hungary in a victory to set up bigger flyweight bouts down the line.
The 35-year-old Zou (8-1, 2 KOs), two fights removed from losing a decision to flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng in March 2015, took home a unanimous decision (100-89 on all three scorecards).
Atjai (15-3, 10 KOs) , 19, who was making his fourth appearance since 2016, lost for the first time since December.