While Henry Cejudo’s accomplishments in combat sports must be respected, his callout of Vasyl Lomachenko after Artem Lobov’s victory over Paulie Malignaggi shows the title he deserves most of all is – ‘The King of Cringe’.
Let’s get one thing straight: Henry Cejudo is a bona fide combat sports champion. An Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling and two UFC champion belts are hugely impressive feats, especially when all three came in three different weight classes.
Never one to shy away from blowing his own trumpet, Cejudo has since invented and bestowed upon himself the new nickname ‘Triple C’, with each of the three Cs standing for ‘champion’ of the Olympic Games and the UFC’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions.
But after the LA-native called out pound for pound boxing supremo Vasyl Lomachenko following ex-UFC fighter Artem Lobov’s bare knuckle defeat of Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday, it should clearly stand for ‘clueless, confused and cringeworthy’.
After Lobov’s razor-thin decision win over former two-weight world Malignaggi in an ill-tempered grudge match under the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) banner, Cejudo goaded the Ukrainian by asking fans what they think “an Olympic & UFC champ champ” would do to Lomachenko.
Thankfully, the fan reaction has mirrored the almost-incredulous chuckling response from Lomachenko, who swiftly posted the aftermath of his chilling KO of gutsy Brit Anthony Crolla in his last fight as his own personal prediction of how matters would unfold.
Don’t do this 😂
— True Geordie (@TrueGeordieTG) June 23, 2019
Loma already made a gold medalist throw the towel on because he couldn’t touch him and that was a boxing gold medal not a wrestling one 🤷🏻♂️ bit of a reach from Henry even though I like the dude Loma is a beast
— Josh Dugan (@Josh_Dugan) June 23, 2019
Cejudo reasoned his claim with his belief that if McGregor teammate Lobov, a man with a 13-15 losing record in professional MMA, could beat a former world champion boxer in Malignaggi, a fighter of Olympic caliber in multiple weight divisions like himself would make easy work of a boxing superstar like Lomachenko.
Such a huge leap from such a small man, and one that holds as little weight as the diminutive Cejudo himself.
Firstly, Cejudo should be careful when boasting about his Olympic exploits – Lomachenko has not one but two Olympic gold medals. Read the same for Cejudo’s weight class accomplishments – Lomachenko has conquered not two but three weight divisions.
‘Loma’, known as ‘No mas-chenko’ for his uncanny ability to shatter the souls of his opponents and force them to quit, now stands at the top of boxing’s 135 lbs lightweight division, at which Cejudo currently campaigns in the UFC, perhaps why the Mexican-American was quick to look at the most famous active face in boxing to try and provoke a lucrative match up.
Such incredibly worn arguments have become the norm in combat sports. The old saying goes ‘it’s lonely at the top’ – and all too often MMA champions become restless at the pinnacle of their own field and target a champion boxer – Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov did the same, Cejudo is just the latest.
Each tiresome crossover callout is reminiscent of King Louie, the orangutan from Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’, who has “reached the top” of the animal kingdom “but had to stop” and now wants man cub Mowgli to teach him how to become human, only to be greeted with a ‘that’s-not-really-how-it-works’ look of bewilderment.
But that’s not what’s bothering me. The reality is crossover matches prove little. In the case of Lobov and Malignaggi, ironing out the finer nuances of boxing and MMA is impossible against the backdrop of two aging warriors slugging it out in a fledgling combat sport.
That match was notable only due to its vitriolic buildup. They say the last thing to leave a fighter is his punching power, but for 38-year-old Malignaggi – a fighter never blessed with such a skill – it seems the same is true for his mouth.
In the buildup to his fight with Lobov, the motor-jawed New Yorker miraculously drummed up interest spitting and bawling his way through media obligations, continuing the fiery row that began from his time in Conor McGregor’s training camp for the Irishman’s boxing bow against Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2017.
He refused to acknowledge Lobov as a credible threat, his attitude was one of disdain for the Russian-Irishman, his martial arts experience seemingly no match for the Magic Man’s elite ring generalship.
In the end a close 48-47 score for Lobov across all judges cards was hardly a landslide victory and lacked the promised definitive KO. But it was enough for Paulie to eat his words and serve as a shot in the arm for MMA fans as one of their own had quelled a snarling, arrogant boxing beast.
Fans of MMA received Paulie’s attitude with contempt. But when the shoe is on the other foot, the same behavior is championed by the MMA fraternity as a tactic to force the world to sit up and take notice.
Look no further than the last time the best of the UFC took on boxing’s pound for pound number one. Recall the cocksure McGregor swaggering across the stage draped in mink and selling the lie his teenage amateur boxing know-how was enough to beat the greatest boxer of his generation – right before his 10-round destruction by ‘Money May’ in their own circus-show fight.
… And that’s before we talk about the head-rubbing, the Jim Crow dancing, and boasts of the benefits of his skin color “from the waist down”. McGregor’s boasts was perhaps the greatest – and certainly most lucrative – trick ever pulled since the devil convinced the world he didn’t exist.
Such perpetual and unprovoked arguments from the MMA world are rightly ridiculed in boxing, being treated like the boasts of a younger brother desperate to step out of the shadow of an elder sibling.
Evidence of crossover fighters would suggest they are right to; Anderson Silva, reckoned by many to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time, has a paltry pro boxing record of one win, one knockout loss. Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, holder of the most wins in UFC history, also joins McGregor in the one fight, one knockout loss, club in pro boxing.
To draw any serious conclusions from Artem Lobov and Paulie Malignaggi’s match about boxing or MMA would be akin settling the age-old ‘who was better: Pele or Maradona?’ debate by pitting both men against each other in a keepy-uppy tournament. Today.
For Cejudo to draw the conclusion he should call out Lomachenko has correctly been viewed as the least serious of all.
The boxing community has far more respect for mixed martial arts fighters than they are given credit for, just as MMA fans are bigger admirers of boxing than they would like to admit. It’s respect for a fighter’s craft, just as they give to their own heroes fighting under Queensberry Rules. That respect is lost once outlandish claims are made and sought to be settled by a hybrid meet-in-the-middle circus act.
Cejudo would be well-advised to stay in his lane, quit the tiresome call outs and enjoy being the king of his own castle, rather than cashing in his crown for the jester hat and permanently becoming the ‘King of Cringe’.
Danny Armstrong is a British journalist based in Moscow, Russia, who has worked for RT since 2016 as a sports editor, writer, reporter and presenter.