Vasyl Lomachenko: Where Does He Rank Among Boxing’s Greats?
By: Harry Hogg
Hailing from a small port side town in southwest Ukraine, Vasyl Lomachenko’s rise to the top of boxing has been nothing short of sensational. In the space of three years, the man they call ‘High Tec’ is a two time world champion in two different weight classes, fighting in some of boxing most prestigious arenas. Achievement’s that most fighters spend their entire careers chasing, Lomachenko has reached in just 9 professional outings. His dazzling movement and footwork flow rhythmically with his deadly punch accuracy and hand speed. Off the back of his brutal dismantlement of Jason Sosa in Maryland, Lomachenko is now recognized by many as the best fighter in the world. Heavyweight legend George Foreman described him as “The best fighter since Muhammed Ali”.
But the manner in which he has so easily despatched of his opponents has stirred the echoes of another question, where does he rank among boxing greatest?
Lomachenko turned professional back in 2013 after an amateur career which boasted a monstrous record of 396 victories with just 1 defeat, as well as two Olympic gold medals. Under the guidance of Bob Arums ‘Top Rank’ promotions, the Ukrainian claimed his first world title in just his third fight.
A majority point’s victory over the world class Gary Russel Jr ensured Lomachenko’s place in history, equalling Saensak Muangsurin’srecord as the only other fighter to claim a world title so quickly in their career.
A record that dwarfs those of his modern day rivals, with Floyd Mayweather having to wait until his 18th
fight and Manny Pacquaio his 25th. Going back further with the likes of Whitaker, Ali, Duran,and Chávez who were all taken into double figures before eventually claiming their world titles.
The stats for Lomachenko are impressive as well, according to the data collected by CompuBox, the 29 year tops the Plus/Minus list (Percentage of punches landed minus punches taken) with +20.9.The highest score since Floyd Mayweather’s +24.5 in his retirement fight against Andre Berto in 2015.
But perhaps the most impressive statistic of them all is the percentage of punches landed on Lomachenko. With just 16.1%, no other fighter in the world today comes close, even the magnificent defensive genius Guillermo Rigondeaux. Astatistic that speaks volumes for Lomachenko when you consider his full throttle intensive attacking style. As oppose to Rigondeaux’s tight guard and counter-punching stance.
The numbers are there for all to see, but focusing solely on his in ring technical ability, there are few that compare. Once described as boxing’s “Picasso” Lomachenko oozes class and seems flawless in every department.
A lot is made of his electric movement and ability change the angles instantly, keeping his opponent guessing where the next punch is coming from. Add that to his ferocious intensity, speed and excellent defensive awareness, you have arguably the most complete fighter of his generation.
Widely regarded as the best amateur fighter of all time, his finest performance to date was undoubtedly his 2016 victory over Nicolas Walters in Las Vegas. A fitting way to mark Bob Arums 2000th promotional event. Walters, supposedly meant to be the Ukrainian’s toughest test, was outclassed from start to finish. The golf in class was such that Walters refused to continue after the 7th round. “I was holding on just to survive the round, It would be stupid to come out after that last round” said Walters.Rarely have we seen someone make a top level opponent look so ordinary. The performance was reminiscent of Mayweather’s masterclass against Saúl Canelo Álvarez backin 2013.
Making the transition from the amateur ranks to the professionals is no easy task. Fighters are often eased into the paid ranks with countless safe fights against below average opponent’s, before eventually making the step up to world level.
Lomachenko is the exception to that rule, and the reason why is evident. His persistent desire to fight top level competition one after another without the need for warm up bouts is admirable.
This of course comes with a great deal risk, minor errors can be punished, Lomachenko found this out first hand in his one and only defeat of his professional career in 2014. A controversial split decisionloss to the tough Orlando Salido in Texas.
Despite the controversy surrounding Salido’s significant weight advantage and persistent low blows, Lomachenko would have no doubt learnt from his slow start, and reluctance to let his hands go in the first half of the fight.A potential rematch between the two would surely bring a different outcome.
His promoter Bob Arum described him as being “in a class of his own, there’s nobody who can do what he can” he said. “Anybody who loves boxing has to love this kid and the way he performs”.High praise indeed, from one of boxing’s most respected figures. A man who has promoted some of the sports most premier superstars such as Pacquiao, Ali, Chávez, De La Hoya, Hagler and Hearns.Arum noticed Lomachenko’s outstanding ability did not hesitate to throw him in deep end straight away.
It is difficult to say with any real certainty were Lomachenko ranks amongboxing’s greats at this early point. After allhis professional career consisting of nine fights is only just short of four years old. But one thing is for certain, we have never seen a fighter quite like him in recent memory. Despite already laying claim to two world titles and being widely considered as the worlds pound for pound king, the Ukrainian star knows that his toughest tests are still to come. Potential super fights against the likes of Mikey Garcia, Terence Crawford or even the exciting Gervonta Davis loom on the horizon. But from what we seen so far, Lomachenko has everything he needs to go on a cement himself as one of boxing’s greatest ever fighters.