Is Vasyl Lomachenko the Smartest Fighter since Mayweather?
By: Eric Lunger
Andre Berto, the former WBC and IBF welterweight champ, gave a fascinating interview recently on FightHype.com, in which he broke down why Floyd Mayweather was so difficult to create offense against. “He thinks defense first, while all of us think offense. He puts you in a place where he is so elusive, you keep swinging, and you see him looking at you.” Boxing fans know this look. It is either Mayweather peering over his left shoulder guard, measuring and setting the right hand, or it’s the leaning forward glare, with the low left arm swinging gracefully but ready to flick the jab. Berto continues: “And you think [to yourself], ‘if I keep swinging so much, I’m going to hang myself out there and get hit, because he is seeing you.’ He dictates the pace, manages the time, looks up at the clock like four times a round.”
Berto then points out how frustrating it is to train for long, hard months and then not be able to fight, to come to grips, or to even keep up with where Mayweather is mentally during the fight. “Even between rounds, Floyd will sit on his stool, look across the ring at you, see if you are breathing hard, see it you are getting tired. I’ve never been in the ring with someone so observant.”
That’s a really interesting comment, for Berto puts his finger on the combination of physical skill and relentless mental acuity that made Mayweather so formidable in the ring. In a sense, Mayweather’s defense-first style is like being two or three steps ahead of his opponent at all times.
Fast forward to this Saturday night, and fans have the opportunity to see another hyper-skilled boxer in action as Vasyl “Hi Tech” Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs) takes on Jason Sosa (21-1-4, 15 KOs) in the main event of the HBO card from MGM National Harbor in Maryland. Rated highly on many observers’ pound-for-pound list, the former Ukrainian Olympian gold medalist is a special talent. He combines tremendous hand speed with balletic footwork and relentless offensive pressure. Lomachenko shifts angles and constantly adjusts distance, leaving some opponents baffled and disoriented. This is certainly what happened to Nicholas Walters in their bout last November in Las Vegas. Walters is no tomato can; he’s a tough, hard-hitting, and dangerous fighter. But after sevens rounds with “Hi Tech,” he quit on his stool, physically battered and mentally defeated.
Like Mayweather, Lomachenko seems to see the fight in slow motion and be in places (and set up angles) that his opponent can’t see and can’t predict. Will he put on another master class on Saturday night? Or will Sosa take a page out of Orlando Solido’s playbook, and take the fight into the gutter? Solido (who was over weight in the bout) inflicted a split-decision loss on Lomachenko in the Ukrainian’s second professional fight, back in 2013. “Hi Tech” learned a good deal from that bout, including how to be more offensive against a fighter who wants to slow the action.
Saturday night, Lomachenko has an opportunity to show that he deserves to be considered one of the best pound-for-pound in the sport, and one of the smartest fighters in the game.