By: Sean Crose
He was said to be the future of the sport. His nickname was “High Tech,” and his cerebral training routine, coupled with a stunning ability to turn an opponent, backed that nickname up. One fighter after another, some of them quite highly regarded, quit on the stool while facing the man. Throw in a stellar amateur career and there’s little wonder why so many were in awe of the young Ukrainian. The truth is, Vasyl Lomachenko really was that good of a fighter. The question, of course, is whether or not Lomachenko is still that good.
He lost his last bout, against rising Teofimo Lopez, last autumn. Now, on the eve of his return fight against towering lightweight Masayoshi Nakatani on Saturday evening, Lomachenko will get a chance to prove to the world his defeat at the gloved hands of Lopez was symbolic of nothing but an inability to press down on the gas early enough in the contest. For there’s no doubt Lomachenko came on strong during the second half of the Lopez’ match. Of course, Lomachenko made it clear afterward he thought he had won the fight, though most, including this author, respectfully disagreed.
Still, many a great fighter has had a bad night. Futhermore, many a great fighter has faced an opponent who simply gives him fits (Ken Norton, for instance, was nothing but trouble for Muhammad Ali). Should Loma, as he’s called, impress this weekend, should he look like the dazzling, nearly unstoppable fighter of old, much will be forgiven. It will also be harder for someone like Lopez to keep from meeting him in the ring once more. Again, however, Lomachenko must impress on Saturday. And, if Nakatani has something to say about it, the fight will become a long night at the office for High Tech.
Not that a whole lot of people expect Nakatani, to win. Still, the Japanese fighter stands much taller than Lomachenko. He’s also a natural fighter who has the instinct to simply throw down. Plus the kid has a ton of heart. All of these things can be problematic for someone returning to the ring for the first time since a highly publicized loss. Lomachenko is nothing if not a student of the sport. He may truly believe he won against Lopez, but there’s little doubt he doesn’t recognize where his performance could have been stronger. This match should be nothing if not interesting.
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