by Charles Jay
Vasyl Lomachenko may be the one boxer to keep the closest eye on in these Olympic games, because he is being hailed by many as the best the amateur ranks have to offer right now.
Certainly he is one of the most decorated in recent years. Lomachenko, southpaw, was an Olympic gold medalist in 2008, competing in the featherweight division. He ripped through it in dominant fashion, winning his first four bouts easily before scoring a stoppage of Khedafi Djelkhir in the finals. His performance was so thorough and convincing that he was awarded the Val Barker Trophy as the outstanding boxer in the Olympic tournament, joining such notables as Vassily Jirov, Roy Jones Jr. Howard Davis Jr., Teofilo Stevenson and Patrizio Oliva.
Lomachenko then won the 2009 World Championships with even more ease, outscoring his opponents by a combined 63-7 count. He made the move up to lightweight for the 2011 World Amateur Championships, and with that ascension in weight class he closed the gap between himself and his fellow competitors. Lomachenko eked out a one-point win over Brazil’s Robson Conceicao, an only on the basis of a decision that reversed the result, and was also challenged strongly by top seed Domenico Valentino of Italy, winning a 17-11 decision. In the finals he faced Yasniel Toledo, a southpaw who went on to win the Pan-Am Games that year. Lomachenko scored a knockdown en route to a 17-12 decision and a title in yet another weight class, which incidentally he gained as a fourth seed.
Lomachenko hopes to wrap up his amateur career with a gold medal in the lightweight class, then turn pro. And he is not taking the route of many Eastern Europeans who stay behind and fight in either their own native territory or in a place like Germany. He wants to head to America. “Frankly speaking, I see no professional boxing in my native Ukraine and in Europe,” he told a Ukranian television reporter.
He’ll get a good offer regardless, but there are a few people who could be standing in his way of a second straight Olympic gold. Valentino won the World Amateur Championships in this weight category in 2009, although the competition was held in his native Italy and the field was thinned a little with the absence of Yordenis Ugas, who had beaten Valentino in the 2008 Olympics but moved up in weight. Toledo is most definitely a dangerous presence, as is Conceicao, who some thought beat Lomachenko on merit, has a silver in last year’s Pan Am Games but was eliminated in his only Olympic bout in 2008.
The meeting between Valentino and Lomachenko in the 2011 worlds was highly anticipated, because the Ukranian came into the bout with just one loss in his amateur career, while Valentino was #1 in the AIBA rankings in a division where Lomachenko did not have much experience.
Well, aggressiveness won out, as Lomachenko beat Valentino to the punch. The style may remind some of a would-be Manny Pacquiao; Lomachenko, who as we mentioned is a southpaw, does not lead much with a jab, but instead closes the gap and lets loose with combinations. he can probably be outboxed, and some though Toledo might be the guy who could do it in the World Championships with his height and reach advantages, but he was outworked and floored in the first round. He may not be as cagey, and is certainly not as ferocious as Lomachenko, and that may be a critical difference.