JON SUTTON ON THE UKRAINIAN’S RISE TO FISTIC FAME
Tonight, Vasyl Lomachenko will attempt to become a world championin three weight classes in just 12 fights.
Leave yourself in no doubt. Tonight, history will be made. Or rather, continued…
After just eleven professional fights, Vasyl Lomachenko, already the number one Junior Lightweight in the world, will climb through the ropes to face Jorge Linares, the number one Lightweight, in what should be the true fight-fans fight of the year. Possibly the decade.
Having already dispatched of the best fighters at 126 & 130 pounds respectively, winning world titles at both classes in just seven fights, the Ukrainian whirlwind has beefed up to challenge for yet another title at 135.
This time, against one of the sharpest shooters in the boxing world – and a man who towers above him.
Jorge Linares hopes to stay King of the Lightweight Castle aftertonight’s meeting with Vasyl Lomachenko
(Image: Lawrence Lustig, Matchroom Boxing)
Lomachenko, having cut his teeth in the amateur ranks, racking up almost 400 wins and beating every man put in front of him, turned pro just five years ago and made only one demand of his potential new promoter when interviewing for their business… make my first pro fight a world title fight.
This was a step too far for both Kathy Duva and Oscar De La Hoya, but Bob Arum, in true Arum style, struck a deal… fight number two? Lomachenko shook his hand and embarked on a voyage into the history books.
But all did not go to plan when the 25 year old stepped in against seasoned pro and bigger man, Orlando Salido, to contest for the WBO belt. After a brutal encounter, with some fans calling foul play both inside and outside the ring*, it was Salido that walked away as champion.
(* Salido came in severely overweight, repeatedly threw low blows right in front of the ref and still only managed to win a split decision, since he landed far fewer shots and got badly hurt in the twelfth round. A decision that seemed to shock even him. Lomachenko’s response? Dignity. He refused to take the bait and fight dirty – and refused to make excuses for his loss.)
Lomachenko, however, not one to let a loss defeat him, came back stronger, wiser & more determined than ever before to put his stamp on the world boxing scene. He booked fight number three, and this time, he made sure that stamp lasted.
At the end of twelve rounds spent dodging arguably the fastest hands in modern boxing, Vasyl Lomachenko took the crown off the previously unbeaten Gary Russell Jnr and became a world champion faster than any man in history.
So where does a future Hall-Of-Famer go once he’s taken out the number one man in the division? Up. In his first fight at Super Featherweight (AKA Junior Lightweight) the Russian-speaking southpaw knocked out Roman Martinez and added a bigger belt to his trophy cabinet. He then went on to bully four fighters, with 88 wins between them, to quit on their stools rather than allow their lungs or their dignity to take any more punishment.
Two of them were unbeaten – Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The latter being the division’s own golden boy.
It was at this point that Lomachenko earned the new moniker of “NoMasChenko”, in honour of Ray Leonoard’s upsetting of Roberto Duran, when Duran said “No mas” (No more) to his trainer rather than continue with the impossible task ahead.
History in the Making
Lomachenko’s success, in such a short time, coupled with his matador style – where he coaxes fighters in, lands vicious shots, then hides in plain sight either sideways, beneath, or somehow above his wildly swinging opponents – have granted him the regard in which he is now held.
He is no showboater. This is no gimmick. His reward, if anything, does not fully reflect the size of his achievement.
Vasyl Lomachenko is not an entertainer. He’s a boxer. And he might just be the best there ever was.