Lomachenko: Chasing Greatness At The Expense of Virtuoso Brilliance

By Paul Magno on December 10, 2018
Lomachenko: Chasing Greatness At The Expense of Virtuoso Brilliance
Against Pedraza, Loma looked more man than superman. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

A “real” great pursues challenges, even if those challenges deeply cut into the advantages he likes to enjoy…

When a fighter is pushed to the extreme and shoved down one’s throat as modern day greatness on a scale with the all-time greats, there’s a tendency to push back—at least for the punk rock iconoclast writing this piece.

Not too long ago, I admitted being a bit too harsh when it comes to Vasiliy Lomachenko in a piece written for my other gig at FightHype.com:

”...it’s hard not to bristle at a man, just barely into double-digit wins, being mentioned alongside names like Henry Armstrong and Roy Jones. It’s also tough not to punch back at an onslaught of ‘he’s the greatest’ talking points and ‘he’s the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world’ nonsense from media and fans when you see earnest and honest American fighters in need of support, languishing in relative obscurity, victims of indifference.

But none of that is Lomachenko’s fault.

And while it’s true that Lomachenko has never been an underdog and hasn’t beaten anyone he wasn’t supposed to beat, the same could be said for a lot of boxing’s top fighters these days. Actually, none of Ring Magazine’s top five pound-for-pound fighters have accomplished that feat…

However, fighting Orlando Salido and Gary Russell Jr. in your second and third fights as a pro is deserving of some serious boxing street cred. Dominant wins over Nicholas Walters and Roman Martinez are also nothing to be brushed aside. Even forcing a “No Mas” from an undersized and deeply disadvantaged Guillermo Rigondeaux carries some weight. Mind you, this is not an overwhelming body of work around which his well-crafted legend is built—especially since he actually lost to Salido—but it is worthy of legitimate respect as something ‘real.’”

So, here’s another “let’s make up” hug for Vasiliy and another acknowledged hash mark in the “Magno is a contrarian asshole” column.

But, having said all of the above, I would be remiss in not mentioning that last Saturday night, in a lightweight title unification tilt against Jose Pedraza, Lomachenko looked more man than superman. And this is the second straight fight where Lomachenko didn’t really look like LOMACHENKO.

Pedraza—who fought a good fight, placing his punches well and nullifying much of Lomachenko’s magic-through-movement with a keen sense of anticipation and his own use of off-putting angles—had a lot to do with Lomachenko not shining as brightly as he usually does. Similarly, Jorge Linares’ skill and ring IQ stifled much of the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s virtuoso ability in May, when the Ukrainian made his lightweight debut.

But there’s a bigger reason behind Lomachenko’s “fall” from superhuman brilliance to “mere” mastery—He’s not really a lightweight.

Sure, he may have defeated two high-end lightweights in his last two bouts and has two world title straps to show for it, but the man is clearly not a “real” lightweight, at least not when stacked up to the other high-end 135-pounders, who tend to be temporary 135-pounders bound for the bigger money divisions of junior welterweight and welterweight. Against Pedraza and Linares, specifically, it was clear that he was a solidified small man placed against naturally larger boxers. Lomachenko succeeding at back-to-back bouts at 135 is a testament to his own ability and hard-to-decipher style.

And here’s another kiss from the iconoclast blown Vasiliy’s way.

It’s a benchmark of true boxing greatness to push for success beyond the point where pure physicality and strength is the major contributing factor. In other words—a “real” great pursues challenges, even if those challenges deeply cut into the advantages he likes to enjoy.

Rather than languishing in an already-conquered division, collecting paychecks for no-hope manslaughter, Lomachenko moved up, gave up a bit of an edge, and took a risk. Unlike Gennady Golovkin—and, nope, I won’t be issuing an online mea culpa about lashing out at Triple G’s BS hype wagon—who was happy to pound tailor-made opposition into tomato can pulp at a dead-end 160 while whining about those unwilling to meet his challenge, Lomachenko chased after greatness and didn’t settle on waiting for a paycheck.

And like most fighters chasing greatness, Lomachenko will eventually push himself too far and be blasted back to earth. If he’s ever convinced to climb to junior welter, for example, he may be humbled against quick, strong, and hungry young lions like Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor.

In the meantime, let’s give credit where credit’s due and acknowledge the fact that if Lomachenko’s not as otherworldly brilliant as he once was at 126, it’s only because he’s hobbled himself to pursue bigger, better challenges.

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  1. tuxtucis 01:52am, 12/16/2018

    Really, what i saw was a masterful performance by Lomachenko…After first three rounds he always slipped punches from the Puerto Rican and scored…Really i don’t understand how someone could score for Pedraza 3-4 rounds, while I would have trouble to score for him 3-4 minutes…

  2. Kid Blast 05:12pm, 12/13/2018

    Lomachenko vs. Pedraza does monstrous ratings on ESPN

  3. Koolz 05:28pm, 12/12/2018

    Watching the Fight again I have to say it again !!
    Lomchenko Legend!

    There is no fighter that can pull off what Loma did in that fight.  He beat him with one hand.  There are rounds where Pedraza tried as hard as he could to land and nothing touched Loma.

    The guy is a Master!

    And this was Loma who had other gears he could have used.

     

  4. Pete The Sneak 10:01am, 12/12/2018

    Tough crowd…Peace.

  5. Kid Blast 08:12am, 12/12/2018

    Geezuz

  6. fan 08:42pm, 12/11/2018

    some good only one best

  7. Harvey 08:09pm, 12/11/2018

    I think it was the great trainer, an overused word but not in this case, Whitey Bimstein who said “southpaws, they should be drowned at birth” Exactly my sentiments.

  8. Kid Blast 06:38pm, 12/11/2018

    At the end of the day and when all the lists are complied and Fighter of the Year votes are tabulated, Loma will be near the top if not at the top. Thus, why the criticisms of this very fan-friendly Eastern Euro phenomena. One of three Ukrainians in the top ten P4P right now. Let’s watch him fifth for fight until he runs out of viable opponents. And oh yes, why should HE move up? Why not others move down?

    And as for GGG, your bashing has been monumental. Remember, if he is so “limited” then why is Canelo so great? After all Canelo drew with a barely beat a “limited” fighter. Both guys deserve equal praise.

    Getting tired of the best being bashed. What’s that all about? Crawford next?

  9. Erect On Demand 03:36pm, 12/11/2018

    @don from prov-Point well taken. Perish the thought but he was “afraid”.... oops! That’s a big fat no no on a boxing web site….let’s just say he was “overly cautious” about being countered….very bad optics with all jabs all the time when the redhead came forward instead of the promised “Mexican Style” war but he still won the fight.

  10. don from prov 12:58pm, 12/11/2018

    Robert—
    I can actually picture Loma with Arguello at 126.
    Style/speed nightmare for Alexis.


    But overall, I see what you are saying.
    Forever-as-amateur, limited pro fights, and competition that is not as deep or wide, might make upcoming fighters hard to compare to old school pros.

  11. don from prov 12:53pm, 12/11/2018

    “GGG fought the wrong fight twice with no body attack to speak of. ...”
    First time might be a glitch.  When Alvarez stood and gave GGG the fight he and his trainer were begging for, and still no body attack?  Fair to ask ?s then

    Meanwhile, Loma in the eleventh round against Pedraza—oh lord!

  12. Erect On Demand 08:36am, 12/11/2018

    Forget Andrade and Lara…forget Jacobs too! Put GGG and the Gnome in the mix with Hurd, the Charlos and Spence and you finally have the potential for one or two fights worth the price of admission!

  13. Erect On Demand 08:27am, 12/11/2018

    @fan aka Paul Magno-First the bugger was too small to fight at 160 now he’ll be too big?! Yet he wasn’t too big when it came to obliterating Light Flyweight Solis’s jaw?!

  14. fan 08:06am, 12/11/2018

    become great fight great

  15. O. D’Arvin 06:32pm, 12/10/2018

    Your insights are spot through Paul. The only one remaining challenge for Loma at 135 would of course be Mikey Garcia, who is himself chasing greatness in a similar way. Size has its limits. Even the current old version of Manny Pacquiao would probably blast Loma away at 140, which is why he personally recognized this and is shying away from Manny’s challenge. But in his proper weight class, Loma is magical. And I guess, unless he easily conquers Mikey, that’s at super featherweight.

  16. Koolz 03:57pm, 12/10/2018

    Lomachenko is Legend!

  17. Erect On Demand 03:31pm, 12/10/2018

    Good job! Back handed compliments for Loma and a slap in the face for GGG! Meanwhile “Number One P4P” Canelo gets to pick who he gets to beat up next?! GGG fought the wrong fight twice with no body attack to speak of and still beat Canelo’s ass both times! Canelo got extra credit the first time for going the distance and even more the second time because he actually fought back! Hurd, both Charlos and Spence won’t fight the wrong fights and and Red will be lucky to bat .500 with that bunch….that’s why that red headed garden gnome is cherry pickin’ at 168. Callum Smith KO’s his ass…  bank it!

  18. Sick of Loma Bashing 01:37pm, 12/10/2018

    Paul. you have never really given Loma his due, maybe because you used up all your praise for Canelo. But come on, Give me a break.

    And Robert, “very ordinary?” Really? God forbid if we saw him at his best.

  19. Robert 11:13am, 12/10/2018

    Well written Paul—and I believe entirely accurate—Lomanchenko looked very ordinary and it is difficult to see him in with the all time greats—Duran and Henry Armstrong—and guys like Mando Ramos and a prime Salvador Sanchez or Alexis Arguello at 126—-a great amateur but too early to anoint him as an all time great pro—

  20. Kid Blast 08:35am, 12/10/2018

    He waited for the right opportunity to test his shoulder and when it came, he attacked like a Pactard going after a Flomo. It was then that we saw pure brilliance. 41 straight shots. Enjoy this guy while you can, He is special,

  21. Lucas McCain 08:09am, 12/10/2018

    Given his age, it’s not clear how much longer we will be watching this guy, so it’s good to find a way to enjoy what we have, while we have it.  And it’s also good to try out different angles in the way one views fighters—in that way, writing is kind of like fighting, with the mobile columnist being laterally inventive, like Loma himself.

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