Lomachenko: divisive but undeniably great

Lee Gormley
20/09/2019 12:38pm

Photo:  James Chance /Getty Images

Lee Gormley makes the case for Vasiliy Lomachenko's greatness...

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

It could be argued that all three of these statements apply to Vasiliy Lomachenko; the consensus greatest boxer in the world today.

Born in Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi, Ukraine, it was evident from early on he was bound for sporting greatness, according to those close to him.

Fast forward 31 years later he is regarded as the greatest fighter on the planet after achieving a remarkably successful career inside just 14 professional bouts.

His incredible feats within the ring have seen him heralded as a modern-day genius, with starry-eyed supporters, fans, peers and followers running out of superlatives to fittingly articulate his greatness.

But, while legions of admirers justifiably fawn over his phenomenal achievements spanning such a short space of time in the paid ranks, there are many others who still opt to undermine those accomplishments or play down his credentials.

Subsequently, Lomachenko has become a hugely polarising fighter in the current climate; dividing opinions among those who have followed his short but already sweet career since stylishly arriving on the pro scene in 2013.

Such is the supreme aura surrounding Lomachenko, that he’s judged in more stricter terms than most other elite combatants in the sport. Special performances are constantly expected, almost demanded, each time he steps foot into the ring.

Despite his recent trail of feats coming at lightweight, his ceiling division in which he is clearly outsized by opponents, there are typically grumblings that arise in light of victories which don’t involve a complete demolition.

Against the bigger and seemingly stronger Jose Pedraza, he was able to prevail unanimously on the scorecards and even come close to stopping the Puerto Rican after brilliantly sending him crashing to the canvas in the 12th and final round. This also came not long after undergoing major shoulder surgery on an injury he sustained in the stoppage success over Jorge Linares.

A routine, yet dazzling knockout of natural lightweight Anthony Crolla followed before ‘Loma’ outboxed another Briton in Luke Campbell over 12 rounds at London’s O2 Arena. The long, rangy southpaw had plenty of physical advantages but the Ukrainian still hurt, dropped and almost finished the job early on his maiden outing in the UK as a professional.

In the aftermath of his title scalps on the path towards becoming undisputed champion at 135lbs, Lomachenko has had to remind naysayers that those he has overcome were in fact world-level foes more naturally suited to the weight he’s still managing to dominate at.

Due to his mercurial talents in the squared-circle, the majority already have a perfect picture painted in their minds of how his fights will play out. It’s the price ‘Loma’ pays for his own boxing brilliance, ironically.

The now 31-year-old has admitted that his bouts at lightweight are “physically demanding” and any thoughts of a future move to 140lbs are “distant”.

Rather, after gaining all the marbles in his current surroundings, he’s set to move back down to featherweight or super-featherweight, where his most eye-catching and dynamic displays have come.

There are five fighters widely considered as the leading names in the sport in any mythical pound-for-pound lists, no matter what ordered they are ranked in: American ring master Terence Crawford, Mexico’s latest superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue and former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk, with Lomachenko arguably sitting ahead of them all at the summit.

All those aforementioned fighters have showcased their own special, unique skillsets on grand scales but, simply put, no one has ever won so many professional world titles across so few bouts than ‘Loma’.

The backlash over some outlandish songs of praise for the Ukrainian ace are understandable at times. Is he the greatest boxer in the history of the sport? No, of course not, although it’s conceivable he enjoyed the greatest amateur career that’s ever been recorded.

But is he better than Sugar Ray Robinson? Roberto Duran? Henry Armstrong? No, and due to the astounding feats and records old-time ring icons attained it’s highly doubtful anyone, not just ‘Loma’, will ever surpass them.

In the present day it’s evident Lomachenko is a victim of his own success. Too classy for most challengers around his most suitable weight and able to reduce world class opponents at a higher division to resemble nothing more than inexperienced novices, the Ukrainian’s in-ring trouncing of fighters results in their merits being de-emphasised once he’s finished with them.

There are a host of rising talents ready to test Lomachenko’s grasp on his lightweight crowns in the near future, with the likes of Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis tipped as potential threats to his dominance on the horizon.

But it will be a clash with the winner of Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez’s IBF title battle next in line for the consensus number one fighter on the planet, before dropping down to more beneficial divisions. At the moment it looks as if only age eventually catching up to him or dragging his body too far up in weight will lead to his next potential career setback.

While the two-time Olympic Gold medallist and fastest ever three-weight world champion simultaneously maintains his masterful streak and continues to be a divisive figure at the forefront of the sport, opinions will remain divided but Lomachenko’s greatness cannot be denied.

Whatever your views, enjoy this once-in-a-generation pugilist while he’s still at the pinnacle of his craft.