Lomachenko vs Sosa preview: A glitch in the Matrix
Exciting Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko returns to action this weekend against Jason Sosa. James Oddy previews the latest appearance of a boxer who appears to defy logic and the normal conventions of boxing...
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once memorably described Lionel Messi as being a 'PlayStation' footballer - in other words, he is so good, that the rules of mere mortals seem to no longer apply.
The latest spin on that concept is the idea that two-time WBO world champ Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs) is a ‘glitch in the Matrix’.
The Ukrainian is widely considered one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time and, only eight fights into his pro career, he is already a two-weight world titlist. Down at featherweight, he boxed the head off Gary Russell Jr to claim the WBO’s strap back in 2014. Russell, it’s worth pointing out, was and is an elite level fighter and was 24-0 at the time, whilst ‘Loma’ was 1-1. Yet the American couldn’t cope with the speed, variety, and obscene skill set he came up against in the form of 'Hi-Tech'.
Lomachenko is the best of a very good bunch of ex-Soviet bloc fighters who have burst on to the world stage in recent years. In many ways, he blends all their best traits into an intoxicating whole; the ruthlessness and precision of Golovkin and Kovalev, the balletic footwork of Usyk, the heart and desire of Provodnikov or Lebedev.
These skills have helped him cut a swathe through the best of the lighter weight classes. Of course, he has a loss on his record, against the tough, wily and very experienced Mexican Orlando Salido. The Mexican may have beaten Lomachenko in March 2014, but it was a very tight affair, punctuated by the fact that Salido came in over weight and was willing to throw low blows aplenty. It was also only Lomachenko’s second-ever professional fight and Salido’s 57th. That the former two-time Olympic gold medallist was willing to take on such a challenge so soon after turning professional reflects his obsessive desire to only ever seek out the very best fights and the toughest challenges.
Lomachenko’s promoter Bob Arum, not exactly new to the game, has spoken regularly of how his charge looks for the best sporting challenges at all times, before money even gets discussed, a quality he’s rarely seen. It’s led to ‘Loma’ beating Roman Martinez, a tough and experienced Central American via brutal knockout, and then embarrassing Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters during a wonderful 2016 for the Ukrainian.
The Martinez knockout was truly chilling - a left uppercut followed by a right hook that left the Puerto Rican flat on his back. Against Walters, a hard-hitting talent with a freakish reach for his weight, ‘Loma’ used his speed of hand and fleet of foot to become literally untouchable at times. He also exhibited a much more refined ability to box in the pro style, wrapping up the 'Axe Man' on the very few occasions his opponent could get near to him. In the end the dispirited Jamaican simply gave up before the start of the seventh round.
Jason Sosa (20-1-4, 15 KOs) is the latest quality fighter to attempt to provide an answer to the Lomachenko puzzle, this Saturday in Oxon Hill, Maryland in a contest which will be broadcast live on Boxnation (UK) and HBO (USA). Sosa will be best known to British viewers for his thrilling unanimous decision win over Stephen Smith last year in defence of his WBA super featherweight title.
Sosa also drew with Walters in 2015, albeit a contest most felt the Jamaican won, and wrested the WBA title from the talented Javier Fortuna in 2016. He is a stocky, come-forward type who hooks and uppercuts superbly. Sosa came up the hard way, fighting all over the USA’s East Coast, his power maturing along the way. As with many fighters to come out of such a background, he can box as well as engage in shoot-outs and has a versatile style that those in the industry love to root for.
Realistically, it would take a career-worst performance from Lomachenko and a career-best one from Sosa to win. El Canito's best and perhaps only chance of victory is to drag his opponent into a down-and-dirty dog fight, like Salido did. Certainly Sosa has the power to make any fighter stop and think, and tons of heart and guts - as such, I think he will fare better than Walters did, however he may end up like Martinez, going out on his shield and flat out on the canvas.
If, as is likely, Lomachenko wins then he may well move up a weight in search of new opportunities, perhaps even on these shores.
He may be a ‘glitch’, but he’s one which seems to make the boxing game all the better.