Monday, May 13, 2024

Lomachenko Is Back

Three-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko has had a career most fighters can only dream of. A two-time Olympic Gold medalist representing Ukraine, who had nearly four hundred wins as an amateur with only one defeat, Lomachenko arguably achieved Hall of Famer status long before he turned professional. Since turning pro in October 2013, Lomachenko quickly ascended to become a world champion taking only three professional fights to accomplish a goal that for some fighters, takes an entire career, if at all.

Despite three setbacks as a pro, two of which are the subject of much debate, Lomachenko has remained one of the best fighters in the entire sport. It was the most recent setback, a controversial twelve round unanimous decision to then undefeated Undisputed Lightweight world champion Devin Haney in May of last year, a fight that many, including this observer felt he won, put his career in doubt.

In doubt not because of eroding skills and/or the impacts/effects of injuries, which accumulate and come with the territory of a long career in the sport, but because of the effect the loss to Haney had on him emotionally. While it goes without saying any setback does have an effect on one, not only in regard to athletic competition, but in life, Lomachenko took the loss hard and let his emotions out after the fight in the dressing room. If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder to any would be critics, both of the armchair and of the online variety, fighters like the rest of us are human and everyone should be able to comprehend one taking a loss hadd, especially in regard to a bout where the consensus view tended to differ with the official judges.

Although no one disputes that it was a close, and competitive fight between Haney and Lomachenko though the outcome will likely remain a subject of debate for years to come, it would be understandable to wonder both if Lomachenko could rebound from such a disappointment as well as if he even wanted to after feeling like the victim of injustice in a decision that he felt should have gone his way. The one thing that Lomachenko could take solace in is the fact that he was by far not the first fighter to suffer a loss as a result of a disputed decision on the scorecards and he certainly will not be the last.

With Haney having moved out of the 135lb. Lightweight division and successfully winning a world championship in the Jr. Welterweight division in December of last year, the Undisputed Lightweight championship of the world is no longer undisputed and the four world championships that Haney held became vacant. This opened up an opportunity for Lomachenko to return to the ring on May 11th as he faced two-time Lightweight world champion and fellow former Haney opponent George Kambosos at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.

Along with Kambosos’ International Boxing Organization (IBO) Lightweight world championship being on the line in his first defense of that title, which was not involved in the consolidation of world championships that made up the last Undisputed Lightweight crown, the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) world championship was also on the line. Kambosos as some might recall briefly held the Undisputed Lightweight crown after defeating Teofimo Lopez in 2021 before losing the title to Devin Haney and failing to regain the title in an immediate rematch.

In his last fight, Kambosos scored a controversial twelve round majority decision over IBO world champion Maxi Hughes in July of last year. Kambosos, somewhat unfairly, has been labeled as a fighter who won a big fight, but has failed in subsequent opportunities at the elite level of the sport. What one cannot take away from him however, is his status as a two-time world champion and in some ways, his career is similar to several other fighters who had become world champion, but who’s reigns were short. Nevertheless, Kambosos is a world-class boxer and the question was whether or not he was either catching Lomachenko on the decline, if nothing else, emotionally, and if he could match up with Lomachenko’s skillset, which is regarded as among the best in the entire sport. 

In many ways this fight was a demonstration of one fighter’s skills and another's bravery. It could also be summed up as “Classic Lomachenko." 

From the opening bell, Lomachenko used his trademark lateral movement and ability to attack at varying angles to get the upper hand. While George Kambosos was able to have moments periodically throughout the fight, particularly when he was able to land punches to Lomachenko's body, he was simply a step slower than the challenger, who frequently beat him to the punch with three and four punch combinations.

It did not take long for the story of the fight to emerge. One fighter teaching what amounted to a masterclass in terms of technique and overall Boxing skill, the other gradually suffering the effects of a beating, but never stopping to try and find one punch that would turn the ebb and flow in his favor. Unfortunately for the champion, he did not have one punch with the kind of power behind it that could cause a sudden shift in momentum, nor was he able to mount a sustained attack on Lomachenko, which may have helped in slowing the flow of the fight down, if not also make a difference on the scorecards in terms of winning rounds.

Further troubling for Kambosos beyond facing a fighter with seemingly limitless energy, as well as having no way to slow the pace, by the middle rounds, the champion was also badly cut on his right eyelid, but it would be unclear as to whether the cut came from a punch or from an accidental clash of heads. At this point in the fight as I continued to watch Lomachenko put round after round in the bank, the only question in my mind was whether or not Kambosos would be able to go the distance.

Although no one can take anything away from what was a gutsy and very “Game" performance by Kambosos, there is no dispute that over the course of the fight, Lomachenko was administering a beating, and I have seen countless fights on every level of Boxing imaginable, stopped under circumstances less than what Kambosos was suffering in this fight. What was developing into gradual concern of yours truly in wondering if the fight would be stopped,would turn out to be academic.

It would be late in the eleventh round when Lomachenko would connect with what appeared to be a right hook to the body from the southpaw stance, which caused a momentary delayed reaction, and caused Kambosos to take a knee. Looking beaten, Kambosos showed his mettle by getting up from the knockdown only to be met with a follow up assault by Lomachenko sending him down for a second time as a towel thrown by Kambosos’ father George Kambosos Sr. was thrown in simultaneously to stop the fight.

The win for Lomachenko not only signifies his fourth world championship in three weight divisions as a professional, but also gives him status as a unified world champion in the Lightweight division and no doubt will offer a significant incentive to other world champions in the division to sign to fight him. One thing is clear, Vasyl Lomachenko has for the moment silenced doubters as to how much he has left in him at this stage of his career. He’s back and after this performance, may be viewed as even more dangerous than he was before as the road to Undisputed begins again in the Lightweight division.

“And That's The Boxing Truth." 

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