The Return Of The King

In February of 1988, in a hospital in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, Mr. and Mrs. Anatoly Lomachenko welcomed their new baby boy into the world and named him Vasyl, meaning “king”. Ever since the then he has been fulfilling the prophecy.

Vasyl won gold at the 2008 & 2012 Olympic Games, and is arguably the best amateur fighter of all time compiling a mind-boggling record of 396-1, his only defeat, avenged…..twice for good measure.

The blood lines for athletic greatness were strong, his mother a gymnast and trainer, his father an amateur fighter and trainer who has provided the wise guidance to Vasyl since the beginning.

“I can’t even remember how old I was when I first started boxing, but I was very very young” Lomachenko has said. “When I was born, I think they took me straight from the hospital to the gym”

No doubt.

Lomachenko (6-1 4 KO) is poetry in motion.  The footwork unmatched, the style as smooth as silk. His skill set is part throwback, part modern-day, and quite frankly, something from the future. Since turning pro in 2013, “Hi-Tech” has dazzled us and caused our minds’ eye to take a moment to process what it just saw . He moves forward then back landing jabs, power crosses and hooks. He works both efficiently to the head and body. The movements as effortless as a painter’s strokes on a canvas,  a physical acknowledgement to the hours of dance lessons learned early in life.

Lomachenko is a refreshing addition to, the at times, monotonous performances in the squared circle. He has speed for days and can also bang as evident by his recent string of three straight knockouts.

When the Ukrainian knuckled up with Gary Russell Jr., he was in with arguably the quickest hands in the game. But there was Lomachenko, masterfully defensive as he countered the speed with his movement while surprising Russel Jr. with his own lightning. A southpaw by trade, he was brilliant, immediately going to Russell Jr.’s body from the opening bell to ensure his opponent’s biggest asset would decrease round by round. It was obvious in the championship rounds that the game plan had been executed for optimal effectiveness.

By besting Russell, Lomachenko captured the vacant WBO featherweight title and oh, while he was at it, tied Saensak Muangsurin’s record for the fastest to win a world title as a pro.

In his last fight on June 11,  Lomachenko stopped the tough as nails Roman Martinez (29-3 17 KO) in the fifth round with a beautiful partial left uppercut-right cross combination . It was evident early on that Martinez was just not in the same class with the fighter who had twenty-eight fewer fights.

Said Lomachenko after stopping Martinez, a fight he dedicated to The Greatest, the late great Muhammad Ali,

“I want to line up all the best fighters at 130 and see who the best fighter is……..I just came to do my job”

Speculation was that Lomachenko would look to avenge the only loss of his young career in his next bout, a rematch with Orlando Salido, but…..The Axe Man cometh.

The rematch against Salido can be scheduled at a later date… or not. To be honest, we’d rather see Lomachenko in against the Walters’ and Rigondeaux’s of the world. Even grossly outweighed and illegally fouled throughout the fight, Lomachenko still only lost by the slightest of margins via split decision. Lomachenko about had Salido out at the end and while Salido is as tough as they come his skill set is not on par and he would be exposed in a rematch.

And now we get to the matter at hand… this Saturday’s meeting against Jamaican Nicholas Walters (26-0-1 21 KO) from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas for the WBO World super featherweight title. These are the types of matchups that the fans want to see.

Walters is very compact in his approach and doesn’t waste energy. He is very calculated and throws a sneaky and timely right uppercut. At times, he gets a bit wide on his punches and is susceptible to a power shot down the middle. A straight ahead fighter who uses the shoulder roll effectively and understands how to throw punches from it. He also has a significant reach advantage in this one but for a compact fighter not adept on fighting on the outside, it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference.

If there is one Achilles heel for Walters it is his inability to effectively fight off his back foot. In reviewing tape on Walters, when he is forced to work off his back foot, he does not throw punches and his activity level is non-existent. Very few fighters today work on the outside as well as Lomachenko, his movement will force Walters to fight off his back foot and turn him into a mostly defensive fighter looking for one shot.

Walters is at his best when he is in tight and fighting in close quarters. There will be opportunities in this fight for that to happen but few and far between. The Ukrainian will not oblige Walters in a slugfest but will however, pick and choose when he will throw his own power shots for maximum damage. Make no mistake, Lomachenko can bang, but he is like a surgeon, calculated in his approach and will do so on his own terms.

Another key factor will be the head movement of Lomachenko. He is very skilled at slipping and dodging punches while countering with blistering speed. In addition, while using the aforementioned effortless footwork of a dancer, he is known to spin out of harms way while landing punches with bad intentions. If there is one shot that Lomachenko may have an opportunity to land in this fight, it’s the check left hook. It will be interesting to see if it unfolds.

Walters last faced a southpaw in 2014 when he stopped Vic Darchinyan in five but the Armenian had moments due to his unorthodox movement as he forced Walters to fight off his back foot. Again, something Walters will face against Lomachenko; however, against this lefty, he will be in deep and many, many, levels above in class.

Make no mistake, this will be an excellent matchup that will push both fighters, the best fighting the best, how refreshing.

At the end of the day, the call here is Lomachenko. He has too many tools in the tool belt and his ring generalship is about the best in the game. To already be in the P4P fighter discussion after only seven fights is unheard of. Walters will bring out the best in Lomachenko and we will again have to adjust our focus, grab the remote and rewind the tape to validate what we just saw.

…….It’s good to be the king.

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