Having watched the sport of boxing for just shy of 45 years, while never considering myself an expert: however, modestly, and self proclaimed, levels above “Boxing Twitter”, have definitely picked up a few things along the way. While drawn initially towards the brutality of the sport, as I grew older, and as some would argue, wiser, I began to see the beauty and grace of the sweetness in the science.
I”ll bore you now with three personal case studies….
Hagler v. Leonard- Being more of a Hagler fan at the time, totally biased going in, and more importantly, not appreciating what I saw from Leonard in this fight. It was Hagler’s non-stop attack, and brutal approach that had surely won the fight, as I thought, only to be disappointed.
Watching it many years later, again, wiser, it was the sweetness of Leonard, or sugar as you will that was the difference in the fight. I stood corrected.
Tyson v. Holyfield-Again, loving the brutality early on, back in 1985, I became enamored with Kid Dynamite, a pugilist, my age, knocking out gown ass men for sport. (If interested in looking back at the first year of Tyson’s rise, search Standing-8.com for an article titled “Looking Back At The Rise Of The Baddest Man On The Planet”).
I can still remember Lou Duva (RIP), chirping how his fighter would KO Tyson. Hell no, I thought, savage Iron Mike would be the difference.
Now, before you, yourself start chirping about how Holy was equally as brutal in his approach, I will stop you right there and say, I agree..absolutely; however, Evander undoubtedly had the better overall skill set. Holyfield’s gameplan in dismantling Tyson, was a thing of beauty. Holyfield’ s strategic foot placement, not allowing Mike to dig in and rotate his hips generating his fight-ending power, and allowing Holyfield to counter with precision. Go back and watch the little things in that fight and it will become clear.
Lastly, Floyd Mayweather- Look no further than Pretty Boy Floyd, a.k.a., Money, and it all comes together. Mayweather perfected the art, hit and don’t get hit, movement, space, and finishing power with a mean streak when it presented itself. Ring generalship with a high I.Q., dominating. Say all you want about him, how he “ran”, and wouldn’t brawl, and I’d say, it’s a good thing you don’t manage and train fighters. While early on, I wanted him to get knocked on his ass, I again, grew to appreciate the brilliance of his game.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a great knock out just as much as the next guy; however, when it is set up with a solid gameplan, and executed at the precise moment of the blueprint, that is much more gratifying to me, then a quick KO.
So, what does all of this have to do with Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2 11 KO) V. Devin Haney (29-0 15KO)? Not much on the surface, but the granular….the movement of the sweet science, the dance..
Flash forward to 2014, the first time I saw Lomachenko. I had thought I had seen most of what a fighter can bring in the ring, but this was next level. The movement was like nothing I had ever seen. The footwork, oh, the footwork. As I would come to find out, the footwork was embedded in Loma at an early age by Papachenko. “You will learn Ukrainian Dance before you step in the ring”, a wise Anatoly would tell his son.
Fight after fight, I would have to rewind the tape to see what my eyes missed, the step over move, the crossover move, punches strategically placed, as the dancer turned pugilist (no mas’d) one opponent after another. Masterclass, fight after fight, a new wrinkle each time..we had not been here before , and this was good.
Of course, there was the Lopez fight, but that one fight, that loss, actually will be the difference in his successes against Haney.
Additionally, leaving the sport to fight for his beloved Ukraine, said all you need to know about the man they call the Matrix. And, make no mistake, on all of those lonely nights, facing death at every turn, a fight for being undisputed is miniscule. Further, in those times in war, your thoughts are all you have, and while in the theater of operation, he no doubt drifted from time to time, back to his dream of being undisputed, and if he is ever given that opportunity again….., yes, he will not let it pass.
If you look close enough, you can see that Loma is in Haney’s head, living rent free. Haney talks about “you should have fought me four years ago, it’ll be much worse now”, “you like to hit on the break, you are a dirty fighter”, “I’m going to retire you”, “I don’t like him”. It makes you wonder, who is Haney trying to convince? Loma or himself?
Then yesterday at the weigh in…the push heard round the world, amateurish move, again a self convincing stimulus that is needed by Haney, because doubt is creeping in. In the post fight weigh-in interview, if you listened closely enough, you could hear the change in inflection in Haney’s voice. Something is amiss. On the surface the confidence is deafening, conversely, those lonely quiet times when Haney is contemplating the fight, he envisions and fears a different outcome.
Haney is correct in the fact that Loma would have benefited by fighting him four years ago. What Haney tries to hide in his self assured statement is..had that occured, Haney’s path would have been much different. He would not be undefeated, and surely not undisputed as he is today. The fight then would have been one-sided, advantage, Loma. This Saturday, all things considered, the fight is even, as much as Haney would like you to believe the fight it is just semantics.
Loma will have many opportunities for success. Haney throws his punches wider than he should, and admires his body of work too much after throwing a punch, while not getting his guard tucked back to his chin. If you look closely, you’ll see he is open straight down the middle and severely open underneath, and wide open many times for an uppercut, as he throws his punches.
I look for Loma to exploit Haney’s weaknesses once he overcomes the size and style of Haney. Haney will win most of the first third of the fight, at times, convincingly, but around Round 4, the tide will change. Loma will begin to find his rhythm, pick his spots, and oh, the sweet science, you beautiful game, will appear. Loma will begin to do what Loma does, dictate the terms, when and how he says. He will frustrate Haney, leading to a possible foul by the champ, but in the end the greatness of a forgotten champ will come through.
Loma does not need to bark or push, he simply is waiting for fight night, for a chance to achieve the one & only goal that has ever mattered to him, becoming undisputed. It is not the path to undisputed that Loma would have preferred but it’s here now, and, as the underdog for arguably the first time in his career, makes him a very dangerous and live dog.
On February 17, 1988, in a hospital in Bilhorod-Dnistrovs’kyi, Ukraine Anatoly and Tetiana Lomachenko welcomed their new baby boy into the world, and named him Vasiliy, meaning “King”.
Yes, undisputed was predestined.