Lance Pugmir, October 2020
With blood splattered on the surface and a sweaty face stuck to the canvas, Anthony Kroll looked up at Lomachenko.
A heavy blow to the Englishman’s temple from the right made him spread out properly on the canvas. After referee Jack Riess in the same – fourth – round stopped the fight, Krolla’s head was blinded by a memory: a long conversation with assistant coach Vasily Russ Anber.
“For all the years that I have been in boxing, I have never met anyone better than him,” Anber admitted. – I watched him knock down sparring partners, and it all looks like he knows their actions three or four steps ahead. He’s a master chess player, really. “
An evil check and checkmate fell on Kroll along with the final blow of Lomachenko on that very night in April 2019.
“Being on the floor, all I was thinking about then was how he could catch me as accurately as he came to this moment with the help of all these little traps. There was nothing else in my head. He’s very smart.
This is his ability to feel the distance, due to his skill, he discourages so many fighters when he often starts to fail them. It’s not that he just fails them, but they often fall short. Vasily makes them feel like they are at a safe distance, and then punishes. Therefore, it is rather called “making a miss” and “making to pay”. It’s impossible to deny that his footwork is one of the best in boxing history, it’s just incredible. He is a well-rounded fighter. “
This Saturday evening Lomachenko will again get a chance to demonstrate his completeness when he meets IBF champion Teofimo Lopez in the ring.
Lopez, 23, has great punching power, an advantage in span of arms, and is 9 years younger than Vasily. He promises to impose his brute strength on the Ukrainian, whose distinguished career in the amateur ring, during which he won more than 350 fights, was further confirmed by the meteoric rise in the pound-fo-pound rankings.
What makes Lomachenko stand out from others? The Athletic asked this question to seven fighters who have shared the ring with Lomachenko. This group of respondents included such boxers as Crolla, Miguel Marriaga, Jose Pedraza, Orlando Salido, Guillermo Rigondo, Jorge Linares and Luc Campbell.
“No one but him is capable of this.”
Salido: “Our strategy for the fight was to keep him from thinking about his actions, to keep him constantly puzzled, constantly pressing him with punches, whatever. I aimed for constant bombardment so that he did not have time to figure out what to do, and that’s exactly that I was able to turn the whole fight. “
But Salido admits that Lomachenko is now at a completely different level.
Salido: “Nobody else is capable of that … I don’t see people like that. He is a very high level fighter. He had never before me faced such pressure in the ring, but since then he has become very mature and has grown into a good fighter with excellent skills of lateral (lateral) movement “.
I doubt that Lomachenko will face any problems in the fight with Lopez. Yes, he is a big and hitting fighter, but it will be very difficult for him to hit, because Lomachenko will enter the ring with a very well thought out plan for the fight and will not allow Lopez to get into his striking distance.
Lomachenko gained a lot of experience boxing with guys whose style is similar to mine. Lopez will press him, but now Vasily knows how to neutralize it. He’s very, very smart. I cannot imagine that someone would maintain the pace of the fight that I asked, Vasily, due to his ingenuity, will not allow this. He knows what his opponents are preparing, he understood this moment, and his agility, footwork is the reason for such a gap between him and the rest of the fighters. “
Lomachenko lost only once in the professional ring. (Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)
Marriaga: “Every time you move up in weight, the fights get harder. The same thing happened with Roberto Duran.
The ability to masterfully feel the distance is Lomachenko’s main asset. Not only is he capable of attacking from a distance, he is also very explosive. So these skills only make it easier for him in the upcoming fight. This was the first and only time when I was defeated early. Nevertheless, I believe that Lomachenko is now at his peak and that will be enough to stop Lopez. He is very tough, fast and experienced. “
Rigondo: “On the morning of the fight, I realized that nothing would come of it when, after a run, Lomachenko showed 139 pounds on the scales at 09:00, and entered the fight with a weight close to 150 pounds, while I was barely getting to 130.
At the end of the second round, I realized that I had injured my hand when he lowered his elbow during my blow to the body. He never wanted to fight me in the pound 122, he refused to go down to 125 for a reason. He waited 5 years to meet me at 130, and we had one promoter.
We’ll soon find out if Loma is able to withstand the onslaught of a fighter of his size. He is a two-time Olympic champion and an outstanding boxer in the professional ring. But nowadays, the only high-profile opponent he had is me. Who was he fighting with? This moment is frustrating. I understand him. No one with both of us is eager to fight. “
“No one had such boxing qualities as Lomachenko.”
Linares: “I managed to get him right straight and send him to the floor, but I didn’t push my hand far enough to deliver 100 percent of the power, and there were only 20 seconds left to the gong. If I meet him again, I will beat him.”
Lomachenko defeated Campbell by unanimous decision in August 2019. (Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)
Campbell: “Lomachenko boxed against many champions and forced them to throw out the towel. It seems to me that Linares could have climbed in the 10th round, but he didn’t want to. He often missed punches … And, as I saw it, it was like this:“ You know, I don’t win. There is no point in getting up “”.
Linares: “Lomachenko is a decision, I would say. In the first half of the fight, Lopez will threaten power and advantage in physical strength, in this segment he will have a chance to win. But Lomachenko is too experienced for him and too good in terms of technique. I was very impressed by his preparation , the level of endurance, so I think that in the second half of the fight Lomachenko will control the course of the fight. In any case, it will be very interesting. “
Pedraza: “I didn’t get nervous before fighting him. I have boxed world-class fighters throughout my career. I understood that I needed to show great performance, and it really was one of the best performances.
Because he is a very patient fighter and knows how to wait for the right moment to carry out an attack, – comments Pedraza knockdowns in the 11th round. – He does it almost best of all. He’s honing the skill of hitting at the right time, and that’s exactly what happened in the fight with me. Again, even before that, I realized how amazing he was, so I approached the fight with a couple of game plans, but his combat level of thinking was too high, due to which he could quickly adapt.
I myself also tried to control the distance in a duel with him. I understood that he would focus on movement from side to side, changing angles in close combat. He made such a gesture, they say, the fight is over when I was first knocked down, but I was able to continue the fight. “
Campbell: “Most of the rounds were very close, but he acted a little smarter than me and did a little more in the endings, thus winning three minutes. There was not any big advantage, but his ability to cut and break the distance … His performance in this aspect is very good I have been in the ring with all sorts of fighters, each has his own strengths, and he stands out the most from them. None of them had such boxing qualities as Lomachenko. And I strive to become better. ” …
“Look, I won’t tell you how good he is, because I understand what Lopez and his father are talking about: he turns up his nose. There was no respect from him after our fight ended. He looks at you. and thinks: “Yes, I am higher than you” – like that.
I felt how arrogant Loma was. Yes, being such a good boxer, he has the right, but he gave me nothing [уважения] and didn’t even say a word. I personally don’t like it. He is from Ukraine, people from those regions are distinguished by their composure, so this is the way things are. Nothing personal”.
Pedraza: “I can’t tell if he is emotional during the fight or calm. At some point in our fight he tried to get close, and I caught him with a good left hook, being in a left-handed stance. He responded with a reaction like:” Okay, good “, but quickly erased it from his face and returned to the execution of the fight plan. As he behaves outside the ring, so he behaves inside it. His actions are difficult to calculate, you need to constantly maintain concentration to get him. Without a doubt – he is the best fighter with whom I have ever entered the ring. “
Kroll: “I put Lopez high, but I just don’t believe that he is the one who will be able to beat Loma. The only thing that can work for him is if Lomachenko resists and tries to hurt Lopez. In this case, it will allow Lopez to throw more punches , one or two of which Lomachenko may concede, but I see that Vasily can find a way to break Lopez in 7-8 rounds, and body punches can play a role in this. claim victory with such an experienced athlete. “
Lomachenko knocks out Anthony Kroll on April 12, 2019. Staples Center. (Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)
Campbell: “Lomachenko perfectly knows how to deprive the opponent of striking power due to the dexterity of his movements. The fighter only feels his strength better if the opponent stands directly opposite him and takes every blow. In this case, the athlete who has the blow can be very effective. But if the opponent is very difficult get it clean, he moves, escapes, then such clean hits will be very rare. “
Pedraza: “I am convinced that strength and youth will be in favor of Lopez, but he has not yet met with a fighter who will discourage him like this. Loma will not let him really do anything, really.
We’ve all heard that boxing is an unpredictable sport, so no one knows what will happen if Lopez manages to deliver a power punch. But I expect to see a competent level of execution on the part of Lomachenko, a high level of IQ, due to which he will be able to leave the ring with a raised hand. “
Kroll: “Fighters like him are born once every 100 years, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m not trying to act like his fanboy right now. He’s probably one of the best boxers who ever stepped into the amateur ring when you look at him. achievements and record. And what he managed to achieve in his professional career … surreal. “
(Illustration: Wes McCabe / The Athletic)