Over the years, the super featherweight division has consistently delivered some of the sport’s most entertaining back and forth bouts, but no one fighter in recent memory has ever seemed to transcend the division and stand head and shoulders above the competition.
That all changed in 2016 when the now 28-year-old Ukrainian, Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko moved up from 126 pounds and took the division by storm and stating his claim not only as the division's best, but also as the world’s best fighter.
His story so far
The most fascinating part of Lomachenko’s story is how quickly you can go over the sum of it so far. One of boxing’s greatest ever amateur boxers, he won gold at both the Beijing and London Olympics as well as two world championships, turning pro with an amateur record of 396-1.
As a professional, his record stands at 7-1 (5 KOs), he became world champion in his third professional bout after coming up short on the end of a horrible decision, in a horribly officiated fight, against legendary brawler and perennial champion Orlando Salido in his second pro bout.
Lomachenko didn’t chose the easy way up the rankings and has consistently faced the best possible opposition, consistently improving and adapting himself to the pro style. Every one of his career opponents as been a world champion and after a landmark 2016, in which we saw him destroying both Roman Martinez and Nicholas Walters at only eight fights and four years into his pro career, he is already a figurehead of the sport and in my opinion, the world’s number one pound-for-pound fighter.
Lomachenko’s strengths and weaknesses
Lomachenko’s skillset is one of the most complete and impressive I’ve ever seen, and I could go on and on about what he does incredibly well in the ring but his most notable traits have to be his footwork and punch selection.
HBO boxing commentator Max Kellerman described Lomachenko’s footwork and fighting style as “swimming without getting wet,” per Fight World, which paints a picture of his unique ability to seemingly never get hit while always remaining in range, pushing the pace and staying offensive. Unlike Floyd Mayweather, Guillermo Rigondeaux or many other defensive specialists, Lomachenko fights more so on the front foot than the back, making his opponents miss in a close enough range to punish them effectively and stop the fight.
He switches stance in mid combination to open up his offense and limit his opponent's punch selection. He knows what punches his opponent’s throw, from which angles, and consistently chokes up their punching power by either stepping into their punching arm, cutting them off and opening angles for himself to step around and punish them without consequence, or steps around them like a matador does to a bull.
Another huge tool in his arsenal is the use of setup punches and glove pulling to poke holes and create openings in his opponent’s defence. Lomachenko will regularly launch throwaway crosses to grab his opponent's opposing glove and open them from for hooks, making him one of the world's best on the front foot as well his prowess as a counterpuncher.
The hard part about analysing his game is finding weaknesses. He’s only lost once as an amateur, and barely at that, and his only pro loss was in in one of the dirtiest and most poorly officiated fights in recent boxing history.
He has consistently improved and has seemed not only to be unstoppable, but also untouchable in 2016. Two high level world champions stepped up to the plate and both were thoroughly embarrassed. It seems like the only way to beat Lomachenko is maybe to catch him clean, which seems, for the moment, unlikely or to hit him below the belt for 36 minutes and hope the official doesn’t see it.
Lomachenko has expressed his willingness to unify the super featherweight belts, establishing his dominance before moving up once again in weight, a prospect which many fans and critics perceive as unnecessary given the performances he’s had so far at 130 pounds.
With that in mind, the division still has a few fun fights for Lomachenko, notably a rematch with Orlando Salido, a defensive showdown with the fascinating Tevin Farmer, a bout with Floyd Mayweather protégé Gervonta Davis and title unifiers against Francisco Vargas, Jezreel Corrales or Jose Pedraza.
Ideally, I see Lomachenko facing off against either Salido or Corrales around March, in an effort to stay active whilst Francisco Vargas recovers from his upcoming January 28 title defense opposite the 30-1 (27 KOs) Miguel Berchelt, setting up a unifier between the division's number one and two ranked fighters.
What do you think to Lomachenko's performances so far? Let us know in the comments section below.