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Move over Muhammad…is Loma now the greatest of all time?

Posted on: 25 May 2018

Vasyl Lomachenko

HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD

By Alan Hubbard

Vasyl Lomachenko is a name which does not trip easily off the tongue but it has found its way to the lips of the boxing cognoscenti who argue that the double Olympic and world amateur gold medal winner from the Ukraine, world professional champion at three weight divisions after only 12 fights, may now be the greatest of all time.

So move over Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson et al ?

Not for me. At least, not quite yet.

Loma, as he likes to be labelled, is certainly the greatest of his time. But surely there is more to do before he can be called the greatest of all time.

His octogenarian American promoter Bob Arum claims he is the best since Ali. Others, among them Hall of Fame British promoter Frank Warren, reckon him the best they’ve seen since Leonard. Some even rate him alongside Robinson, arguably the sweetest scientist of them all.

There is certainly a strong resemblance to these fistic legends, with Lomachenko able to counter-punch while on the move and place those sharp punches dextrously with what seems instinctive built-in radar.

What is not in doubt is Lomachenko’s exquisite quality as a box-fighter who can stand opponents in their head – as well as putting them on their backside.

This he did late in his most recent of his dozen bouts, against Jorge Linares, a highly skilled opponent of no mean ability, unbeaten in six years and ranked among the world’s top ten pound-for-pounders, to claim the World Boxing Association (WBA) super-lightweight belt, adding to the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) featherweight and super-featherweight titles he had already acquired.

It was a performance which took the breath away – not only from the onlooking fans packed into New York’s Madison Square Garden – but literally from Linares, who succumbed to a left hook to the body in the tenth which travelled no more than six inches.

It was akin to Ali’s famous phantom punch in his second fight with Sonny Liston, delivered with such venom and velocity that TV cameras virtually missed it.

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Like Triple G, he has revived the art of body punching. That left hook to the liver – like a right to the temple – can be the most brutal coupe de grace in boxing.

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At 30, this slickest of southpaws is the smoothest operator in modern boxing. Fleet of fist and foot, he moves with almost balletic grace and balance, no doubt a relic of his formative years when his trainer father coached him in the art of the Hopak, the Cossack-styled Ukrainian national dance in their home village.

What I particularly like is that he embodies some of the characteristics of Gennady Golovkin (still my favourite current boxer), especially in that he is not shy of taking one shot to deliver two or more.

Indeed, Linares, the ultra-accomplished Venezuelan world champion,     put him on the floor for the first time in the sixth round. But Lomachenko was up almost before he had touched down.

Like Triple G, he has revived the art of body punching. That left hook to the liver – like a right to the temple – can be the most brutal coupe de grace in boxing.

It is incredible to think that Lomachenko , who now lives in California, fought for a world title – narrowly losing on a split decision – in only his second pro fight just three years ago, and won it in his third.

Subsequently he remains unblemished and such is his prowess and reputation that prior to the Linares contest four successive world class opponents, including the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, quit on their stool during their bouts rather than risk further humiliation.

What cannot be disputed is that Vasyl Anatoliyovich Lomachenko is the the greatest amateur boxer of all time, with only one defeat in 396 bouts, which he twice reversed.

He won the featherweight Olympic gold medal and was awarded the prestigious Val Barker Trophy for the most outstanding boxer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The same year he won gold at the European Championships.

Lomachenko went on to win the gold medal at the 2009 World Amateur Championships, where he conceded only seven points in the whole tournament despite breaking his hand an earlier bout.

In 2011, he moved up to the lightweight division where he captured his second Olympic gold medal at the World Amateur Championships. In 2012, he won his second Olympic Gold at the London Games.

Former Olympic gold medallist Istvan Kovacs said of the unique Ukrainian “Thank God there was no Lomachenko in my division at the time, I never saw a fighter like him before.”

However, I think it a tad too early to pass definitive judgement on him as the greatest boxer of all time.

How I would love to have witnessed him lock fists with some of the great of featherweights and lightweights of the past, like Willie Pep, Henry Armstrong, Vicente Saldivar, Carlos Ortiz, Roberto Duran, Ismael Laguna or Britain’s Ken Buchanan.

Catchweight contests with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather jnr could also have better determined his greatness. And talked-of future confrontations with Terence Crawford and Mikey Garcia still might.

It certainly made for a lively debate on BoxNation’s Boxing Matters this week.Catch a repeat if you missed its

Meantime, let us savour Loma for what he is. A sublime artist on canvas and a very special athlete indeed.

USUALLY I’M NOT ONE TO say ‘I told you so’ –usually because I am wrong – but I did get it right here last week when predicting that Josh Warrington would take Lee Selby’s IBF world featherweight title on a split decision

Josh Warrington

Technically I was spot on as that was the official verdict. But it was one which did Josh an injustice in what might well be the fight of the year.

In my view he won by the proverbial country mile. Four rounds at least.

Using that Elland Road roar to his advantage – as I also predicted he would – Josh fought with verve, nerve and intelligent aggression on a joyous night that exemplified what boxing is about.

He was denied what should have been a clear unanimous decision by a Canadian arbiter who thought Selby the better man by two rounds. Nonsense.

That judge should be given his cards – and never again the scorecard variety.

FRANK WARREN CAN now boast a quartet of the most attractive and exciting fighters in the land based on their most recent performances: Warrington against Selby, Carl Frampton against Nonito Donaire, Billy Joe Saunders against Daniel Lemieux and Tyson Fury against Wladimir Klitschko

Frampton v Donaire

Throw into the mix another world champion Zolani Tete, plus Terry Flanagan, Liam Smith, Daniel Dubois, Anthony Yarde, Jack Catterall, Liam Williams and Nicola Adams (dubbed the ‘female Lomachenko’ by the promoter after doing Leeds proud with a summary dismissal of her Argentine opponent) plus a whole platoon of ambitious young prodigies and Warren’s Queensberry men -and woman – backed by BT and BoxNation – surely comprise the most progressive and talented stable of thoroughbreds in the land.

FRAMPTON v WARRINGTON becomes a natural match-up for either Windsor Park or Elland Road but don’t expect them to come together soon. Both are huge ticket sellers at their respective home venues and there is no rush. It may be this time next year when we see them get it on in a blockbuster domestic dust-up.

It makes sense-and surely will make a lot of money, which is still the name of the game.

 

 

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