Vasyl Lomachenko: ‘All fighters think about their legacy. I’m no different’

Lomachenko won 396 fightings and two Olympic gold medals as an amateur. His next aim is to beat Jorge Linares and become a three-weight world champion after just 12 professional fights

Vasyl Lomachenko may be the most talented boxer of his generation. As an amateur, he won two Olympic gold medals and lost just one of his 397 fightings. In the professional ranks, he won a world title in his third oppose, became a two-weight world champion after simply seven fightings, and has forced his last four opponents to retire on their stools. Boxers don’t tend to quit, but they do when Lomachenko is in the opposite corner.

The Ukrainian should be celebrated the world over but global acclaim has not come his style. Does the lack of recognition ever bother him? Sitting at his home in California, he pauses briefly before answering.” Yes. I’ll be honest, I’m getting a bit frustrated. Every fighter thinks about their legacy and I’m not any different .”

After dedicating so much of his career to the amateur ranks, winning featherweight gold in Beijing and the lightweight title at London 2012, Lomachenko has been inducing up for lost hour since his professional debut in 2013. He won his first world title at featherweight in 2014 and he became the fastest two-weight world champion in boxing history when he beat Roman Martinez at super-featherweight in 2016. He will stimulate more history next month if he defeats Jorge Linares at Madison Square Garden to become a three-weight world champion after only 12 fights.

Linares, a powerful Venezuelan who holds the WBA lightweight world title, will hope to present a stiffer exam than Lomachenko’s previous adversary at the Garden, Guillermo Rigondeaux. The Cuban was heavily and understandably hyped before their contest in December– he was unbeaten as a professional and had also won two Olympic gold medals- but Lomachenko dominated the fight to the point that Rigondeaux retired after the sixth round.

Fed up with fighters retiring during his bouts, Lomachenko joked at ringside that he should alter his name to” No Mas Chenko”- a reference to the night Roberto Duran supposedly quit against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.” I get frustrated at the ending of the Rigondeaux fight ,” says Lomachenko.” I didn’t get an opportunity to finish what I had started and that’s hard. Linares is a very dangerous fight. I consider him a very good fighter. He has speed, coordination and, most crucially, a great boxing IQ. He’s on the very top level and he’s the kind of fighter I really want to face if I expect to set my name in the history of boxing .”

Lomachenko devoted Guillermo Rigondeaux a boxing lesson in Madison Square Garden in November 2017. Photograph: Steven Ryan/ Getty Images

When Lomachenko’s name is finally written into the history of boxing, his father Anatoly will be able to take a lot of credit. Anatoly brought up young Vasyl in the city of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Ukraine and remains his trainer. Sport, especially boxing, remain their binding glue. Lomachenko smiles when he talks about his birthplace and country, but when asked for specific memories of his childhood, he always returns to athletic pursuings.” Most of my childhood was focused on the activity of sport. Everything that went on seemed to have been around sport. I had a dream as a young boy to be Olympic champion in boxing and that’s what I focused on with my father- building it a reality .”

Lomachenko boxed from the age of four until he was nine, before Anatoly decided it was time to temporarily swap his gloves for dancing shoes. For the next four years, Lomachenko became accomplished in traditional Ukrainian dancing before lacing his gloves once again. Lomachenko’s balletic motion enables him to glide towards foes and assault them from different slants, but he insists his footwork in the ring is not exclusively due to his dance background.” It’s true that I went to dance class as a young son and it did improve my feet, but I don’t believe that it was solely dancing that helped my footwork. I was doing so many different athletics as a young boy- gymnastics, basketball, football, tennis- and I suppose, ultimately, everything came together with all those different kinds of athletics to enhance my footwork .”

Anatoly’s boxing education for Vasyl began early and has always been unorthodox. “Papachenko” first set a pair of gloves on his son when he was three days old and quickly developed Vasyl, who is naturally right-handed, into a southpaw. Vasyl learned how to overcome his natural instincts by holding his breath underwater – his record is four minutes, 20 seconds- and he completes complex mental arithmetic problems to stay sharp.” To become very good in the ring it is a question of developing both your mental and physical abilities ,” Lomachenko explains.” You need to make sure that all of these things are working to the very best of their ability to succeed as a fighter .”

Vasyl Lomachenko beat Roman Martinez in 2016 to become a two-weight world champion after merely seven professional fightings. Photograph: Rich Schultz/ Getty Images

Lomachenko deep respects his father but how do they keep a harmonious household dynamic?” Of course there are times when we disagree ,” he giggles.” We have argued , usually over trivial things, but everything that I do in the ring, my father taught me. Everything that you see in the ring, my father made it. When I’m in the ring, I guess:’ How to win ?’ I think of everything my father has told me. I think:’ What is my strategy? How am I going to execute this fight ?’ Am I happy when I fight? Yes, I’m happy when I fight .”

Lomachenko is a perfectionist in every aspect of his life, whether that is completing mathematical equations or refining his combinations on the pads. His perfectionism extends to his command of the English language. He speaks highly proficient English but he is studying relentlessly to improve. He was formerly conducted interviews in English, but he is speaking to me via his director, Egis Klimas. Why does he still use a translator? He giggles.” I am a very realistic person in every aspect of my life. I know my English is not good enough yet. I want to speak English perfectly. In fact, I want to speak English just like I opposed and, until that moment, I find it very difficult to do an interview solely in English .”

Lomachenko enjoys the quiet of life in the seaside city of Oxnard, 60 miles west of Los Angeles. He appreciates the friendliness of the locals and, when he can escape his demanding training regime, he enjoys driving fast autoes and fishing. Does he was never get mentally drained from the pursuit of being a perfect fighter?” To be honest , not very frequently. I do get mentally tired sometimes, but it’s not for a long time. I believe that every person in the world has their place. I need to keep working, because in 30 years, when we look back, then we will see how I am recollected .”

* This article is from Behind the Lines
* Follow Jonathan Drennan on Twitter

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