VASYL LOMACHENKO: MUCH MORE THAN P4P

Guillermo Rigondeaux, a highly decorated amateur and lauded professional boxer, quit in his match versus Vasyl Lomachenko. It was the fourth straight opponent who has quit on Lomachenko, causing many to call him the best fighter on Earth. Is he, though?

First, take the Rigondeaux fight in context. Ahead of the bout being signed, Rigo was vocal on Twitter and elsewhere he would hand Lomachenko a loss. He even promised not to quit.

Hubris is a funny thing, and every boxer has it. Rigo likely watched tape, sized Loma up in his mind and decided he could use his counter-punching style to catch him with something significant. In our preview article, we noted Rigo’s hypnotic jab and slick defensive footwork as his main tools for setting up power shots. We also noted that to be successful, Lomachenko would have to take those tools out of Rigo’s shed.

And Loma did. When Rigo went into his familiar pull-back defensive posture, Loma attacked (as we predicted). His jab was rendered useless by Lomachenko’s angling and lateral footwork. Rigo was so humorously overmatched he landed 15 punches in six rounds. Lomachenko landed more punches in the fourth round alone.

Stats are where things illuminate what’s really going on with Rigo’s injury. After the sixth round, Rigo complained of an injured left hand. He seemed to be pointing to his wrist. He says he injured it in the second round. Compubox stats tell us he threw and landed the same number of power punches (or more) in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds as he did the second. At no time did he appear to be favouring his left (power) hand.

For a guy who was so boisterous on social media ahead of the fight, Rigo has been eerily quiet since the match ended. Typically, a fighter will share images of an injury or a selfie from the hospital. We need look no further than Eddie Hearn, who shared pictures of Kell Brook’s demolished orbital socket after his GGG bout. Rigo’s account hasn’t tweeted since December 9.

Most consider the injury claim a lie. Rigo’s hubris commanded he come up with a reason he, one of the more respected technicians around, looked below average versus Lomachenko. An injured hand – one of the more suspect (yet common) injuries in boxing – was his way out. (Nicholas Walters half-heartedly claimed promotional woes and inactivity were a reason he quit versus Lomachenko)

Guillermo Rigondeaux is the fourth straight fighter Vasyl Lomachenko has forced to retire on their stool. None had the fight beat out of them. Whereas we often think a boxer is defeated when his senses are detached from his self, Lomachenko removes their confidence and will. He takes their hubris.

The origin of the word ‘hubris’ is Greek, and is loosely defined as excessive pride and the defiance of Gods, typically in Greek tragedy. In more modern terms, we say someone shows hubris when exhibiting arrogance and foolish pride.

Lomachenko versus anyone else is a test of the hubris all boxers have. Loma’s arsenal of footwork, angling, crafty punches and mockery show real effectiveness in those sixty seconds between rounds. A cornerman can yell obscenities and offer advice all he likes, but the boxer is looking across the ring wondering who – or maybe ‘what’ – Lomachenko is.

(Side note: Lomachenko’s conditioning coach, Cicilio Flores, was in the corner when Marcos Maidana beat Adrien Broner. He slapped a crown on Maidana when the decision was announced. He tried the same with Vasyl Lomachenko when the Michael Buffer officially proclaimed him the victor versus Rigondeaux. Anatoly, Vasyl’s father and trainer, immediately snatched the crown off his son’s head. For a team that has every reason to be arrogant, it was an interesting show of humility.)

According to the last four fighters, who happen to be top-tier talent in their respective divisions and have quit between rounds, Lomachenko is a God. Hubris can only be challenged by the God Nemesis, who would enact retribution against those demonstrating hubris. Nemesis means “to give what is due.”

To quit between rounds is to admit you got what you deserved. Rigondeaux claims injury caused his downfall, but the numbers prove him wrong. He also failed to communicate the injury ahead of the 60 seconds between the sixth and seventh rounds, which caused confusion in his corner for both his trainer (who initially tried to unwrap his right glove) and the ESPN translator. These two facts suggest the injury was simply a lie, an attempt to save face. Everyone sees through it. Guillermo Rigondeaux got what he deserved. His nemesis got the better of him.

Critics and pundits say Lomachenko needs to scale up to 140 or above to find quality opposition. Many of them said Mikey Garcia was foolish to do the same. Many also say there’s no reason for Terrence Crawford to scale back down to 135 to meet Lomachenko. It’s unreasonable to ask a man to subject his body to extreme weight gain and loss for profit, or even glory. Lomachenko himself says moving to 140 at this point would be unwise; he likens it to Rigo moving to 130 from 122 to face him.

Pound for pound lists are subjective, and come with low-hanging fruits of caveats. For Lomachenko, Rigo was supposed to be his perfect foil. Those who favoured Rigo believed Lomachenko had finally discovered his own nemesis. The same people who refuse to place Vasyl Lomachenko atop their best-of lists say he still hasn’t faced top opposition. It’s the same argument that has dogged his short professional career.

Knockouts are awesome. Decisions are interesting. Making fighters quit, though – that’s something to behold. Vasyl Lomachenko is not only the best boxer on Earth, he’s possibly some sort of God.

I know. It sounds crazy, and I’m at least half tongue-in-cheek, but how else do we explain Vasyl Lomachenko? Many would point to the Salido fight as proof Lomachenko is mortal. And he is. He’s also subject to the very human judges next time a fight goes the distance. I wouldn’t even be surprised if another loss popped up on his record at some point for one reason or another. Still, we’ve never seen a fighter so thoroughly dominate opponents. Never have we seen four straight top-tier fighters quit, a taboo in the sport of boxing.

My argument for Lomachenko is that while some boxers ascend to the heights of their divisions, or maybe even boxing as a whole, he has transcended the sport. We are witness to greatness. Rather than quibble over his status as a modern great, I say we appreciate Lomachenko for who – or maybe ‘what’ – he is.

By Nate Swanner

@NateSwanner