Feature | Boxing

From dancer to double Olympic champ: Vasyl Lomachenko seeks lightweight dominance

Perhaps the greatest amateur boxer of all time, the double Olympic champion's journey to the top has unified speed, power, and art.

By Andrew Binner ·

There are barely enough superlatives available to describe the boxing genius of Vasyl Lomachenko, which may explain why fans tend to resort to nicknames instead.

The Ukrainian was known as ‘Hi-Tech’ when he first burst onto the scene, thanks to his electric hand speed and precision timing.

With a record of 396 wins and one loss - including two Olympic gold medals and two world titles - he then became renowned as the greatest amateur boxer of all time.

Vasyl Lomachenko: Olympic Highlights

The best of the action from double Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko's gold...

In the professional ranks, Lomachenko’s unpredictable footwork left opponents punching air as if he was boxing in a different dimension. In fact, he had so much time in the ring on one occasion he taunted his rival with a matador impression. A new moniker was born: ‘The Matrix’.

His latest nickname came in 2017 after Cuban fellow two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux retired against the Ukrainian in the sixth round at Madison Square Garden. In the post-fight interview Lomachenko proved that he is just as sharp outside the ring as he is in it, suggesting that his new name should be ‘No Mas Chenko’ or No More Chenko in English.

On Saturday 17th October Lomachenko's stellar career continues as he puts his WBA, WBC, and WBO belts on the line against Honduran-American IBF champion Teofimo Lopez in Las Vegas.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in the unification fight, as the winner will take the title of undisputed lightweight boxing champion.

Dancing the secret to Vasyl Lomachenko’s success?

When Lomachenko was a boy and his nickname was still ‘Loma’, his first foray into sport was on a totally different kind of stage.

His father and future boxing coach Anatoly insisted that his son attend traditional Ukrainian dance lessons, as well as gymnastics, judo, and wrestling, before he started boxing training.

Perhaps those lessons are the key to understanding Lomachenko’s ability to glide round opponents in the ring with unrivalled athleticism.

Either way, after stepping into the ring for the first time his mission in life was set.

“When I was a kid, my dream was to win the Olympic Games,” the 32-year-old said in a pre-fight hype video on Instagram.

“It has always been my goal. I go to bed with my goal. I go to school with my goal. I go to train. The Olympic medal was always in my head."

Achieving his Olympic dream

After winning the 2006 Junior World Championships as a flyweight, it wasn’t long before Lomachenko’s dream became a reality… twice.

The 1.70m (5-foot-7-inch) fighter won the featherweight Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008, scoring 58 points and only conceding 13, meaning he also took home the Val Barker Trophy for the outstanding boxer of the tournament.

He carried that momentum forward into 2009 to win the featherweight world title in Milan.

When that weight division was scrapped by boxing’s governing body, Lomachenko switched seamlessly to the lightweight division and took out the 2011 world title in Baku to become a two-weight world champion.

In winning the lightweight title at the London 2012 Olympics, he ensured his legacy as one of the greatest amateurs ever to lace up gloves, alongside Cuban legend Teofilo Stevenson and Hungary’s Lazlo Papp.

Vasyl Lomachenk celebrates on the podium after winning the lightweight boxing Olympic gold medal at London 2012.

But for all his artistry and mystique inside the ring, Lomachenko’s lifestyle outside it is rigidly disciplined going into fights. He wakes up at 4.45am to go for a run before going back to bed. He then rises again a few hours later to eat and train in the gym, before hitting the pads for a couple of hours in the evening.

At the Olympics he refused to do any interviews until he had won, such was his determination not to lose focus.

His displays famously caused Hungarian Olympic gold medallist Istvan Kovacs to remark: “Thank God there was no Lomachenko in my division at the time, I never saw a fighter like him before.”

Vasyl LOMACHENKO

Ukraine
Boxing
See More

Number of medals

2 Olympic medals

2

Olympic Games

2 Olympic Games

Setting records in the professional ranks

The double Olympic champion decided entered the World Series of Boxing with the “Ukraine Otamans” team, where he amassed a record of 6-0 in 5-round bouts, scoring knockdowns on most of his opponents.

With such a glittering CV, professional boxing promoters were clambering for the pugilist's signature, and he eventually put pen to paper with Top Rank in 2013.

“After (winning the Olympics), my goal was to be the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world,” the Bilhorod-Dinistrovskyi native continued.

But a shock loss to Mexico’s Orlando Salido in his second bout served as a reminder that professional boxing was a harsher environment than he was used to in the amateur ring.

But in his next outing, Lomachenko rebounded to equal the record for winning a world title in the fewest fights, overcoming America’s Gary Russell Junior to seal the WBO featherweight title in just his third bout.

He has remained unbeaten since then, taking a 15-1 record into his unification clash with 23-year-old Teofimo Lopez on Saturday.

“I train very hard because I want to show my best skill every time, every fight. All my preparation is at 100%."

“It’s not my job talking about who is the best. I don’t want to be famous, I just want to be the best at boxing. I must succeed by any means.” - Vasyl Lomachenko

While some feel that the extended break from action may have provided Lopez with a window of opportunity to catch Lomachenko below his best, it would be a brave person that bets against "The Lomanator" this Saturday.

events

20 Feb - 15 Mar

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualification Tournaments

Dakar, Amman, London, Buenos Aires, Paris

Olympic Boxing qualification Athlete Ambassador

Despite being long retired from the amateur ranks, Lomachenko is helping to inspire the next generation of boxing champions ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

He was appointed as an Athlete Ambassador for the Olympic Boxing Qualifying Events, acting as a voice for the athletes ahead of the Games, and providing advice during the events.

The man from Ukraine may even help to hand out a nickname or two.