Fighter of the Year- Vasyl Lomachenko
By Steven Bateson
Ladies and gentlemen your fighter of the year for 2017: Vasyl Lomachenko
It was a tough field this year and there was plenty who staked a legitimate claim but we here at Seconds Out have gone for the man they call "Hi Tech" or his newer moniker: "NoMasChenko".
Three fights for Lomachenko this year and three successful defences of his WBO Super Featherweight Championship as he dispatched opponents with a combined record of 62-3-4 including a history making December battle with fellow two time Olympic gold medallist Guillermo Rigondeaux.
For those who had witnessed Lomachenko before then you know exactly what you are getting, his skills are impeccable and I’m not really sure there is a much more complete fighter in professional boxing today. Videos surfaced of his training methods throughout the year and stunned viewers at just how outrageously skilled he is. But Lomachenko is not satisfied in leaving those flashy skills in the gym, he transports them inside the squared circle during bouts and wows the paying crowd just like any entertaining artist would.
Lomachenko’s amateur record was beyond phenomenal amassing a 396-1 record. He is a two time Olympic and World gold medallist but it has been his transformation into the paid ranks that is proving even more incredible. Sure he lost his second fight against Orlando Salido, not many would take on a fighter of that calibre so early, but the improvement since then and the lessons learnt have been telling. Now Lomachenko looks the full package, very possibly unbeatable especially in and around his own weight class. The only challenges seem to lie north of 130lbs and I have no doubts that they are challenges that will be accepted.
The year began for Lomachenko in April when he met Jason Sosa in Maryland. Sosa was teak tough and only relinquished his WBA belt in order to fight for Lomachenko’s crown instead. Sosa had one loss on his record, from a very early contest, but a TKO victory over Javier Fortuna, a dominant win over Stephen Smith and a draw with Nicholas Walters indicated he could more than hold his own with the best on offer in the Super Featherweight Division. He couldn’t. Lomachenko’s superior boxing skills were on display here for all to marvel at. He made Sosa chase shadows and punch thin air whilst dominating and pummelling Sosa silly. He toyed with him like a predator with prey, eluded him like a matador with a bull to the point where Sosa’s team had seen enough and withdrew their fighter at the end of nine very one sided rounds that became harder and harder to watch. Sosa was known for walking opponents down, trading on his power and strength but he could not close distance or make any dent in Lomachenko, this was the kind of beating that put years on a fighter.
In August it was Miguel Marriaga’s turn to experience the wrath of Lomachenko in another complete and utter beatdown. Marriaga had twice lost on points to Nicholas Walters and Oscar Valdez but in this bout he was beyond second best. Lomachenko’s footwork and ability to step around his opponents whilst evading their attacks makes him so difficult to pin down for even a moment and even when he grows in confidence and invites his opponent in to attack they could just not land anything of note. In this fight it was the accuracy of Lomachenko that was frightening as he landed well over 50% of his power punches during which he floored Marriaga in both the third and seventh round. It was after the second knockdown and the end of the seventh round that Marriaga’s corner threw in the towel and withdrew their man from further punishment. The Colombian Marriaga is B/C level opposition and you’d expect Lomachenko to deal with him but it is the manner in which he does it. He never steps off the gas or looks in danger of losing his head. He suffered a cut over his eye in this bout but showed no signs of being fazed or thrown from this comfort zone, it is complete professionalism and a scary determination to inflict as much damage as possible upon his foe.
The boxing world was then hyped for the announcement that Lomachenko would be facing Guillermo Rigondeaux in December, a mouth watering fantasy match up that fans of the sport have dreamt about for a very long time. It would pit, arguably, the two greatest amateur boxers of all time against one another. Between them they boasted a amateur and professional record of 897-14, four Olympic gold medals and four World Gold medals. It was the first time ever that two double Olympic Champions had met in a professional boxing match.
Rigondeaux was the smaller man and was coming up two weight classes for this fight, however his technical ability meant that he was still a danger and still fancied in some quarters to pull off the victory. He himself proclaimed he was far to superior for Lomachenko and would prove it on December 9th.
Lomachenko dominated the fight from start to finish. He made his size advantage count and completely shut down and nullified anything that Rigondeaux had to offer. He frustrated the Cuban with smart movement and exceptional ability. Rigondeaux could not get his punches off or cement a foothold in the fight and after round six he retired on his stool. Afterward Rigondeaux cited a hand injury for his poor performance but we have since learned that there was no broken bone and therefore that excuse will not hold up. He was quite simply beaten by a bigger and better man.
Lomachenko himself did not laud his own achievement and admitted that Rigondeaux’s lack of size left him distinctly disadvantaged. But history will remember his dominant display and that he forced one of the all time greats to quit through frustration.
It was the fourth opponent in a row that Lomachenko had pushed to the brink and made them surrender, prompting the nickname of "NoMasChenko". You look at those currently in his weight class and wonder where the challenge lies for him, it certainly wouldn’t appear to be at Super Featherweight.
Mooted are Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia whilst there have even been claims that Lomachenko could meet Manny Pacquiao at a catchweight. They are all certainly intriguing as Lomachenko would be conceding his natural size advantage and therefore would be relying on his boxing ability but there is no dispute about just how talented he is.
It has been an incredible year for the Ukrainian fighter and I’m sure 2018 will provide him and us with some even bigger and better contests. He is magical to watch, without question, and for as long as he is around I will be a huge fan.
Congratulations Vasyl, Seconds Out Fighter of the Year 2017.