Some fighters should be too good to ever have to pay a visit to the Last Chance Saloon. So complete are their skillsets, so majestic their peaks, that they should forever be undimmed by time’s passage. And yet, in boxing as in life, the end comes to us all. A precious few abdicated the throne willingly. Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather, Lennox Lewis. Others are dragged kicking and screaming off the stage. Muhammad Ali. Mike Tyson. Sugar Ray Leonard. The latter group boasts far more examples, but the iconic nature of those three proves that no level of fame and fortune makes you immune.
It seems faintly ridiculous to assert that this fateful decision awaits Vasiliy Lomachenko. One of the most natural ring technicians in living memory, fighters like the Ukrainian should never have to stop. They should live on in perfect and permanent boxing harmony. Their skills always there to delight us. But that isn’t how boxing works. Nobody is afforded such happy stasis in this game. One day Lomachenko will retire. That day might be closer than you think.
Lomachenko once carried an air of invincibility. From beating the classy Gary Russell Jr to capture a first world title in just his third fight until his absolute dominance of Luke Campbell at the 02 Arena five years later, he was the king of his sport. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao might have been embarking on their respective farewell tours, but boxing was the dominion of ‘Loma’ now.
What made ‘Hi-Tec’ special was the manner of his victories. Lomachenko faced dominant fighters, often champions in their own right. The sort of opponents who inspired fear and left a trail of beaten foes in their wake. The likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jorge Linares and Nicholas Walters. Lomachenko did not just beat these men, he destroyed them. Fights that looked like 50-50 pick ‘ems ended in the slaughterhouse.
But like all of us, Lomachenko is human. Teofimo Lopez made him look it. It feels like a fever dream now, like most of what happened that year. It was October 2020 when the great, untouchable ‘Loma’ crashed back to Earth with the rest of us. Their three-belt lightweight unification fight ended in a wide unanimous decision win for Lopez. The final round saw Lomachenko face 98 punches, the most that had ever come his way in a professional three-minutes.
Now 35, Lomachenko has embarked on what one assumes will be his final chapter. He is 3-0 since that shock defeat to Lopez. ‘The Takeover’ would lose the belts he won from the Ukrainian to George Kambosos Jr, who in turn would lose them to Haney. But unlike his conqueror, Lomachenko has remained consistent. What he hasn’t done is dazzle. Only one foe out of the three, Masayoshi Nakatani, has been stopped. Richard Commey lasted just two rounds in his own fight with Lopez but took Lomachenko the full twelve before losing a decision. Jamaine Ortiz took him the distance too. The killer instinct that once had the lower weights trembling looks to have gone.
Devin Haney is not the sort of fighter you want to face when you’ve misplaced your ruthless streak. The undisputed lightweight champion looks better every time he fights. Haney also boasts physical advantages that make Lomachenko’s life difficult. He’s taller and in possession of greater reach. He’s also eleven years younger than the Ukrainian. Haney is a career lightweight while ‘The Matrix’ kicked his career off all the way down at featherweight. Boxing takes place in the ring, not on paper. But if it did take place on paper, Haney would win.
This is Vasiliy Lomachenko though. He is a fighter who has boxed in a seemingly impossible way throughout his career. He has realigned our very perception of the sport. The 35-year-old spent years bending this sport to his iron will. Perhaps he can do it again for just one more fight. If he can’t, then it might be time to close the book on one of the great ring careers of the modern era.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change