“BOXING is like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it.”
MANY fighters have fallen victim to George Foreman’s famous words, with their own unique brand of combat being viewed as boring or lacklustre to the widespread audiences that tune in or show up seeking nothing more than a pulsating scrap.
Guillermo Rigondeaux is a key modern day example, with the Cuban slickster’s supreme ring abilities seeing him largely avoided and under-appreciated. In truth, his own talent has ironically hindered his professional career to date.
There are exceptions, though. There are those whose jazz is as good as it gets and still very much appreciated. Step forward Vasyl Lomachenko.
With his coruscating footwork and movement, along with eye-catching combinations thrown from seamlessly changing angles, the Ukrainian has been able to dish out vast punishment while barely tasting any himself.
A gruelling split decision defeat at the hands of tenacious (and overweight) Mexican Orlando Salido was the only anomaly so far in his rampant rise through the professional ranks.
Lomachenko’s own dazzling style in the ring has helped him become a two-weight world champion inside an incredible seven pro outings, with his first coming in his third bout, and adding the super-featherweight title to his featherweight strap in June last year.
Having overcome Gary Russell Jnr in June 2014 to triumph at 126lbs (a feat that gains momentum with every subsequent fight that Russell Jnr wins), he later dispatched Roman Martinez in elegantly brutal fashion to reign in a second division.
A maiden defence of his 130lbs crown against hard-hitting Jamaican Nicholas Walters was supposedly set to truly challenge the two-time Olympic Gold medallist’s supremacy in Nevada.
Although, what was initially dubbed his toughest test to date ultimately ended up his finest performance in the ring, as he outclassed Walters and forced him to quit inside seven one-sided rounds.
On what was the 2000th event of Bob Arum’s illustrious promotional career, Lomachenko completely dismantled Walters both physically and mentally, earning the fifth stoppage success of his quick-fire professional rise.
Following that display of sheer class in Las Vegas, Vasyl Lomachenko will next look to retain his WBO belt for a second time against latest American challenger Jason Sosa.
The former WBA’s secondary super-featherweight titlist shattered Stephen Smith’s hopes of becoming a belt holder as he comfortably outpointed the Merseysider in Monaco last November.
Sosa endured his only defeat back in 2010 when he was stopped in the opening round by Tre’Sean Wiggins, while one of his four career draws came against Lomachenko’s last opponent Walters two years ago.
With back-to-back victories over Britain’s Smith and former world champion Javier Fortuna, Sosa is a menacing threat to Vasyl Lomachenko on the face of it, though the dynamic WBO kingpin will be poised to put on another masterclass on April 8.
Along with the constant showings of ring excellence, widespread acclaim has followed, with Top Rank boss Arum hailing Lomachenko as the most talented fighter to climb the ring ropes since the great Muhammad Ali.
“This is the best fighter I’ve seen since Muhammad Ali,” he declared. “There’s nobody who can do what he can.
“Nobody. He’s in a class by himself. While he’s performing at his maximum level, I want him to get maximum exposure and for everybody to enjoy it.”
On the back of such glowing compliments, “Hi-Tech” has showcased true humility as well, recently refusing to be viewed as pound-for-pound number one until he feels he deserves it himself.
A relentless puncher in the ring, Lomachenko also possesses great self-confidence and sophisticated defensive awareness, allowing him to nullify the attacks of even the most devastating opponents. Highlighted perfectly when making Walters declare “no mas”.
Painted as the Picasso of boxing, the Ukrainian has been widely hailed as the next big superstar of the sport and a potential legend in the making.
Sterner and more prosperous match-ups potentially lie on the horizon for Lomachenko, providing he can continue to showcase true ring excellence in each passing appearance.
But he will first look to add another imposing success over Sosa and step closer towards more lucrative bouts on April 8, when his majestic skill set will next be orchestrated to the expectant masses.