Vasyl Lomachenko’s amateur boxing record is 396-1, including two Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012). And this is in the lighter weight divisions where boxing is at its most competitive. The guy might be the greatest amateur boxer ever. He’s the most anticipated prospect in years.
It’s conventional wisdom, though, that boxers should ‘move up the ranks’ (fight progressively stronger opposition) slowly no matter how much amateur experience. That means we’d normally have to wait a while to see him fight the best.
But Vasyl’s a ballsy guy and thought he’d challenge this tradition. It makes sense: why, might ask a decorated amateur boxer, should I wait around and fight bums? Because some old trainer says so? Because some promoter’s trying to keep me down?
Well, last Saturday night Vasyl Lomachenko found out why when he lost his second pro bout to a well known but distinctly non-elite fighter in Orlando Salido. Does this mean that Lomachenko is not the real deal? It might, though it’s probably more likely that conventional wisdom is so named for a reason.
The fight started out very slow. I think Salido was intimidated by Loma’s reputation while the latter probably deliberately kept the brakes on to pace himself (he’d never been past six rounds in his career and this was to go twelve). Eventually we learned some lessons in the differences between amateur and professional boxing.
1. Body blows don’t matter in the amateurs. That point is made both literally (points aren’t awarded) and figuratively. An investment in body work will never pay off inside of a three-round fight so why bother worrying about your body? Loma’s body defense is deplorable.
2. Size matters. Salido weighed 147 pounds to Loma’s 136. Is that against the rules? In this case, yes: Salido missed weight. Yet the fight went on. When you’re fighting in a 5-day tournament or whatever, you need to actually be your weight. Strategic rehydration is a real part of professional fighting. And when money is on the line, sometimes you ignore transgressions.
3. Life ain’t fair. The refereeing was atrocious. Salido landed a LOT of low blows. And to be fair, Loma’s holding was just as egregious. Eventually Salido, hurt in the 12th, held Loma for all he was worth and stayed on his feet. Painful to watch.
4. Game plans matter in longer fights. For a guy with poor body defense, moving in and holding is not an awesome strategy. Loma didn’t trust his speed and movement for some reason and felt he needed to lock down Salido. What an immensely weak play for a guy with stratospheric physical gifts. Loma should be able to dance around just about any fighter at any level.
So Lomachenko lost. Maybe he figures these things out and fulfills his potential. He’s 26 so it’s possible he can only learn so much in time to rise to the top. He does need a lot of work.
For no particularly good reason, though, I hope he sticks to his plan of learning on the job. Here’s to an immediate rematch!