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11th Dec 2017

We’re watching one of the greatest of all time and we don’t fully appreciate it

Something special

Darragh Murphy

Don’t @ me.

What Vasyl Lomachenko is doing in the ring is nothing short of astonishing.

While boxing’s current crop of superstars like Anthony Joshua, Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez made their names off of flatlining opponents with their outrageous power, Lomachenko is doing something different, something arguably more satisfying and something which has suddenly put a 29-year-old who is only four years into a professional boxing career on track to potentially become the greatest to ever lace his gloves.

He’s making warriors quit.

Don’t get me wrong. Lomachenko still has some ways to go to come close to replicating the accomplishments of Muhammad Ali, both Sugar Rays and Floyd Mayweather but when it comes down to pure talent, the Ukrainian fighter is already right up there.

It’s difficult to put the beauty of art into words and that’s a conundrum which boxing writers the world over continue to experience when lauding ‘Hi-Tech’ because, like trying to describe the intricate detail of an artist’s masterpiece, words do not do justice to the tapestry of pugilistic prowess that Lomachenko is weaving right before our very eyes.

On Saturday night in New York City, Lomachenko was tasked with the most daunting challenge of his career in the form of the unbeaten Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, who was in the top ten of most fight fans’ lists of pound-for-pound fighters currently competing.

Rigondeaux had gone eight and a half years without tasting defeat in the ring and proudly announced that Lomachenko would have to kill him in The Theatre at Madison Square Garden if he was to successfully defend his WBO junior lightweight title.

Rigondeaux made it halfway through the contest and decided that he couldn’t continue due to an injury.

That’s what Lomachenko does. He sucks the will to compete right out of his opponents and that’s arguably more conclusive than a knockout blow because there is no luck involved in making a man quit. There is no one punch that arrives unsighted and connects just right.

This is a master of the ring forcing rivals who have spent their entire lives in battle without flinching to acknowledge that they are simply not on his level.

That’s four fights in a row in which Lomachenko has made an opponent quit and we really should start to appreciate the genius’ work.

“I’ve never seen a fighter as technically perfect as him,” promoter Bob Arum told the BBC at the weekend.

“I am telling you without any reservation that Lomachenko is the greatest fighter I have seen since Muhammad Ali.

“For me to take a modicum of credit would not be correct.

“I’m not going to have any real part of it except to get him the fights necessary so that people acclaim him when he retires as the greatest fighter of all time and mention him in the same breath as Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and those types.”

High praise indeed but it’s no less than the two-time Olympic gold medallist deserves.

Detractors will point to the early blemish on Lomachenko’s professional record, which came via a split decision defeat in 2014, in their argument that he will not trouble the GOAT discussion.

Undefeated records matter a whole lot more than they should when it comes to building up superstars in boxing and while it’s undeniably stupid, as proven by the emergence of sports like mixed martial arts and the excitement that comes with the possibility that anyone can lose on any given night, Lomachenko bucked the trend and claimed a world title just three months after experiencing his first defeat.

That just doesn’t happen! 1-1 fighters are not usually rewarded with world title shots but normal rules simply don’t apply to Lomachenko.

And the laws of physics don’t seem to either.

The angles from which he throws shots shouldn’t result in any success, but they do.

The speed with which his hands can move and return to protect his chin should not be possible, but he’s made it the cornerstone of his terrifying arsenal.

And his impenetrable defence is, dare we say it, Mayweather-esque.

Greatness is a metric of quality, simply put. And there has been nobody greater than Lomachenko when it comes down to ability.

He’s got it all and he’s even got a new nickname.

“Maybe I should change my second name,” Lomachenko said after Saturday’s victory. “My name is No-Mas-chenko.”