To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star.
When Vasiliy Lomachenko steps through the ropes to face the undisputed lightweight champion of the world, Devin Haney, the 2 time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine ( 396- 1 amateur record) and 3-division world champion will be going in as a Las Vegas betting underdog for the first time in his career.
Debuting in 2013, Lomachenko ( 17 -2 losses ( 11 Kos) was tipped to be the next big star in boxing. After an expected good start in his first professional fight, he would then fight Orlando Salido, for the WBO featherweight championship in a historic record-breaking fight in Texas. Salido failed to make the weight but the fight went ahead. The fight itself was a rough and dirty affair with Salido resorting to low blows and headbutts which unsettled the Ukrainian southpaw and a harsh realisation that he was no longer in the amateurs. Salido won the fight by a split decision but the title remained vacant.
Next up for Lomachenko was another rising star in Gary Russell Jnr ( 24-0 ( 14 Kos) for the vacant strap and a chance to create history and equal Saensak Muangsurin, by winning a world title in his third professional fight. In the fight, Lomachenko proved to be just that more skilled with superior footwork and punching power, winning a majority decision in Los Angeles. From there he would be matched with good fighters in junior lightweight Roman Martinez, ( 5th rd TKO) and hard punching, Nicholas Walters (7th rd TKO/ retirement), and then the much smaller, Guillermo Rigondeaux in a fight that saw ‘ The Jackal’ retire on his stool due to being outboxed and dominated, he also sustained a badly bruised hand early in the fight.
Lomachenko was at his best and peaking and as he called out a rematch with Salido, it came close but never happened and he would carry on . Wins over, Jose Pedraza ( tough pts win) Jorge Linares ( TKO win in the 10th rd body shot ) Anthony Crolla ( 4th rd stoppage) Luke Campbell (wide pts win) set the scene for a big fight with the brash New York lightweight, Teofimo Lopez. In the fight, The man they called ‘ High Tech ‘ was being outboxed and beaten to the punch all night by Lopez, losing big over the championship distance in 2020. Many thought Lomachenko was at the end. Injuries, inactivity and Father Time had caught up with him and questions were asked if the champion from Ukraine still had the power, and the desire to fight on or was he done.
Lomachenko would then take time away from boxing to rest and have surgery. Lopez would go on to fight the brawling Australian George Kambosos Jnr in a fire fight that saw the champion lose on points in his hometown.
Lomachenko decided to come back in 2021. He could have fought anyone but he took on former world champion, Richard Commey, beating him by a wide points win. He would then join his countrymen at home in Ukraine , defending and fighting in their struggle for freedom before returning once more in 2022 to fight his old sparring partner, Jamaine Ortiz in a hard fought points win.
Devin Haney has been in the gym since he was 7 years old, guided by his father and trainer, they went on a journey which saw Haney excel in the Amateurs ( 138-8 ) and being touted as the next Floyd Mayweather. Since turning professional in 2015, Haney has dispatched of every fighter, boxer , brawler that has shared the ring with him, fighting up to 7, to 9 times a year in an unbelievable winning streak of 29-0 with 15 Kos, and becoming the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
In his fights with Jo Jo Diaz, and Gamboa, it was clear they were well past their best as Haney outboxed , out thought and out punched them, controlling the fight to win on points. Only one fighter gave Haney a real test and arguably a close controversial decision which was Jorge Linares who fought one last great fight, losing on points.
Haney would travel to Australia to fight the newly crowned champion George Kambosos Jnr and although the Aussie talked the talk of war and destroy and marching home victorious, come fight night, Haney pretty much beat him with a lightning fast jab/ stick and move to win easy to capture the undisputed lightweight championship of the world. He would return to Melbourne again for an unjustified rematch that played out the same but this time, he beat the Australian with one hand, controlling the distance solidifying himself as the king at 135.
If you look at this match up Haney has height, a huge reach advantage and he is a big strong lightweight but isn’t noted as a devastating puncher and at 24 years old, he will be faster and injury free.
Lomachenko is 35 and with a long amateur career and training all those years, aches and injuries will always be with him. He has experience at championship level and he has a high boxing IQ and he will need to use it. He has power and he is a tough southpaw fighter that knows his way around a ring. He punches from all angles and could easily steal rounds to win on points.
Is Haney the unbeatable foe? Can Lomachenko fight when his arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star, or is Haney the impossible dream?
Gary Todd has been involved in all aspects in the sport of boxing for over 30 years and he is an acclaimed international best selling author with his books. His latest book, ‘ Annie’s Boy’ is available in all stores and online on Garytodd.org