It’s fitting that discourse surrounding Vasyl Lomachenko ranges between extremes. Criticism is often speculative — sometimes wholly unfounded — and the praise can be hyperbolic to the point of absurdity.
Similarly, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has not only faced extraordinarily lofty expectations, but also smashed them at an unprecedented pace.
What’s more, the 28-year-old pugilistic prodigy’s toolkit borders on unfair. His hands have both elite speed and precision. His movement is slick, with footwork that borders on flat-out point-to-point teleportation. While his power isn’t exceptional, it’s more than adequate — especially when compounded by his hyper-acute ring intelligence.
When Lomachenko deploys these devices at the same time, truly spectacular outcomes happen — including his 5th-round demolition of Rocky Martinez, The Queensberry Rules’ choice for 2016 Knockout of the Year.
Leading up to the fight, critics grumbled that Lomachenko lacked a killer instinct, toying with outclassed opponents in a way that was somehow offensive to viewers. His 130-pound debut followed a different script, though. The Ukrainian not only dominated Martinez from the opening bell, but also fought downhill, visibly gaining confidence and swagger as the fight went on.
In the 5th round, Lomachenko used the previously mentioned hand speed, feints and angle-to-angle teleportation to setup his left hand, wobbling his opponent on multiple occasions. A minute in, “Hi-Tech” floored Martinez with a tremendous left uppercut/right hook combination, leaving his vanquished adversary on his back, wincing the bad dreams away.
The combination was surgical; the power, surprising; the champ’s celebratory round-off back handspring in the middle of the ring, a welcome cherry-on-top. It didn’t hurt that it all occurred in such a meaningful fight, either. With the kayo, Lomachenko became the fastest boxer to win a world title in two different weight divisions — further bolstering one of the most impressive eight-fight resumes in history.
What our 2016 Knockout of the Year lacked in percussion, it made up for with beautiful boxing. To paraphrase my colleague Matthew Swain: “While it’s certainly not the most brutal knockout, the balance, timing and technique is nothing short of art.”