I used to have this boss that would turn his phone completely off when he went to bed at night. I know this because about the time his head was hitting the pillow at night mine was typically just beginning. Self-funded research on the limits of human alcohol consumption at one, or all, of Northeast Minneapolis’ finest dive bars, followed by concocting whatever 3am excuse I would leave on the poor bastard’s voicemail to get out of work the next day was a nightly ritual. A chronic case of Hulkamania one night, crippling Beaver Fever the next. All 34 of my grandmas died and had funerals in the first six months of me working there and I can’t even tell you how many times I was kidnapped by the Freemasons. Hell, survivor’s guilt over the space shuttle Challenger exploding was a guaranteed four day weekend.
You see, the thing about excuses is that they can be as dumb as you want them to be if there’s no one there to challenge them. Drunkenly explaining to someone’s voicemail that you came down with a wicked case of March Madness is much easier than doing it to their face. My boss eventually picked on this fact as he not only began leaving his phone on at night but actually answering too. Nothing sobers you up quicker than the voice of the guy who signs your paychecks chipperly asking “What’s it gonna be this time?” at far past the witching hour on a Tuesday. The anxiety became too much and I ultimately just decided to ditch the excuses and start coming in to work in the morning, albeit deathly hungover.
Sometimes just shutting the fuck up and doing your job is the only way forward.
This seems to be a lesson Vasyl Lomachenko has finally learned after his devastating loss to Teofimo Lopez last November. Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KO) started slow against the wunderkind Lopez and by the time someone explained to him how professional boxing matches were scored, he’d already given away far too many rounds to make up the difference. A younger, stronger, better fighter had beaten him cleanly and that should’ve been the story.
Lomachenko, on the other hand, fired off a barrage of excuses that even Trump’s legal team would’ve been like “hmmm, feels like a stretch, dude.” Everything from injuries, to Lopez’s size to the judges being bribed fell on deaf ears as all the goodwill Lomachenko had spent years amassing was pissed away with each whiny interview he did. By the time Lomachenko came to terms with his decision to throw only 321 god damn punches in the biggest fight of his life and begrudgingly conceded that maybe his strategy of doing absolutely fucking nothing for over half of the rounds was slightly misguided, the damage was already done.
Words had failed. He would be forced to learn the most important lesson about excuses firsthand; stop making them. Shut the fuck up and do your job.
As Lomachenko climbed into the ring against Masayoshi Nakatani on an ESPN+ televised card from The Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas this past Saturday, image rehabilitation wasn’t the only thing on his mind.
Besides coming off a huge knockout win over future convicted murderer Felix Verdejo this past December, the lanky Nakatani (19-2, 13 KO) happens to be the one common opponent both Lomachenko and Teo Lopez share. If Lomachenko could beat the tough Japanese fighter more convincingly than did Lopez, it would act as not only a slight moral victory but as possible impetus for Lopez to grant him a shot at redemption in the form of a rematch.
From the opening bell Lomachenko set out to prove that he’d fully learned his lesson about early round lethargy. As he peppered Nakatani with jabs from the outside he worked in the odd-angle flurries that were his early-career signature. Nakatani was game, as always, but had no answer for the more, ahem, creative aspects of Lomachenko’s arsenal.
Shit went from bad to worse for Nakatani in round 5 when Lomachenko snuck a left hand around his guard and a quick one-two that sent him to the canvas. Lomachenko continued to batter him along the ropes for the remainder of the round and the end looked to be wholly in sight.
It came quickly and decisively in round 9 as Lomachenko threw everything but the Ukranian equivalent of the kitchen sink — which I assume is just a hollowed out tree stump full of moon rocks and werewolf dicks — at Nakatani which dropped him to the canvas. Referee Celestino Ruiz officially called a halt to the action at 1:48 of round 9.
With the emphatic knockout win, Lomachenko achieved his intended goal of looking better against Nakatani than did Lopez. Moral victories are great and all — just ask the Brits — but Lomachenko won’t truly cleanse his soul until he gets another shot at Lopez himself.
One loss shouldn’t define a fighter but the way one loses certainly can. There’s no shame in losing to a fighter of Lopez’s caliber. It’s happened to many fighters and more will suffer the same fate in the future. But to attempt to sully that effort and detract from Lopez’s glory with dumbshit excuses and QAnon-caliber conspiracies is in direct opposition with the spirit of the sport.
A loss is only truly a loss if nothing is learned from the experience. Lomachenko appears to have learned that one can actually throw punches during the first half of a professional boxing match. That’s a plus and will serve him well going forward.
It remains to be seen whether he’s learned anything about the impotence of self-serving excuse-making but hopefully his MAGA-like persecution complex is fully in the rearview. Letting your fists do the talking is always the safest bet, especially when your mouth can’t stop saying stupid shit.
Should the rematch with Lopez materialize, Lomachenko would be wise to take the lessons learned from his trouncing of Nakatani and augment them to suit a far more dangerous opponent, one he knows far too well.
No more talking. No more excuses.
Shut the fuck up and do your job.
(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank)