On top of the boxing world as lightweight champion, Vasiliy Lomachenko crashed back to Earth when Teofimo Lopez beat him in 2020 for all the gold. The Ukrainian boxer attempted to work his way up to return to his former glory, and had his eyes on the prize.
Some things are just bigger than boxing.
In February 2022, Lomachenko, on a two-fight win streak, was one of several combat sports stars that decided to take up arms after Russia invaded Ukraine. “The Matrix” joined heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, the Klitschko brothers, and Bellator champion Yaroslav Amosov, among others, in defending Ukraine. He was born in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, in southwestern Ukraine.
The State Border Guard Service prohibited men aged 18 to 60 from leaving Ukraine. At one point, his team found a way for Lomachenko to exit the country to fight then-champion George Kambosos Jr. He decided to stay.
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“You can’t think about your future when there’s a war coming to your house,” Lomachenko stated. “You just think about life, and about your family, and about the people around you. You think about how you can live another day. You can’t think about your job. You can’t think about a professional sport.”
It wasn’t until October 2022 that Lomachenko returned to the ring. The 35-year-old beat Jamaine Ortiz via unanimous decision in front of a supportive Madison Square Garden crowd.
Usyk and Amosov also returned to action. The Klitschko’s continue to fight in Ukraine.
Lomachenko now faces the biggest test of his fighting career as he challenges Devin Haney for the undisputed lightweight titles on May 20. Inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the fight airs on ESPN+ PPV.
“I pray everyday for Ukraine, for the people … and stop the war. When I came back to Ukraine, I believe it was the second day of war. Your mind changes because you see a different life. It’s a different life. Nobody knows what happened on this day. It’s very bad. It’s very bad for the world,” Lomachenko said in a news release. “I’ve prepared for this moment, and I need this chance. I need this fight … undisputed. Undisputed world champion.”
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Now away from war, Lomachenko will need to focus his energy on the 24-year-old boxing superstar in Haney. A fight between the two has been close to being booked a few times. However, nothing came to fruition in 2019, as then-interim champion Haney was elevated as WBC lightweight champion when Lomachenko was promoted to “Franchise” status.
Now, roles are reversed, and Lomachenko is the one looking to grab the ultimate prize in boxing. It may not be easy, but the three-division champion refuses to falter under the pressure, by the literal odds (+200 underdog per Bet MGM) and many boxing pundits who question his age and mindset.
Lomachenko has unfinished business and will look to complete his mission in the ring.
“After the loss to [Teofimo] Lopez, I could go down and fight [at super featherweight], but I can’t because I lost at lightweight,” Lomachenko said to Top Rank via Boxing News 24. “I need to continue at lightweight to follow my goal. I can’t change it. To me, it looks like you’re weak. I still have my speed, my power, my conditioning. I was very close to this goal. Now I have a second chance, but I have a second chance to take this goal as a different man.”