Vasiliy Lomachenko’s famously idiosyncratic training regimen is less an athletic endeavour than a series of survivalist exercises, designed to exceed the limits of his mind, body and soul.
He would hold his breath in excess of four minutes; he would spar 15 consecutive 4-minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest in between; and he would swim alone through the treacherous currents of the Dniester River, 10 kilometres before it feeds into the Black Sea.
Above all, his life’s work – his attempt to be forever inscribed in the book of boxing – is his son, Vasiliy, who has won five titles in three divisions, not to mention a pair of Olympic gold medals.
“It was written down,” Anatoly once said.
“Before he was conceived.”
In other words, the Lomachenkos regard their mission as if it were prophecy.
They’ve prepared for everything, imagined every contingency — except, perhaps, the absurdly improbable one presently in front of them: the son of a former drug dealer from Brooklyn, a knock-around guy who schooled himself as a boxing trainer by watching Kung Fu triple features and YouTube.
He, too, says his son, Teofimo Lopez Jr., is “a vision from God”.
If it’s not clear whom the Divine might bet on, the nature of the sport — in the broadest sense — favours Lopez.
However, the story of boxing is largely the big man beating the smaller one, and the young man full of promise vanquishing the old champion (see Oscar De La Hoya-Julio Cesar Chavez or Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux, if not exact comparisons, then useful ones).
“Who says that 32, 33 is an old age for a boxer?” asks Lomachenko, who, four months removed from his 33rd birthday, is a veteran of 397 amateur bouts and 15 professional title fights.
“These are limits that others set for you. I can’t agree.”
He would concede, however, that he is the smaller man fighting an unnaturally powerful young champion.
While Lopez could easily fight at 140 in the near future, Lomachenko was never a true lightweight. Rather, he went to 135 only because the other champions (or their handlers) at featherweight and 130 pounds wouldn’t fight him.