Note: Layers is an imcomplete series and we are not falling behind on the career of Vasyl Lomachenko which is ongoing. So be aware that 18 is where the series started and we are going back as the career of Lomachenko progresses while back filling in between fights.
Today, we’re talking about Vasyl Lomachenko, one of my favorite boxers. Last night he defeated Richard Commey, someone who was a World Champion. Was Commey an equal win over someone like Teofimo Lopez or Tank Davis? Na. But it was a spectacular display of what Lomachenko is all about: absolutely insane footwork and shot selection. Today, I’m going to dissect a few of those things and the theory behind them.
Vasyl Lomachenko: A God Among Men
We all know about the footwork of Lomachenko. He uses his motion to baffle his opponents and get them casing, off balance and flustered. We saw that all night against Commey. From the second round on, Lomachenko circled, dipped and slipped his way to making Richard Commey look like an absolute amateur. It was insane to see just how much Lomachenko can open up these angles and really demoralize his opponent.
In my breakdown of Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk, I briefly talked about the outside foot advantage and how getting the advantage really gives the fighter an opportunity for success. We talked about how Zepeda did it but not all the time. It was also a topic in the Ryan Garcia breakdown. But there is nobody that’s as masterful at it like Vasyl Lomachenko.
Vasyl Lomachenko is a southpaw fighter. This means that his right hand will be his jab and his left hand is his power shot. In contrast to orthodox, the right hand will be the power shot and the left is the jab. Think about it, in someone who is right handed (the majority of the population) the left hand will be weaker. In an effort to get maximum power in the power shot, the dominant hand, right for an orthodox fighter, would be what a boxer uses for their crosses, hooks and rear uppercuts. While this can be done with the lead hand in the form of uppercuts and check hooks, it’s not nearly as powerful.
With Lomachenko a southpaw and Richard Commey an orthodox fighter, It opens up a pretty unique opportunity that both fighters have the opportunity to take care of. Unfortunately, Lomachenko, being the left-dominant fighter will almost always have the practice and skill advantage. Southpaw sparring partners are quite rare and at a level even close to Lomachenko is even more rare. Lomachenko gets the reps in.
Circling back, the southpaw versus orthodox matchup sees the two fighters toe to toe instead of mirroring each other. This is where the outside foot advantage comes into play. In the figure above, Lomachenko (red shoes) has the opportunity to step up and around the lead foot of Richard Commey providing him an angle and limiting the escape options for Commey.
Remember, Commey has the opportunity to do this as well. But, the rarity of the southpaw in the gym and skill level difference between who Commey brings in and what Vasyl Lomachenko actually is as a fighter is entirely different. Commey could do this in theory but the problem lies within what Lomachenko allows. He will not lose the foot battle simply because of the amount of repitition he gets being the southpaw that everyone looks to find in a sparring partner.
So what are the options for a fighter facing a southpaw that has gained the outside foot advantage? The answer is not much. Normally, a fighter would want to circle out from the power hand of his opponent. This means in an orthodox versus orthodox matchup, a boxer would circle to his right away from the right of his opponent. Against an orthodox, it’s the opposite because the power hand comes from the other side. But, when Commey lost the foot advantage, he cannot circle out to his left. The foot blocks his and he would have to make a big movement to lift his foot up and over Lomachenko’s, putting himself on one foot and off balance. If he tries to shuffle, he trips.
Option two is an exit to the rear. This is the safest bet out of the first three options. The issue with exit two is that A: Your head is still on the center line and susceptible to a cross left from Lomachenko; and B: Lomachenko can simply step in again and get the foot advantage once more, leaving Commey in the same predicament he was in earlier.
Option three above is not ideal and will require Commey to keep his head on a swivel. Exiting to the power hand of Lomachenko is tempting fate but not impossible. Should Lomachenko throw a left hook, Commey has to dip under the hook on his way out the door. Commey could use a combination of option two and three, however. It would require Lomachenko looking for the cross on the step back and fishing for it. Once he fires the cross, Commey could safely dip out the right. But, Lomachenko’s shot selection is entirely too complex and he is too smart of a boxer to fall for this over and over in a fight. Eventually, Lomachenko would feint the cross and bait Commey to dip the punch that isn’t there and counter.
And of course, there’s always option four which is to clinch up. We saw Commey do this quite often in the fight and was warned by the referee to quit holding. After being warned, Commey would try to initiate a clinch and Lomachenko would find openings to land shots because of Commey being warned and not clinching up properly.
Lomachenko adds another layer to this game by backing Commey into a corner or, something he does even more being the smaller man, let Commey push him into the corner then pivot out and put Commey into the corner.
In the illustration above, you can see that Lomachenko (red) already has the outside foot advantage. As in the earlier illustration, option one isn’t there because of the outside foot. What makes this position unique is option two is also taken away. There’s physically nowhere to go to the rear with Commey being in the corner, taking away another option.
This leaves option three (circling to the power hand) or clinching up. But in clinching up, Commey is still in the corner and is relying on the referee, who has warned him for holding already, to call a break to the fight so he can safely escape.
Lomachenko and The Pivot
Take everything learned above and do it in a fraction of a second: that’s what makes Lomachenko so special. Sure his footwork is second to none and he does some really unique things that almost nobody else does. But it’s the basic things that Vasyl Lomachenko does so fast that makes him frustrating and (almost) impossible to fight. He is consistently two steps ahead of his opponents and his split second decision making is phenomenally fast.
Another fold Lomachenko has with the southpaw advantage is the pivot, another basic thing that the Ukrainian does lightning fast. It’s the next option in the process and Lomachenko uses it quite well.
In the diagram above, we see Lomachenko (red) step up to get the outside foot advantage (1) once more. Once his back foot is planted he will swing out the back foot (2) to his right and pivot on his lead foot. This puts Lomachenko in position 3 on the side of Richard Commey. This opens up a slew of new options for Lomachenko including the lead hook to the body as seen in the diagram, but also the left hook which is directly to the face and the 1-2 jab, cross to the side of the head.
Often times, the opponent will chase Lomachenko on the pivot. It’s not all that uncommon to do so in sparring. But where Vasyl Lomachenko really gaslights them is by doing this process again, and even a third time at times, continuing to open up these angles. Keep in mind, this happens in just a single second. Once Lomachenko does the second pivot, his bread and butter is on having his opponents have a brain fart and pause for just a second. They stop to think, “Okay, it’s time to pivot with him again.”
It’s in this second that Lomachenko overloads the mental circuitry. He will land a couple shots and then pivot again causing sensory overload. Boxers look to compute what their opponent is going to do next. Lomachenko gives them so many options that it’s simply unpredictable. Is he going to pivot again or hook to the body? If so I need to either pivot or drop my elbow to block. But what Commey, or Lomachenko’s other opponents don’t know is that he’s going to jab up top instead, which is open from the elbow drop, or he will pivot and start over.
In the past I’ve talked about punch speed variability with UFC heavyweight contender Cyril Gane. In the fight with Derrick Lewis, Gane tore through the legs of Lewis with kicks. But Gane didn’t do this at one speed all the time. That would be too predictable and Lewis could counter with a step in. Instead, Gane would touch slower and get Lewis used to the speed and then blast a hammer of a leg kick in causing the damage. I compared it to the change up-fastball combination in baseball which lulls the batter into being used to a certain speed and the the off speed comes to catch them by surprise.
This is a very common theme in any Lomachenko fight. It’s hard to explain how it is used specifically so I’ll type it out.
Punch. Punch. Punch punch. Punch. Punchpunchpunch.
The speed variable in Lomachenko’s punches adds a layer of uncertainty for Richard Commey. It’s a trick he used all night. Lomachenko made Commey have to worry about not only where the punch was coming from (head or body) and how the punch was coming (jab, cross, hook, etc.) but also when the punch was coming. Layer this on top of the footwork decisions he makes to overload Commey and you can see why Commey and many of Lomachenko’s other opponents simply froze in the ring. This is absolutely disparaging. “No Mas” they called him when Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga, and even Guillermo Rigondeaux quit on the stool. It was simply too much for them to compute what was going on. They simply couldn’t keep up.
But it’s not just the punch speed that Lomachenko alters his speed on. It’s the footwork we talked about above. When he turns it on it takes a second. But when he doesn’t it’s a fraction longer. This has the same effect, lulling his opponents into a sense of, “Okay, he’s this fast. I can handle that.” Then, Lomachenko puts on the speed and steps in fast, catching his opponents off guard.
Did you think punching was only layer that Lomachenko applied speed variability to? You should know by now that he is going to add another layer to this as he does with everything else.
Head movement is another thing Lomachenko is fantastic. The ability to move the head is something that most of the top boxers do. Think Floyd Mayweather and Canelo. Don’t think about Amanda Nunes who didn’t move her head and lost her belt because Juliana Pena discovered the jab.
But Lomachenko doesn’t use head movement only for defense. In addition to slipping and dipping to avoid punches, Lomachenko uses speed variability to draw out punches and frustrate them even more.
Lomachenko will dip his head from side to side and then pause momentarily on the dip. This gave Commey the thought that this was his moment and he should strike. By the time that thought happens and Commey goes to execute it, Lomachenko’s head is on the move once again.
These layers in his boxing is what really makes Vasyl Lomachenko so special and so good. This guide is only a look into the the most basics of Lomachenko’s fight style. I will be honest in saying that I really cannot fully comprehend what Lomachenko does fully. But that’s why we do these studies. Adding layers (pun intended) to our knowledge is a part of what makes this sport so much fun!