Welcome back to the Layers: Vasyl Lomachenko series! Today we are in part four of our series and discussing Lomachenko’s first title defense against Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. Our Layers series is going through the professional career of the Ukrainian boxer to remember his fights, see how he’s evolved and look into where Lomachenko is headed as an athlete. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out parts one through three in the Layers series below!
In all of boxing today, there’s not a fighter more technical than Vasyl Lomachenko. While Canelo Alvarez might be the more accomplished and Bud Crawford might show some of the highest IQ, as a boxer, none are better than the Ukrainian. Lomachenko has blazed a path from featherweight all the way
Going into his second fight, Vasyl Lomachenko looked to make history. Instead, he was met with a touch fighter in Orlando Salido. Let’s break it down.
In today’s post, we look at the day Vasyl Lomachenko became a World Champion with his great fight with Gary Russell Jr.
Vasyl Lomachenko comes off a close fight against Gary Russell Jr. where he captured the WBO World Featherweight title at only 3-0, tying the fastest capture of a World Title in boxing. His first bid was the controversial loss to Orlando Salido at 2-0. But, Lomachenko became champion and his win over Russell Jr. would age incredibly well as Russell would turn out to be quite the boxer. His first title defense would be against Chonlatharn Piriyapinyo who looked good on paper.
At 51-1, Piriyapinyo seemed to have a decent record. But when fans scrutinized the fighter, his record was shown to be heavily padded. At 25-0, Piriyapinyo fought 1-1 Magbau Pathy, at 44-1 an 11-4-2 Nathan Bolcio, and when Piriyapino stepped up to fight for a World Title, he was soundly beaten by Chris John. This was meant to be a victory lap on Lomachenko’s record that would hopefully be seen as the time a 3-0 boxer beat a 50+ fight veteran.
On the undercard of Manny Pacquiao and Chris Algieiri, Vasyl Lomachenko returned to China where he originally won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games. “I was here in 2008 to win a gold medal. This is a place where my childhood dreams came true,” said Lomachenko in a press conference leading up to the fight.
Being coy going into the fight, Lomachenko said that he wasn’t sure how the fight would go and that he would set out to simply do his best. “I don’t know how it’s going to be. It’s going to be a tough or easy fight. I’ll do everything I’m capable of and I’ll do my boxing.”
At the end of the day, Lomachenko said he preferred to let his boxing do the talking. “I’m not that type of person that is going to say I’m the best or I’m the worst. I prefer to show everything not with my words, but in the ring.” On the night, we would see just that.
The Fight: Vasyl Lomachenko dominates Chonlatharn Piriyapinyo
From the jump, it was obvious that Chonlatharn Piriyapinyo was overwhelmed. Lomachenko is traditionally a slow starter, this fight saw Lomachenko pushing forward and making Piriyapinyo miss with his footwork and head movement. Even in the first round, Lomachenko was seen investing in the body work. While he may not need it in this fight from the looks of things early on, the body work would really help Lomachenko in the latter half of the fight.
A new wrinkle to Lomachenko’s game against Piriyapinyo was his work in the clinch. In the second, Piriyapinyo was looking to clinch up. Vasyl Lomachenko would go to grab under the arm then stop and land shots in the clinch.
With body work exposing a boxer’s head, habitually going to the body leaves the head open on the offensive fighter. To punch the body, you have to lower your hands, obviously. This leaves the opportunity to get hit up top because you’ve left yourself exposed. Lomachenko, who fights as a southpaw most of the time, has a unique advantage. With the two feet together, Lomachenko can gain the outside foot advantage, pivot out at a 45 degree angle, and be off the center line, keeping himself out of danger. That’s what he does against Piriyapinyo. He does that to the Thai all night and it would become a pivotal part of Lomachenko’s game going forward in his career.
Very early in round four, we see Vasyl Lomachenko go for the kill early. With all of his body work, he’s slowly lowering Chonlatharn Piriyapinyo’s hands and opening up the hook up top. As the bell to round four opened up, Lomachenko pivots and throws to the body as he’s off the center line. He shifts back to the right, prodding and waiting for Piriyapinyo to turn, and throws a big hook that he misses on.
Analyzing the knockdown: building false expectation
That setup at the beginning of round four would pay off at the end of that very round. In the GIF above, you can see Lomachenko load up on the lead uppercut by shifting to his right foot and it lands right up the middle of Piriyapinyo’s guard. After throwing a couple shots, Vasyl Lomachenko shifts to the front of his hurt opponent and starts to punch against the guard and hunt him down. But Piriyapinyo is covered up and backing up. So to throw in a little trickery, Lomachenko pivots out to his right and fires a left hook right to the dome of Piriyapinyo putting the Thai boxer down.
While the lead uppercut is a great tool for southpaw versus orthodox matchups, it’s the footwork that absolutely shines here. Lomachenko does something smart and conditions Piriyapinyo early on in the exchange. He moves to his front and blinds him with volume and starts hunting the head. To find the knockdown, Lomachenko shifting to his right, Piriyapinyo’s left, essentially has Loma disappearing in front of his own eyes. It’s the expectation that Vasyl Lomachenko will be in front of him, where he just was and was unloading on him, that creates the knockdown.
Piriyapinyo would survive the round only to be saved by the bell. It would seem like the end is near for the Thai boxer looking to capture a World Title for the first time ever and the moment is slipping away.
Everything was going smoothly for Vasyl Lomachenko. He was in complete control of the fight. But disaster, or what some would consider disaster if you weren’t a two time Olympic gold medalist and a World Champion at only 3-0.
Lomachenko showed great head movement against Chanlantharn Piriyapinyo. It would become instrumental going forward and a moment that would define just how good Lomachenko could become.
By the time round five arrived, Vasyl Lomachenko was in full control. In the diagram, we see how Lomachenko pulled out a strike with his head movement and fire a cross after doing so. First, (1) Lomachenko gets into the pocket with Piriyapinyo and dips to his left. (2) In a classic boxing drill, he weaves to his right. Here Piriyapinyo looks for a rear uppercut. But Lomachenko knows this is coming and (3) pulls back. Notice how Lomachenko has his left hand high, being on the phone is what they call it. His left hand protects the right side of his face. The master of this was, of course, Floyd Mayweather.
Floyd Mayweather took methods developed years ago by various boxers and popularized by George Benton who is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hence the name “the Philly shell.” Mayweather keeps a hand on the phone to protect his jaw and his chin tucked behind his left shoulder to protect the other side. His shoulder roll baffled opponents like Canelo, Pacquiao and more. Across other sports, Bruce Lee also had a variation of the Philly shell that he used in his Jeet Kune Do combat system. The defense is effective and makes it hard for your opponent to land valuable shots if implemented correctly.
Piriyapinyo pulls his punch which was a mistake. (4) Vasyl Lomachenko lands a quick jab and then (5) a missile launcher of a cross that snaps Piriyapinyo’s head back. While it didn’t knock down Piriyapinyo, the technique used was textbook as we’ve seen with Lomachenko through the years.
In round seven, Lomachenko hurts his left hand, which is his power hand. Commentary picks up on it very quick. In the seventh, Lomachenko goes to throwing only jabs. But it doesn’t matter. While there still five rounds to go, Lomachenko would remain in control of the fight with his footwork, head movement, and only the jab.
In between rounds seven and eight, Piriyapinyo’s corner must have told him about the hurt hand because in eight, he comes out a little more urgent and at one point even urges Lomachenko to bring the fight. But with the experience Lomachenko has, 3 professional fights, over 400 amateur fights and 2 Olympic medals, he doesn’t get too emotional and drug into a fight where he can potentially get hurt or caught.
While Vasyl Lomachenko would throw the left at times in round nine onward, it wouldn’t be anything of consequence. After a couple rounds of stick and move with only the jab from Lomachenko, Piripayinyo is at a loss and doesn’t know what to do any more. Even injured, Lomachenko is still miles ahead of Piripayinyo in terms of skills.
Ultimately , Vasyl Lomachenko would get through the fight with an injured hand. While it was initially thought to be broken, medical examination would show that it was not, just badly hurt. Regardless of the injury, the win for Lomachenko may not have been a knockout, but it was a masterclass in it’s own right.
The domination added to the Lomachenko lore
Winning with only one hand would only make Vasyl Lomachenko that much more of a legend in boxing. He’d already been highly touted with his amateur accolades and capturing a world title at 3-0.
Now he’d defeated an opponent with one hand. But a look into this shows something more. Against Orlando Salido, Lomachenko took some time to get it together against an opponent who missed weight massively and repeatedly hit him with low blows the entire fight.
While Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo wasn’t cheating, Vasyl Lomachenko had to overcome another type of adversity when his hand was injured. His overcoming of that adversity made him a better fighter. When things go a fighter’s way, it’s easy to be the best. Everything is already going your way and you have all the momentum. But when something like a hand injury happens, you have to go out there and do your best with what you got. Lomachenko did just that.
Be sure to stay posted to catch Layers Part 5 which will be a review or Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Gamalier Rodriguez, a fight in which Lomachenko dominated and forced Rodriguez to quit in round nine. This was the start of the golden era of Vasyl Lomachenko!