Vasiliy Lomachenko made an extraordinary choice.
Earlier this year, he reached the pinnacle of agreeing to a lightweight unification with George Kambosos. It’s the competition he’s been dreaming of ever since he lost his belt in a shock defeat to Teofimo Lopez.
But when Russia invaded Ukraine, he left boxing to return to his homeland and support the war effort as best he could.
It was a brave, selfless decision, but Lomachenko didn’t hesitate.
“This decision was made very quickly and was supported by my whole family because there was no other way. In times like these, you have to defend your country, defend your country,” Lomachenko said. Sports sky.
Lomachenko doesn’t know how long the fight will last, how he can continue his boxing career or what will happen to him. He risked it all.
His promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum explains: “At the specific time when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lomachenko had already left the country. He was training for the next war in Greece, for a while. some mountain community in Greece, and apparently I called Egis [Klimas, his manager] and I said, ‘Hey, stay there’. But he flew back to Romania because all the airports were closed because of the war at that time in Ukraine and rented a car and drove across the border from Romania to Ukraine to come back.
“He carried the banner of Ukraine in two Olympics, won a gold medal. He’s a proud Ukrainian and that doesn’t surprise me.”
He enlisted with the Territorial Defense Force. He carries weapons despite not having to engage in combat operations himself. The war still affected him directly.
“Yes, we have been through a lot of bombing near our town, very close to our district. Many times, we have to go down to the basement to find shelter from the bombs that often happen in our area. me,” he said.
Arum reflected: “That says a lot about Ukraine and about the person of Vasiliy and also Oleksandr. [Usyk, who did the same]. How meaningful the Ukrainian people are and how dedicated they are to maintaining their nationality. They have such values. “
Letting go of the danger he put him in, choosing to give up boxing on a principled basis saw Lomachenko likened to Muhammad Ali, who spent the early years of his career fighting against the Vietnam War. Male.
Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of The Greatest, made the comparison himself. “Lomachenko left his career to fight for what he believed in and that’s what my grandfather did. He left his career to fight for what he believed in. You don’t see it. People put their careers first, which I get, I understand. But there’s something so much bigger than leaving everything you love for what you support. It’s powerful,” said Ali Walsh Sports sky.
“It is noble and very courageous for Lomachenko to have done what he did and for Usyk as well. Not only him, there are many people from Ukraine who have left boxing completely to fight for their country. It’s just that I have a lot of that respect for them.”
Lomachenko is now able to return to the sport. He will box Jamaine Ortiz at the Madison Square Garden Theater in the early hours of Sunday morning, live on Sky Sports Arena from 1 am.
Ali Walsh will be under his muscle. He said: “As a boxer, I just respect him to the highest degree. But for a person to leave their sport, what they love, their career, to fight for the land. their country, there must be a different kind of person.
“He’s a special human being, a special fighter, and I really think he’ll show in this next fight because it’s his comeback fight.”
As for Lomachenko, he will use this background and his boxing prowess to represent his country.
“It certainly raises awareness and at the same time creates an opportunity for people in my country to be distracted, even if just for an hour or two, from all that’s going on. Of course, those who have the opportunity. Those who are fighting right now, out on the battlefield, they won’t be able to watch the war,” he said.
Ortiz is someone who has some inside information about Lomachenko. He has seen how the great Ukrainian operates in the gym and has evaluated him before. That could pose an additional threat.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Lomachenko said. “In his arsenal, he has good pace, he has good coordination, he has an understanding of movement in the ring.”
But he warned: “At the same time, I hit him more than he hit me because he was my teammate during practice when I had to hit two or three opponents at once, so he has no experience hitting me like one.
“He’s not 100% like me. So I know a lot about him. Probably more about him than he knows about me.”
Winning this bout will put Lomachenko back on track towards his ultimate boxing ambition – the undisputed championship.
Promoter Bob Arum explained that his departure from the Kambosos war “opened the door for [Devin] Haney to win all the titles”.
“Devin is a very good boxer and he went to Australia and won the bout and was signed for a rematch. And speaking to Devin and his father, they were prepared, as players. good athletes, give Lomachenko a shot to win those titles,” Arum continued.
If he beats Ortiz, Lomachenko will get the fight he wants. Arum added: “As long as he is not injured, in the war of aggression going on in his country.
“Vasiliy, I asked if he could stay here after the battle. He said no, he will take a few weeks and go back to Ukraine and if necessary take up the rifle again.
“Again, there are some things in life that are much more important than sports and how much money you can make in sports.”
Winning this bout will put Lomachenko back where he wants to be, at the top of the lightweight division. “Exactly. That’s how I see it, as a step towards the next fight against Devin Haney. But much will depend on how our fight on October 29 plays out.” , the Ukrainian said.
“I am grateful for this opportunity, I am grateful to God, I am grateful to fate, the circumstances for this opportunity to fight, get back in the ring and try to achieve one of my main goals in boxing. .. “
Watch the match between Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Jamaine Ortiz live on Sky Sports Arena at 1am on Sunday.