The training of Vasyl Lomachenko
The training of Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is provided by his father with the help of a psychologist. It includes street skating, juggling, handstand, solo tennis, marathons and 10 kilometer swims. Sparring sessions consist of 15 four-minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest in between. New training partners rotate every third round, unless they are overwhelmed by too many punches, in which case they rotate earlier. Each punch is recorded and calibrated via computer chips that are placed in Lomachenko’s bandages.
When the bandages come off, psychological training begins: a battery of tests and exercises using a reaction timer, as well as small blocks or number charts that were popular as a diagnostic tool for pilots and cosmonauts in the world. Soviet era. The goal is to reach “the present moment”.
“The moment” is when it all merges into one – physical and psychological training, father and son, genetics and ambition.
Vasyl was only three years old when his father, Anatoly, a physical education teacher and boxing trainer, put his little hands in a pair of gloves. Vasyl does not remember the first time he went to a gym. Honestly, he doesn’t remember not being in a gym.
He trains with genuine pleasure, appearing as the rarest and most dangerous fighter – the lucky one. When thinking about the dangers of father-son collaborations, especially in the agonizing history of combat sports, the Lomachenkos can still prove to be a most glorious exception.
Vasyl’s birthplace, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, is a town of 50,000 people with a famous “white castle” on an estuary towards the Black Sea. Father Anatoly once proclaimed that he would like to produce a champion from their hometown, but did not provide any details.
Anatoly had been an amateur fighter, but never spoke of personal ambitions or goals.
His father turned Vasyl into a southpaw before he started training. At the age of four, he beat a six-year-old. At the age of 6, when he asked his father if it would mean more to win an Olympic gold medal or an amateur title, Anatoly’s answer was gold. The youngster took the Olympic gold medal as a personal wish to prove his superiority to himself and his father.
The more he worked in his profession, the more his gifts of ambition and genetics became apparent. While Anatoly had been a boxer, his mother, Tetiana, started out as a gymnast. The two met to study at the Odessa State Pedagogical Institute. Anatoly suggested that Tetiana try judo and after a year she placed fourth at the Soviet Judo Championships.
Anatoly valued athletic performance, but also stressed that Vasyl should maintain good academic results, believing that an educated body is ruled by an educated mind, intellectually stimulated and able to make decisions under duress. Anatoly did not promote the kind of early specialization so prevalent today. While learning to box, Vasyl played hockey, soccer and wrestling. At the age of 10, he started traditional Ukrainian folk dance.
The idea was simple, which came to fruition after four years prancing around in shiny boots, baggy satin pants and a belt tied around her waist for two hours every day after school. Today, he is regularly hailed as having the best footwork in boxing.
Vasyl’s amateur record was 396-1, his only loss to Albert Selimov in 2007 which Lomachenko twice avenged. With Anatoly coaching the Ukrainian national boxing team, Vasyl won gold medals in 2008 and again in 2012, one of five medals Ukraine won at the London Olympics. Word among boxers was that the elder Lomachenko had built a special spirit in the team and motivated by explaining the nuances of the sport rather than yelling or intimidating his boxers. The Lomachenko training system included crossword puzzles, hand walking, volleyball, basketball, tennis, marathons, and distance swims. His boxers have achieved a unique version of mental supremacy.
To further accentuate mental supremacy, Anatoly hired a psychologist, Andriy Kolosov, ahead of the 2012 Olympics. Kolosov was a young doctor, a former gymnast whose main experience was working with Army pilots. air, not boxers. Over time, Kolosov became the second most important voice in the Lomachenko camp after Anatoly. He was there when Vasyl won his second gold medal and when he turned pro.
Now with a professional record of 14-1, a champion in lightweight, featherweight and junior lightweight, Vasyl has achieved what the house of Lomachenko has always coveted: a claim as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter and a eternal consideration as a historic fighter.
Strength and conditioning trainer Cicilio Flores, with the company for over 20 years, calls Vasyl the most dedicated fighter he has ever had as a client. His regime consists of shooting three-point baskets and kicking a backpack 75 before it hits the ground. The goal is physical dexterity and mental flexibility.
To be a truly successful boxer, it is imperative to remain unprovoked, resisting the urges and spasms that plague lesser fighters. Pressure in training opens up a boxer to a situational possibility, as psychologist Kosolov explains. Psychic resources are necessary for a boxer to adapt in the ring. A boxer cannot afford to be tense, angry, or scared, but instead, a boxer must be able to recognize the possibility during a fight.
Psychology can be seen as creativity. For Lomachenko, it’s art: he moves like a dancer, his strokes vary in angle, power and cadence, but they come with a coherent rhythm, a “flow”. In a state of flux, a person is fully engaged in a difficult task, intrinsically motivated, very happy. The genius of improvisation arises from repetition – a boxer creates under violent circumstances.
As reported by ESPN Boxing, ahead of a 2017 game between Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, strength and conditioning coach Flores asked Anatoly Lomachenko if he knew what his son was going to be. The father would have replied that everything had been designed and written. When asked when “The moment” was, Anatoly replied, “Before he was conceived.”
Ihor Stelmach can be contacted at [email protected]