They’re billed as the ‘Dream Team’ and London 2012 teammates Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk have been only too happy to leave opponents resting in Slumberland.
Since debuting within six months of each other in 2013-14, the Ukrainian pain dispensers have already racked up 30 wins (25 by stoppage) and collected three world titles.
And this Saturday they feature in title action together for the first time as professionals when they star at the new $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort in Maryland, USA. BoxNation, the Channel of the Champions, screen live from 3a.m Sunday morning.
In addition to shared nationality, several staples connect the Holy Trinity who each scaled the podium at the London Olympiad five years ago (‘Loma’ and Usyk nailed gold at lightweight and heavyweight, Gvozdyk a bronze at light-heavy).
All were tutored by coaching Svengali Anatoly Lomachenko (Vasyl’s father) as part of the formidable Ukrainian amateur set-up, all went unbeaten (21 bouts combined) representing the Ukraine Otamans in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing and, today, all are mentored by Lithuanian guru Egis Klimas, the 2016 BWAA Manager of the Year.
While ‘Loma’ and Usyk were raised in the countries south – the former in the Black Sea port of Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi, the latter from the Crimean capital of Simferopol – Gvozdyk was reared in the north-east industrial city of Kharkiv.
Nevertheless, all endured harsh and humble upbringings which have reared hard, hard men. All have retained a ferocious work ethic. All are committed to generating recognition through their talent rather than their tongues.
Stylistically, again, there are major similarities. ‘Loma’ and Usyk predominantly attack from the southpaw stance while Gvozdyk leads with the more conventional left, but all are nimble, uber skilled technicians who effortlessly peel off elaborate rapid-fire combos. All are super savvy from their extended amateur tenures. All are blessed with genuine one shot ‘takeout’ power, and can execute to head or body, from either glove. Even at this formative stage of their professional lives, all appear ominously complete packages.
Already the triumvirate are beginning to rip up the record books. After just eight paid gigs, 30 year old ‘Loma’ – arguably the greatest amateur ever with a 396-1 CV that includes two Olympic and two world championships –merits consideration in any discussion regarding the sport’s premier pound-for-pound operator.
An audacious bid to become the sport’s fastest ever world champion in his second gig was thwarted when, having criminally flunked the scales, WBO featherweight king Orlando Salido found favour with two of the three judges and eloped with a contentious decision in March 2014.
Undeterred, Loma rebounded to equal the record set by Thailand’s Saensak Muangsurin 40 years ago when he schooled Washington D.C’s unbeaten and very useful Gary Russell Jr for the vacant belt in his third start, three months after.
A year on, in fight number seven, he surpassed Japan’s Naoya Inoue as the fastest to become a two weight world champion by putting Puerto Rico’s WBO Super-feather ‘Rocky’ Martinez to sleep with a bewildering left uppercut-right hook two piece.
Three months after, Usyk crashed the history books when he eclipsed Evander Holyfield by winning a world cruiserweight title in the fewest number of starts (10). Defending WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki had won 26 straight and had 12,000 compatriots roaring him on in Gdansk, Poland but was comprehensively tamed by the 6ft 3in Cossack kicking southpaw. And Gvozdyk, still to debut at world level but ranked in the leading eight by all four major sanctioning bodies, is only a yard behind ‘Loma’ and Usyk.
Expect the hall to be awash with yellow and blue when the trio feature in refreshingly relevant title fights on this weekend’s Top Rank/K2 promotion.
Starting for just a ninth time, ‘Loma’ confronts his fifth world champion, former undefeated WBA boss Jason Sosa, in what promises to be a lively second defence of his WBO 130lb strap. The 20-1-4 Camden, New Jersey clouter claims 15 stoppage wins and always comes to wage war... which might serve as hari kari given ‘Loma’s spiteful and sophisticated fists.
Usyk, for once, will concede reach when he too makes a second WBO defence against spidery 2012 US Olympic rep Michael Hunter. The 28 year old Californian, a former world junior medallist who extended Russian beast Artur Beterbiev to a ‘countback’ at the London Games, is unbeaten in a dozen and should provide commander ‘Sandr with his stiffest pro examination thus far.
Slightly less is known about Gvozdyk, a 6ft 2 ½ in light-heavy who was also touched off on a ‘countback’ in those 2012 Olympics. Once a world university’s champion, we’ll be able to better assess ‘The Nail’ after watching how he fares with Cuba’s gifted Yunieski ‘The Monster’ Gonzalez who has conceded just twice – both controversial – in 20.
However, the Robert Garcia trained Ukrainian hits ridiculously hard – as 10 stoppages from 12 straight wins in respectable company suggests - and he enters a prohibitive 7-1 on with the bookies. Expect him to emerge as a major player at 175 imminently.
Don’t be surprised if these long-time friends soon become consumed in a fierce internal squabble to determine boxing’s P4P leader.
Lomachenko v Sosa is exclusively live in the UK on BoxNation, Sky customers can sign up using code FREEBOXING for free registration.