What is art? And how do we evaluate it? Great minds through the centuries have pondered these questions, brooding over the subjective nature of aesthetic judgment. Must art be unique and expressive, or should it simply mimic life itself? Or perhaps, ideally, it is a combination of both.
If featherweight boxing sensation Vasyl Lomachenko is to be believed, then boxing should be considered art, and he, an artist. In a recent interview, the Ukranian amateur star spoke of his desire to be considered as such: “I want to bring something new to boxing. I want to be known to fans and appreciated as a ‘boxer-painter’ in regards to speed, footwork, punching power – an art form inside the ring.”
If speed, footwork and punching power are the elements of “an art form inside the ring,” then Lomachenko undoubtedly possesses the attributes to be regarded as an artist. However, one must present an impressive body of work to be considered great and Lomachenko has yet to do so. We are still waiting for him to create the kind of masterwork which defines true greatness.
The problem with creating such a masterpiece, at least in boxing terms, is that a worthy adversary is required and, unfortunately, such inspiration for this aspiring maestro appears non-existent, at least for now. Sure, there are some big names out there at featherweight and junior lightweight, but getting them to agree to step into the ring has thus far proven beyond the capabilities of Lomachenko and his team.
Instead, the supremely talented boxer who desires to become boxing’s ultimate artist is undoubtedly feeling under-appreciated due to a lack of opportunities to showcase his talent. The politics of boxing have long been the sport’s bane and in the case of Lomachenko’s career, this is intrinsically true.
At featherweight, there are few, if any, opponents qualified to be the Ukrainian’s muse. Leo Santa Cruz and Lee Selby are Al Haymon fighters, and thus are considered off-limits for Lomachenko who is signed to rival company Top Rank. Garry Russell Jr., has already been vanquished and Nicholas Walters has opted to move up to the junior lightweight class.
This leaves a meagre pool of possible opponents for the two time Olympic gold medalist and thus negates a chance to create his much-needed masterpiece. Instead, Lomachenko is forced to contemplate lesser challenges, such as Gamalier Rodriguez, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and his latest opponent, Romulo Koasicha, men who are ranked contenders, but hardly what anyone would call worthy adversaries for a man with such talent and aspirations.
Despite such slim pickings in the way of prospective opponents, there does lie a man in wait who could provide Lomachenko with a worthy challenge. This man is quite possibly as talented as ‘Hi Tech’ and his amateur career is just as legendary. He currently resides in the junior featherweight division but he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of fighting four pounds north in the featherweight class.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, like Lomachenko, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a virtuoso of the ring, but his career is at an unfortunate impasse. He has been stripped of his titles for inactivity and has burnt many bridges in the world of pro boxing, but despite this, and the fact that he has been much maligned by Top Rank president Bob Arum, a fight with Vasyl remains a possibility.
In an interview with USA Today Sports, Arum was insistent that it is his desire to match the two prodigal fighters: “I would die to do that fight, and I was willing to go into my pocket to do it. The deal I offered was each fighter would get $500,000 and the winner would get $500,000,” said Arum. “I would love to do it next year and I think I have a spot for it.”
Rigondeaux vs Lomachenko would be a superlative clash, featuring as it does two of the finest boxers in the game today, two former amateur stars and two men desperate for quality opposition. Simply put, it’s a fight that absolutely must happen. For Lomachenko, it’s the ultimate opportunity to display his art, a chance for the man who could very well become boxing’s next big star to produce an undisputed tour de force that will be talked about for years to come.
As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a muse is described as an imaginary being or force that gives someone ideas, and helps them to write, paint or make music. Lomachenko, a man who wants to be remembered as a ‘boxer-painter,’ may very well have found his muse in “The Jackal,” the adversary who might evoke a performance for the ages, a masterpiece. All we can do now is wait and hope that this match will be made in the very near future and admirers of the art of boxing will get their dream fight. — Daniel Attias