Oleksandr Usyk’s secret weapon against Anthony Joshua is Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl’s father, and whose training methods include juggling and underwater training.
Oleksandr Usyk looms like a sculpted Ukrainian bogeyman with wild eyes and a 6ft 3in shaved head in the ring. But anyone who’s seen him box – or watched anything other than Usyk’s vicious knockout of Tony Bellew – knows he’s almost the opposite of the stereotypical Eastern European fighter with well-crisscrossed fundamentals and handsome hands. heavy.
A flexible, agile and versatile southpaw, Usyk presents a much trickier puzzle for Anthony Joshua to solve at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday. And the undefeated 34-year-old returning Cornerman – the legendary and mysterious Anatoly Lomachenko – is the secret weapon behind his style.
Former physical education teacher Anatoly avoids the limelight and, unlike many modern super-trainers, has no desire to be a gun for hire while working with the superstar boxer who calls him next. He is perfectly satisfied to train his son, the great Vasyl Lomachenko, and sometimes other Ukrainian pros that he has coached as amateurs: like former student Usyk.
“Papachenko’s” unorthodox training methods include his fighters who learn gymnastics, juggling and tennis solo; 10 km of outdoor swimming and underwater exercises (Vasyl can hold his breath for up to four and a half minutes).
Then there are the coordination and reaction exercises first used as diagnostic tools for cosmonauts and pilots.
The goal is to train a fighter to their cognitive and physical peak. Teach a boxer to be mentally sharp and to move his feet as freely as he throws combinations.
Part A will always be Vasyl Lomachenko, with his dazzling Matrix-style in-ring movement. But Usyk is just as much a product of Anatoly’s methods.
The former undisputed world cruiserweight champion trained as an amateur under Anatoly, racking up an incredible 335-15 win-lose record. Usyk won Olympic heavyweight gold in London 2012, the same Games Joshua triumphed in super heavyweight competition.
“Lomachenko’s father made this team,” said Oleksandr Gvozdyk, another Ukrainian medalist in London 2012. “He created it. He is too humble to say it. But it’s true.
“Ask Usyk. It’s not just about boxing. He’s a psychologist, a leader. It says something and you believe it. Because whatever he tells you, it works.
The wacky and charismatic Usyk makes a different figure in the training of young Lomachenko. There’s always the walk around the gym on his hands, another Anatoly staple, and Usyk’s own take on the Hopak folk dance – sometimes performed in his garish underwear. A hypnotic spectacle.
Then there are the footage of Usyk fighting two fighters at once, both pushing forward as he dodges and retaliates. The latter is a joke; a setup that makes fun of Usyk’s training methods. But the 18-0 pro (13 KOs) takes his respect for Anatoly’s methods seriously.
From the outside, their professional relationship has been oddly stop-start. Usyk has worked with different cornermen throughout his professional career, including James Ali Bashir, Yuriy Tkachenko and cutman Russ Anbar, who was in his corner when Usyk turned heavyweight to beat Chazz Witherspoon in 2019.
After the fight, however, Usyk insisted to reporters: “Anatoly Lomachenko is training me.
Still, Anatoly hasn’t officially been Usyk’s cornerman or the full-time coach for a professional fight for over three years. And that fact alone should give Joshua and his camp chills.
Because in 2018, Usyk led the fight of his life against the undefeated Russian Murat Gassiev in Moscow. In what was seen as a 50-50 fight to decide the world’s No. 1 cruiserweight, Usyk dominated with a jab to win a landslide unanimous decision. “My team made me look like I looked in the ring tonight,” Usyk said afterward.
This perfect display was the last time Usyk and Anatoly Lomachenko entered the ring as the official boxer-coach team. Before Saturday.
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From the outside, Joshua’s relationship with his head coach Robert McCracken mirrors that of Usyk and Anatoly. The two soft-spoken amateur gurus staged Olympic gold medals for their proteges. AJ and Usyk also worked with different coaches early in their professional careers, before returning to their former tutors.
For Joshua, it paid off the last time he faced a Ukrainian heavyweight: his thrilling knockout victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2017. McCracken was the glue that held that game plan together, a calm voice of reason. in the Wembley Cauldron, guiding AJ through difficult passages, while Klitschko was guided by the less experienced Jonathan Banks.
This weekend, AJ’s team won’t have such an advantage when it comes to cornering experience. The Briton added Angel Fernadnez to his own training squad to help him avenge his loss to Andy Ruiz Jr and, smartly, he looks lean to train for this competition in order to combat Usyk’s fluid movement.
Usyk hasn’t been at his best in his two heavyweight fights; not quite the force that won three fights – all in the backyards of its opponents – to claim the original Super Six cruiserweight and gatecrash every top 10 pound for pound.
So it’s understandable that the younger, taller, and powerful Joshua starts off as a favorite. Especially since he seems to have learned to maximize his dimensions since this shock defeat against Ruiz.
But Joshua shouldn’t necessarily expect the same Usyk who has struggled at times with Derek Chisora to show up in North London. Especially since Anatoly believes in developing a specific training regime tailored to each rival in the ring.
“Every opponent is different,” he told the LA Times, breaking his usual silence in 2017. “You’d like to throw a punch and knock them out, but that doesn’t happen. So you prepare yourself individually for each. opponent and do a different job for each guy.
When it comes to the Usyk-Anatoly partnership, expect the unexpected, whether it’s unique training methods or a tailored strategy on fight night. One thing you can be sure of: Anatoly will have a master plan in place and Usyk will go out of his way to execute it.