Vasyl Lomachenko and boxing’s new fascination with angling

Edward L'Orange Roar Guru

By Edward L'Orange, Edward L'Orange is a Roar Guru


12 Have your say

    For me, watching Vasyl Lomachenko is quite simply one of the great pleasures in modern boxing.

    He is remarkable and very possibly the best fighter in the world right now. But more than this, his outstanding technique will change boxing in a way not seen since Mohammad Ali.

    A big statement, true, but not one I can honestly lay claim to. Bob Arum of Top Rank promotions was the first to make the comparison, but boxing experts have noted the Ukranian’s remarkable ability, including analysts Steve Bunce and Mike Costello and perhaps most accessibly, Joe Rogan.

    There are a number of outstanding aspects to Lomachenko’s style: his remarkable amateur career (396 wins, one defeat, two gold medals) has given him clean and elusive outside striking, he has excellent hand and foot speed, outstanding defence and importantly for fans, a refreshingly aggressive approach.

    But there is one area Lomachenko’s game that truly stands out: his ability to move laterally around opponents and create unusual angles to attack. It is this which is the most innovative and exceptional aspect of his technique, and it is setting a new standard for boxing.

    Of course, Lomachenko is by no means the first boxer to use lateral movement to his advantage, as many fighters have used this technique over time. However, the aggressive way in which Lomachenko employs this strategy and just the sheer extent of the angles he creates are new additions to the art of professional boxing.

    But first, why is angling useful to a boxer?

    Simply put, attacking on angles allows a fighter uncommon access to an opponent. When someone is to your left or right (particularly outside your lead hand) it is much harder to defend for two significant reasons.

    First, you simply cannot see what your opponent intends to throw – you are effectively blind as you turn and this allows your opponent a few almost free shots.

    Second, and arguably more importantly, the alignment of a typical boxer’s defence (which is forward focused) allows a fighter angling around the body to get inside their opponent’s guard. The most common example of this is seen when moving to the side to throw a hook: the side angle allows the hook penetrate the guard like a straight shot.

    The advantage of this is that you effectively mix the power of a hook with the penetration of a straight. As Jack Slack notes, Mike Tyson was fantastic as this technique, stepping to the left to allow his right hook to penetrate the guard.

    So how does Lomachenko achieve the movement? Well, Vasyl’s movement usually centres around getting on the outside of orthodox standing opponents (the vast majority of his opposition).

    Like most southpaws, Lomachenco aims to get his lead (right) foot on the outside of the lead (left) foot of his opponent. This allows the southpaw to get around their opponent’s guard by attacking from off-centre.

    This has been achieved successfully in the past with more traditional straight in-and-out forward movements – for example, Manny Pacquiao commonly employed a two or three step shuffle disguised by a jab to get his lead foot to the outside.

    Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao fight


    Lomachenko, however, goes about this movement in even more various and inventive ways, and gains angles more dramatic than any simple forward movement. In a very simplistic breakdown of Lomachenko’s movement, there are key ways in which he angles around opponents.

    Firstly, using the jab to cover movement. As opposed to a one-two shuffle (à la Pacquiao), Lomachenko will take one forward step with the jab, but then pivot 90 degrees on his lead foot, swinging his back foot around, to take the side or even sometimes the back of his opponent.

    The angle created by this is different and more accentuated than any possible by a simple forward movement and gives him significant advantages. After the initial jab to disguise the movement, Lomachenko will usually follow with a low left hook to the body, followed by a right hook or uppercut to the head.

    Secondly, Vasyl uses feints to also obtain movement. Feints and baiting are huge parts of Lomachenko’s general tactics, but he uses them to particular advantage when moving.

    He achieves this by using the kinetic energy generated from the build-up of a punch to instead jump to a new angle and attack from there.

    Finally, Lomachenko obtains movement, rather unusually, from the rear hook-shot. When throwing a rear-handed hook the momentum shift through the body usually sees both feet firmly planted, with power coming up off the rear foot and leg, through to the punch.

    Lomanchenko, however, sacrifices some of this power and allows the energy from the back foot to actually help him jump around his opponent as his throws the punch. In this, he sacrifices the power of his hook to gain better his position.

    This last point epitomises Lomachenko’s aggressive use of angling. Rather than using the lateral movement like Mike Tyson to get more knockout blows, Lomachenko actually sacrifices some of his power to get into better positions.

    Despite all of Lomachenko’s boxing prowess, it is this relatively simple trick which is revolutionary about his boxing style. Not using one’s full punching power, but using that energy to reposition the body in strange 90-degree angles, is a new trend.

    Known as the “Lomachenko hop” it is even starting to be taught in gyms. In years to come I expect this move to become a common weapon in a professional boxer’s arsenal, because, so far, it is a stroke of genius.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • February 21st 2018 @ 1:07pm said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      there is nothing new about pivoting 90 degrees left or right of your opponent. to counter attack. on the contrary it is elementary.boxing. it is even used in Wrestling to effecr the same outcome. it most. likely came from fencing into boxing along with the parry. the side parry inboxing uses a pivot. As for him not using full power when changing angles. that is due to not being able to plant both feet firmly. He is punching on the turn or counter punching. your observations about his outstanding defense and aggressive intent are spot on though. i doubt that both his feet leave the ground at the same time. that is a no no in any combat sport except muaythai. .

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 1:50pm
      Edward L'Orange said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

      Thanks for the comment, I anticipated that this article might garner a little skepticism, haha; It was really hard to write up Lomachenko’s style in 1000 odd words, so I admit there is a little exaggeration. That said, while the 90 degree pivot is indeed common in other martial arts, I do maintain that the way Lomachenko adopts it into his technique is innovative to boxing.

      The way he shifts his weight with a punch – so to use that energy- is not a common way to pivot. In a paragraph I had to cut out of this piece, I note that pivots in boxing are usually done -as you note- in defence or counter attack. Lomachenko rather uses pivots in pure attack, utilising the kinetic energy of his punches in what seem to me to be purely innovative ways. Again like you note, this cuts his power because his feet are moving, but it seems a sacrifice he is happy to take.

      I also doubt that both his feet leave at the same time (though thinking about it and just watching a little footage, it is possible at least that they are both in the air together). The term “Lomachenko hop” is a bit misleading, but I didn’t come up with it.

      But I think we can both agree that Lomachenko is an amazing boxer, and great to watch.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 1:56pm
        BigJ said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

        I agree Eddie, quick question for you. Off topic, who would your top ten Aussie fighters be??? Just curious

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 11:57am
          Edward L'Orange said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          Hey mate, it’s a good question really. Do you mean currently?

          Well you’d have to start with Whittaker obviously. Then I really like Tyson Pedro. The two winners from the last UFC would have to be up there, Jake Matthews and Tai Tuivasa. There’s also some potential in our female fighters like Bec Rawlings. Other than that I’m not sure off the top of my head. It’s not a bad article idea actually…

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 1:44pm
            BigJ said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            So mate I met boxing ? not ufc but hey throw it in there though. Just be cautious though. I have tried about six times to get a top ten Aussie boxers and Aussie fights article published and they both git rejected. Very upsetting but them are the breaks. One of my mates has just finished his top ten Aussie boxers and I just waiting for him to submit it.

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 2:50pm
              Edward L'Orange said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

              Ah sorry, took fighters too literally haha. Well historically off the top of my head I can’t go past Kostya Tszyu as number 1. Jeff Fenech would be up there.

              Do you remember Michael Katsidis? He’s not up there because he burnt out from too many wars I think, but he was one of the toughest blokes I’ve ever seen. His fight vs Graham Earl was one of the greatest and craziest battles I’ve ever seen.

              • Roar Guru

                February 22nd 2018 @ 4:17pm
                BigJ said | February 22nd 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                Funny you mention katsidis, my mate said the exact same thing in that he was the greatest Aussie fighter to never win a world title. Well him and Tony Mundine (his opinion not mine),

                But my top ten is
                10. Billy dib
                9. Barry micheal
                8. Lester Ellis
                7. Sakio bika
                6. Jeff Harding
                5. Anthony Mundine
                4 Lionel Rose
                3 Daniel Geale
                2 Jeff fenech
                1 by a long shit Kostya Tszyu

                Johnny Famechon, lovemore Ndou, Sam Soliman, Danny green just miss out.

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 1:53pm
      BigJ said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

      Just read this bloke record on quite impressive but the real question is why hasn’t this bloke gone for a unification bout with the other champs??? Seems that the WBO belt ain’t worth much as Saunders at middleweight, Horn at Welterweight and this bloke can’t get an unification bout with anyone. I know that Horn is still wet behind the ears as a champ but the other two fighters are well established.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 12:04pm
        Edward L'Orange said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Boxing is an absolute mess at the moment. But with Lomachenko, I genuinely think people are ducking him; he’s made his last couple of opponents quit. His fight against Rigondeaux was a big fight in the boxing sphere, but I think he needs to step up a weight class to get a proper super fight. I’d love to see him fight anyone though, to be honest.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 1:48pm
          BigJ said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          When has boxing not been a mess. Pre don king days probably??? But I agree that people are ducking him he just to dangerous. Your thoughts on Horn v Crawford??? If Horn wants to win he must get the ko otherwise they’ll screw him out of the title via the scorecards as Arum wants Crawford v Pacquiao in August

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 2:53pm
            Edward L'Orange said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

            After Triple G vs Canelo I’ll never trust their scorecards again. I honestly hate to say it mate, but I just can’t see Horn winning. In light of a proper breakdown, Crawford is a serious fighter, and not saying Horn isn’t but he will need a lot of things to go his way. But I’m certainly still hoping.

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 4:19pm
              BigJ said | February 22nd 2018 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Did you have Ggg winning??? Plus since fenech v Nelson 1 is when boxing truly lost its way and it’s be corrupt as crap ever since

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