Russ Anber: ‘If Vasiliy Lomachenko stops boxing tomorrow, he goes down as an all-time great’
Russ Anber is perhaps one of boxing’s busiest players working corners all over the globe with some the sport’s best.
He is revered for his surgeon-like hand wrapping, a vital element to the safety of a boxer’s most precious commodity, their hands. He has also been the head trainer for many of the sport’s top contenders and world champions.
In short, Anber has been around some of the best fighters in boxing for decades.
However despite a close working relationship with some of the sport’s elite, he clearly lights up, and his already exuberant personality goes to a different level, when he talks about working with three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Last Saturday night, Anber was back at the most famous arena in the world, New York City’s Madison Square Garden. He was there as part of the corner for Lomachenko, 11-1 (9), a fighter who is fast cementing his place as the sport’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer.
And some are whispering that he is making a strong case to be considered an all-time great.
Lomachenko has won, and ruled, as a world champion at 126 and 130 pounds and is now looking to control the lightweight division with the same dominance. So on Saturday night, “Hi-Tech” challenged champion Jorge Linares. Lomachenko was looking to relieve the tough and talented Venezuelan of his WBA world lightweight title.
Despite a well-contested, tough, back-and-forth fight, Lomachenko would eventually chop down the gritty Linares via 10th round stoppage, courtesy of a perfectly-timed body shot that anesthetized the champion in his tracks.
What has fans and observers really talking these days is not just the collecting of belts (there have been many multi-division champions over the years) but the speed at which Lomachenko is doing it.
While only 12 fights into his career, Lomachenko is already boasting an incredible ring resume.
Lomachenko fought for a vacant world title in his second fight, won the same world title in his third fight, won his second world title in his seventh bout and has now picked up a third world title in his 12th fight. Lomachenko has competed for or defended a world title in 11 of his 12 fights and the only reason he didn’t fight for one in his debut is he couldn’t get sanctioned.
To say the Ukraine-born, Oxnard, California, resident has had an impressive run as a pro is an understatement of epic proportions.
This is a future Hall of Fame fighter in the midst of an obvious Hall of Fame career.
The only question regarding Lomachenko moving forward is how high can he go in weight? While he certainly displayed a dazzling skill set last Saturday night – and good recuperative powers after a quick trip to the canvas, courtesy of a Linares straight right late in the sixth frame – he was clearly the smaller man.
As the old saying goes, skills pays the bills and Lomachenko may indeed boast a skill set that clearly separates him from all other champions in boxing.
However, at some point, size will indeed matter.
Lomachenko’s short-lived journey to the mat on Saturday night didn’t appear to hurt him as much as surprise him, and force him down from the sheer weight of the fighter in front of him. Make no mistake; Linares is a very good and skilled champion but, in reality, can’t compare to Lomachenko, in terms of ring IQ. However if any fighter is caught with the force of a strong punch from a bigger guy, it can be tough not to get moved, at some point.
Linares kept his game simple in the first half of the fight and that was to keep delivering the strong right hand, right down the pipe, and maybe one will eventually get through – and one did.
Anber has had a unique and interesting insider perspective for a much of Lomachenko’s career, having worked for weeks with him before fights in camps and he has also been part of his corner in numerous title defenses.
UCNLive.com caught up with the friendly, Montreal-based Anber to get his thoughts on Lomachenko – past, present and future.
Bill Tibbs: Hi, Russ. Thanks for taking a minute to chat. I know you are a busy guy.
Russ Anber: No problem, Bill; happy to do it.
BT: Great win for Vasiliy, Saturday night, over Linares. The question popping up is: Has Vasiliy hit his weight limit at 135 pounds?
RA: I don’t know; I think it is too early to tell. Look, you have to remember that Linares is a very good fighter. Many people were saying he was the best in the world at 135 pounds. When you are fighting guys at that level, they will be tough fights. Regardless of weight class, Vasiliy is fighting the best fighters in the world at his weight class and they are good fighters. But as far as him going higher? I think time will tell. You have to remember that, with these weigh-ins, 36 hours before fight time, and guys rehydrating to welterweight from lightweight, it is a different era. Loma is a real lightweight. He weighs in at 135 and gets in the ring as a lightweight. In another era with the weigh-in the day of the fight, we don’t see Linares at 135 pounds. Vasiliy beat a welterweight, Saturday night.
BT: Do you think the knockdown is related to size, fighting a bigger guy at 135 pounds? I don’t want to make more of a quick knockdown than it is but it was strange seeing Lomachenko on the canvas.
RA: I don’t really think it was related to size so much as the fact that Loma made a technical mistake and got caught with a shot. It can happen to anybody. If not for that split-second mistake, then we wouldn’t be talking about that round at all because, up until that point, Lomachenko had really dominated the round. It was the round he was really putting some distance between himself and Linares until he got caught. It shows you, at that level, how a fight can change in a split-second. One little mistake and the fight can shift, even it is just for a few seconds, as Lomachenko got up and took control of the fight again.
BT: Lomachenko’s father and trainer Anatoly stays quietly in the background but they obviously have a very good working relationship. Father and son relationships in boxing, historically, haven’t always been the best.
RA: You can say that (laughing) some of them have been disastrous! As I have gotten to know “PapaChenko,” as we call him in camp, I have learned just what a great coach he is. I have had the pleasure of spending time with them in camp, in their home, working with them at the fights and I have learned so much. You’d think after 40-plus years in this business that there wouldn’t be a lot left for me to see but, when I am around him, I am learning new things everyday. I have been around and followed some of the great trainers – (Angelo) Dundee, Georgie Benton, Eddie Futch, Emanuel Steward, lots of the greats. But I am learning new things all the time from Anatoly. He brings that old-school work ethic and mixes it with new innovations in training, techniques and the thought process, the things he practices, everything. The other interesting thing is what Egis Klimas said about him in the documentary they recently did on Loma and that is you never hear Anatoly saying what he did, talking about all the things he did. He never talks about himself; it is Vasiliy that talks about what he has learned from his father. There is a lot of respect there.
BT: WBC lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia is a name that pops up a lot in conversations for a Lomachenko fight. Is that a fight that happens?
RA: I think that is a fight in the future, at some time, yes. I think it is a good fight. I’m sure that after seeing (Lomachenko) get knocked down, lots of people think that if Linares can drop him, then he is showing some vulnerability and, all of a sudden, the keyboard idiots come out of the woodwork and start to dismiss what an amazing career this guy is having. I mean, come on; a two-time Olympian before he gets into the pros and then he wins three world titles in his first 12 fights. The guy has been in a title fight in 11 of his 12 fights so far. Nobody throughout the history of the sport has done what this guy has done after 12 fights. If the guy stops boxing tomorrow, he goes down as an all-time great!
BT: I see they already have a date in California booked in August for Vasiliy. Who is he going to be fighting next?
RA: You know as much as I do. I read on Twitter or somewhere that they are looking at (WBO lightweight titleholder) Ray Beltran but nothing has been made official. We’ll have to wait and see.
BT: Thanks for chatting, Russ, always a pleasure. Good luck on the weekend with Badou Jack (who faces WBC light heavyweight titlist Adonis Stevenson, on Saturday, in Toronto).
RA: Thank you. No problem, anytime.