As Russ Anber prepares for his 12th fight in Vasiliy Lomachenko’s corner, he reflects on his journey with the Ukrainian so far, and what makes Loma great…

People often ask me how I came to work with Vasiliy Lomachenko. It’s a story I enjoy telling, because my work with him has been among the most enjoyable experiences of my 40-plus years in the boxing trade.

After Lomachenko turned pro he was suffering serious hand injuries every time he fought. After his fight in Macao against Suriya Tatakhun he told his manager Egis Klimas: ‘We need to find someone who can do a better job of my hand wrapping. I’m hurting myself too much.’ He also didn’t like the gloves he was wearing.

A friend of mine, Anthony Aquino, told Egis: ‘Why don’t you give Russ Anber a try?’ Egis knew I was working with Jean Pascal, who was scheduled to fight Sergei Kovalev in Montreal on 14 March 2015. Egis contacted me and said: ‘Can you come down and wrap Lomachenko and see if he likes it?’

“I said: ‘I really can’t! I’ve got to be in the dressing room for Pascal, but I’ll be there early, so if you bring Lomachenko by I can wrap him in the dressing room.’ He said okay and so my trial experience for Lomachenko was wrapping his hands in Jean Pascal’s dressing room!

Anyway he liked it and he liked the Rival gloves we made him, so they brought me down to Vegas and I worked his corner for his next fight against Gamelier Rodriguez. Everything went well and Lomachenko and his father seemed really happy. We got back to the dressing room, and he just turned to me, shook my hand and said: ‘Welcome to Team Lomachenko!’ We’ve been together ever since and Saturday night will be my 12th fight in his corner. I can’t begin to tell you the feeling of emotion that came over me at that moment!

The run I’ve had in Loma’s team has been a total pleasure. From Papachenko to Dr. Andriy to Egis to all the training camps I have attended, being around Loma has been an experience unlike any other I have had in my four decades in this game. He is such an exceptional talent – the sort of talent which we haven’t seen in boxing since Roy Jones. For 10 years there was Roy and then there was every other fighter and we’re getting to that point now with Loma – there’s him and then there’s every other fighter.

The decorated Lomachenko is an exceptional talent with a work ethic to match.

Technically speaking, Loma is textbook. His hands are up, his stance is wide. He doesn’t do crazy stuff like stick his chin out or drop his hands. He throws a jab, he throws a left hand, he throws a hook, he throws all those punches very well. But what separates him from the rest is his incredible speed and visionary reaction times.

They used to say about the hockey player Wayne Gretzky that when he played it felt like he saw things happening at a much slower speed than they were actually happening. That’s also the case with Loma – it’s like he sees punches coming at him in slow motion so he has time to either block, step away, step around or counter punch.

He also has an incredible work ethic. He once told me that he can train “for 24 hours a day”. His conditioning is fantastic and, as a result, he can fight for all three minutes of every round for 12 rounds. During those very few seconds when he isn’t throwing punches the other fighter can still feel the pressure coming at him. There is no let-up. Even if Loma’s not throwing punches he’s still pressuring you. You have to work every minute of every round against him physically and mentally.

All of which brings us to this weekend’s fight. Of all the opponents who have fought Loma, Teofimo Lopez is the one who has made the biggest noise and has exuded the most confidence. He’s confident in his approach and has a great belief in his ability and in his power. And you know what? Lopez is a very, very good fighter. The word ‘great’ gets thrown around a lot, but for a young boxer he is a great fighter.

I believe this is as serious a test as Loma has ever faced. Many of the greats of the past – Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Willy Pep, Roberto Duran, or Sugar Ray Leonard – often looked so-so against fighters of lesser calibre and then looked great against great opposition.

That goes for Loma, too. I think that the greater the opponent is, the greater the performance we are going to see from Vasiliy Lomachenko.

And that’s why I expect him to win on Saturday night and once again prove he’s the best fighter in the world.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

Russ is the founder/ CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.

Main image: Vasiliy Lomachenko. Photo: Matchroom Boxing.