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Vasyl Lomachenko Defends Against Claims Of Being A ‘Dirty Fighter’: “I Know Who I Am”

Vasyl Lomachenko Defends Against Claims Of Being A 'Dirty Fighter' featured image
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 17: Vasiliy Lomachenko laughs during the press conference ahead of his May 20 Undisputed lightweight championship fight with Devin Haney, at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on May 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

The prelude to Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko stepping into the ring has seen the former accuse Lomachenko of using dirty tactics during fights. Haney had first remarked as such during an interview after one of his workouts, and in the subsequent weeks has continued to hone in on the narrative that Vasyl Lomachenko is a dirty fighter.

Vasyl Lomachenko, has vehemently denied this. Lomachenko, who’s had two years more experience at the pro level than Haney, came into the professional ranks of boxing as one of the most decorated amateurs to ever grace the sport, and has proven his talent by winning world titles in three different divisions.

Throughout his career, Vasyl Lomachenko has become renowned for his ability to fight on the inside due to his smaller-than-average reach which prevents from making much of an impact when fighting at range. As a fighter accustomed to fighting inside, Lomachenko has been subject to a lot of clinches and holds in a lot of matches, and there has been a fair amount of punching during these moments.

During their face-to-face meeting between the two, Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KO’s) sought to again highlight the Ukrainian’s tendency to punch during clinches and labeled it as ‘dirty tactics’, but Vasyl Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KO’s) refuted the American undisputed champion’s accusations.

It’s the truth. He knows what he’s training for. He knows that he wants to punch on the break and do things like that. That is what we’ve seen him do in the past. That’s what he’s been training for.” Haney maintained during the interview. “So yeah, I think he knows what I’m talking about.

Vasyl Lomachenko Defends Against Claims Of Being A 'Dirty Fighter' image 1
Devin Haney has accused Vasyl Lomachenko of being a ‘dirty fighter’ several times throughout the past couple of weeks, and especially days. (Photo by Jeff Lewis/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Though Vasyl Lomachenko seemed confused at Haney’s accusations and remained dismissive about the American’s claims, in another interview with Fight Hub TV, Lomachenko revealed more of his feelings surrounding Devin Haney’s words.

It’s in the rules. It’s normal that you stay in a clinch and work and then, when the referee says something, you need to react. But if you stay quiet, and don’t say anything, I can still continue working,” Vasyl Lomachenko explained. “It doesn’t matter. Inside, outside, clinch, no clinch, I still work. It’s in the rules. So I don’t understand.

When asked whether the accusations affected him, Lomachenko seemed none too bothered.

Absolutely not. I know who I am.” Lomachenko responded assertively. “I know what I can (do) and I think that I was always a gentleman in the ring during my boxing career.

When a fighter is being held or clinched with, it is often allowed for that fighter to ‘work himself out’ i.e. punch his way out of the clinch. Though rules differ per governing body (in the case of the United States this pertains to the State Athletic Commissions) whether it is allowed to punch one’s way out of a clinch, this method of escaping a hold is generally not frowned upon.

While there are State Athletic Commissions that consider punching while holding ‘dirty’ or even illegal in some cases, continuously clinching with an opponent is not entirely acceptable either; which incidentally is something he has been prone to do.

Whether these tactics are considered illegal or not, in professional boxing, most referees some to abide by their own set of rules which have allowed for many tactics that would normally be considered ‘dirty’ to be allowed. For example, rabbit punching (punching at the back of the head) seems to be a common occurrence in boxing despite it being deemed clearly illegal and dangerous. This usually does not come paired with any real consequences, however, other than warnings, but even point deductions have become (somewhat) rare in the modern era.

It is also important note that there is an acute difference between punching while being held, and punching after holding on to an opponent. In the case of the former, the fighter will naturally respond towards being grabbed, while the latter is reserved for fighters who stoop to more unsavory tactics in order to grab a victory.

Devin Haney, who is known for his clinch work, has expressed concerns surrounding being punched while clinching but seems to have ignored that his own tendency to hold opponents is considered just as dirty, if not more.

Lomachenko, on the other hand, has been known as a fighter that prefers to engage with his opponents and does not seem to enjoy clinching or being clinched. It is a subject of debate whether both fighters’ tactics are illegal or dirty as there are various strategies boxers employ to secure a victory, but the issue remains with the referees who are supposed to reinforce the rules.

It is usually the referee that seems to have to the final say on what is allowed and what is not. As was evident in the fight between Caleb Plant (22-2, 13 KO’s) and David Benavidez (27-0, 23 KO’s), the presiding referee over that match, Kenny Bayless, allowed Plant to repeatedly clinch with Benavidez which according to the rulebooks should have at least seen Plant deducted with points several times.

The Lightweight title bout that will be held on May 20th between Haney and Lomachenko will be an exciting spectacle between two deserving fighters that have everything to lose, and everything to prove. Hopefully, all manners of ‘dirty tactics’ will be kept to a minimum as both fighters are considered to be one of the most skilled boxers in the sport, and have more than enough in their skillset to make for an intriguing but technical spectacle between two highly-effective styles.