Vasiliy Lomachenko is tired. He rubs his eyes and his shoulders slump as he halfheartedly listens to voices swirling around. Another foot floats by anxiously against a metal chair. He does not want to be here.
'It's always the same questions. Always. '
'Here' is a Fitzroy Lodge gym in Lambeth, London under a bridge where the rumble and roll overhead and 'here' is the limelight where the crowds gather round their pound of flesh. They all want to know the same thing.
What makes him the most unique fighter in a generation? What is the secret to the incredible things he can do?
Lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko poses for Sportsmail at Fitzroy Lodge gym, London
The Ukrainian set the boxing world alight by winning titles in the three weight classes in 12 fights, the quickest in the history and 24 fewer than it took Floyd Mayweather to achieve the same feat
Lomachenko won a world title in his third professional fight. He won two Olympic golds, two World Championships and lost once in 396 bouts
He is preparing to unify the WBO and WBA titles in his next fight on Dec 8 against Jose Pedraza
How does a man become the best amateur career of all time – he lost only once in 396 fights – before becoming a three-division world champion faster than any man in history?
But, for now, he does not want to reveal the key to his genius. Instead, he just wants to sleep in the car, and he goes away from the crowds and swaying. A little corner of peace, just for a moment.
'No more interviews after this one,' his manager says.
Lightweight Lomachenko has burst into the professional scene with 11 wins in his first 12 fights
To see Lomachenko in the ring The basic principles of boxing remain but his abstraction through the prism of his father's training has resulted in something quite breathtaking; a collision of violence and grace that has sent him soaring through the boxing's stratosphere in record time.
Boxing's bible, Ring Magazine, have Lomachenko placed as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, ahead of Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin to name a few. The Ukrainian has only fought 12 times professionally on his way to three world titles.
Floyd Mayweather took 34 fights to achieve the same feat.
Those dozen bouts have been put on by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, who has seen his life in the sport. He's witnessed Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Manny Pacquiao up close and had a front row seat for the greats.
Vasiliy, 'he said last year. I am telling you without any reservation that Lomachenko is the greatest fighter I have seen since Muhammad Ali.
Vasily Lomachenko poses for Sportsmail's Simon Dael in London's Fitzroy Lodge gym
LOMACHENKO SO FAR
396 wins, one defeat
2 x Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012)
2 x World Championships: 2009, 2011
World champion at three weights: Featherweight, Super Featherweight, Lightweight
12 fights, 11 wins, 9 knockouts
Joint-fastest world champion (third fight)
Fastest ever triple world champion (12 fights)
Fewest fights needed to win titles in two divisions (seven)
Jose Pedraza, New York, December 8, WBO and WBA unification bout
In 2013, Lomachenko flew to New York with his manager Egis Klimas to meet potential promoters, but not one offered what he wanted. He wanted to fight for a world title in his professional debut.
Arum's Top Rank Lomachenko had to wait until his second fight for the title in the third bout in 2014, equating the record for the quickest world champion in history.
Jose Pedraza in New York on December 8 for the WBA world title Another fight, another belt.
'I'm doing everything I can do my legacy, that's my goal,' he says. 'I'm doing all of this because I want to be the greatest.'
For Lomachenko, the road to eternal greatness meanders through an avalanche of interviews. Just one more picture, another question. He obliges gracefully then hastily disappears into the night.
Being a fighter destined for greatness is easy. Being famous; not so much.
Lomachenko started boxing when he was just four years old until he was nine
He was made to stop by his father and trainer, Anatoly, in order to take up dance lessons
His unusual upbringing and training propelled him to the gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Here the pound-for-pound champion shows off his London 2012 Olympic tattoo
It is impossible to separate Lomachenko and his achievements from his father, who also trains him. Anatoly's image is tattooed on his son's stomach and he is scorched on his brain.
WHO IS ANATOLY LOMACHENKO?
– He is a former amateur boxer and PE teacher
– He was the Ukraine national team boxing coach, leading the nation to five gold medals at the 2012 games, including golds for his son and reigning Cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk
– He was named 'Boxing Writer's Association of America' Trainer of the Year in 2017
– He has coached his son, Vasiliy, for his entire career
– Russ Abner, Lomachenko's cornerman: 'He brings that old-school work ethic and mixes with new innovations in training, techniques and the thought process, the things and practices, everything.'
Their relationship is straightforward. 'He just gives me an instruction and I do it,' Lomachenko says. 'Simple'.
The whole family courses with talent; Vasily was a gymnast and a martial artist and Anatoly himself was an amateur boxer and a teacher before he became Ukraine's national team's boxing coach. Billyod-Dnistrovsky, a small town on the Black Sea in Ukraine.
Lomachenko Sr, whom Arum once described as 'a mastermind', placed boxing gloves on his son's hands when he was just three days old. He boxed until he was nine and then no more; Anatoly sentenced to the top of the Ukrainian dancing lessons without letting so much as a punch thrown into anger so the multi-talented Vasiliy had the requisite footwork.
His hands could damage and his intellect could befuddle, his feet could move. 'I think every single sport I've been a child, including dance classes, helped me to become who I am.'
Vasiliy rarely outside the ring but it is blessed with the most gorgeous feet inside it; his signature front-foot pivot teleports him around befuddled opponents to tee up to a dazzling array of awkward punches from unusual angles. 'It's my favorite move. I've been trained to do all of my life. "
Anatoly and Vasiliy, together with the most amateur career of all time. Two Olympic golds, they were ready for the pros.
Lomachenko's team is not so much concerned with creating the perfect boxer, but rather the ultimate athlete. He trains on tennis courts, on football pitches, and on horseback to muscle and instinct.
5am starts from the commonplace during camp and exercises from day to day; Lomachenko could be playing volleyball one day and the other in the pool and then running on the beach with a parachute strapped to his back.
Lomachenko teaches some young fighters from London
The 30-year-old is back in the ring on December 8 in New York where he fights Jose Pedraza
Lomachenko says winning gold at the 2008 Olympics is the highlight of his career so far
He followed up in Beijing with a second gold in London at the 2012 Olympics
10am to get back into the gym.
He juggles and can walk on his hands across a ring. The grind of a normal training camp is a mainstay but it is his unorthodox all-round training which sets him apart.
One particular party is to hold his breath in water to demonstrate his incredible oxygen-carrying capability. What is his record? 'Now it is four minutes and 30 seconds'. The average person can manage around a minute.
The intensity and variety of training has its setbacks. "He goes through a lot of shoes," Cecilio Flores once said.
Anatoly is described by his team as 'peaceful, patient and wisdom personified', but rarely gives interviews.
'He is my trainer but he has always stayed like a father to me,' says Lomachenko. 'Every day for me he's a father, in training, at home, father.
Are you still trying to impress him? 'Yes. Of course '. Belts like go and the pursuit of a father's approval
Anatoly Lomachenko (L) with his son and lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (R)
Anatoly is the mastermind behind his son's ascent to the very top of boxing
Lomachenko his father and trainer Anatoly's tattooed on his torso
In one rare interview he defined his philosophy in a few simple words. 'Any sport at a high level comes down to intellect,' he once said. It becomes a battle of intellect.
Anatoly has handed his son to the ring. He's a guy, he's a guy, he's a guy, he's a guy, he's a guy, he's a guy.
But to make Vasiliy the ultimate fighter – to win that battle of intellect – Anatoly had another trick up his sleeve.
In London, he watches on the background, he is unannounced and alone as his son under the weight of public demand. He watches studiously and pulls to baseball cap low down onto his face. His mind is the blueprints for his son's global domination. But he will not be talking today.
Team Lomachenko includes cornerman Russ Abner (second left), strength and conditioning coach Cecilio Flores (3rd left), Lomachenko (center), Egis Klimas (5th left), Anatoly Lomachenko (3rd right) and team psychologist Andriy Kolosov (right)
LOMACHENKO'S TRAINING REGIME
During a typical two-month camp:
– Wake up at 5am
– Cardio work and gym
– 45 minutes of mental strength training
– Sleep, rest and recover
– Wake again at 10am
– Second gym session
– Rest days on Thursday
In November, California slumped to its knees as 240,000 acres of wildfires ripped across its parched land; they were the most destructive in the state's history. They are raged with whole towns in their path. 85 people have lost their lives.
In the south, Lomachenko and his team were not immune to the panic and fear. Los Angeles has become a European country. He was at the Boxing Laboratory along with the likes of Tony Bellew's conqueror Oleksandr Usyk.
'It was very close to us,' says Lomachenko's team psychologist Andriy Kolosov. 'If the wind was blowing in our direction then our house would have been on fire. Luckily the wind was blowing towards the ocean. We stayed here but we were ready to leave if we needed to. '
Kolosov was there as an observer while at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago against Russia's Albert Selimov and was soon brought on board.
Mental training is his specialty. It is his job to frame Anatoly's masterpiece and hone Lomachenko's boxing brain in tandem with his body.
He is tired. He tests the fighter with a series of mental exercises at the end of the day. Delicately balancing wooden blocks on end with hands in the world of boxing, but it works for Lomacheko.
THE MANY TALENTS OF LOMACHENKO
Lomachenko is not just a talented boxer, but an all-round athlete. The 30-year-old's training regime involves a partaking of many different types of sports from the boxing which comes naturally to him because of his father Anatoly made him take part in various activities as a child.
Gymnast and juggler
Vasiliy's mother was a skilled gymnast. One of his party tricks to the corner. After winning fights.
The 30-year-old can also be used to improve the hand-eye coordination.
Lomachenko is said to be the captain of his local ice hockey team back in Ukraine. Hockey is one of his favorite sports.
The fighter played football as a child and kept in his training. Manager Egis Klimas told Sports Illustrated: 'We can put Vasiliy in the world's biggest soccer stadium and he'd be fine.'
Another unique part of Lomachenko's training are ball games,. He trains his hand to the ball. He also plays volleyball at a tennis court.
But there's a reason for Lomachenko's unique training …
Lomachenko's varied training is designed to hone all of his skills as well as to keep him motivated. He says: 'The day before the fight, my father edits a video consisting of all the training we went through. It and it energises you. It is psychologically rewarding reviewing the hard work you went through. When they make a bomb, they leave to fuse at the end to light. The day before the fight that fuse is burning. '
He says: "My role is to increase the relationship between his mind and his body.
If you have enough mental capacity to focus for 12 rounds then you can make decisions during a fight.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion: Lomachenko is my favorite fighter to watch. He's the best fighter in the world today
Bob Arum, legendary promoter: 'I've never seen a fighter as technically perfect as him. I am telling you without any reservation that Lomachenko is the greatest fighter I have seen since Muhammad Ali.
Sugar Ray Leonard, Hall of Fame boxer: 'He's a bad boy. I like what I see in him. He would hold his own in my era.
Carl Froch, former champion: 'He's the number one pound-for-pound. Jorge Linares proved his toughness. We already knew he had unrivaled skill but the way he got off the floor. He is now the complete fighter. '
Steve Bunce, analyst: 'If we're talking about who is the greatest athlete or sportsperson alive right now on performances, Lomachenko has to be with Lionel Messi, Rodger Federer and so on
Joe Rogan, commentator: 'He may be the best boxer who ever lived. He's on another level '
'If we increase resources of mental activity [by training while fatigued], he has as much skill as possible to control what he's doing. '
Lomachenko agrees: 'I think my feet are most important for me, but I have the ability to be very quick to change something
The goal is to reach a point where the body is going to be something boxing has rarely seen; Lomachenko 's team describe what he does as' movement intelligence' – the knowledge of how to avoid and return to the blow. In milliseconds.
Mathew coding appears before Lomachenko's eyes are known as 'The Flow'.
'It is a very specific, highly-focused state of mind'.
Kolsov explains: 'Everything together makes him what he is. We try to understand the computer inside his mind and understand how he is connected to his hands, his feet.
It's a very powerful computer.
'His physical qualities are obvious, but ultimately it is his belief that brings all these things together.'
So what happens when I'm glitching in the Matrix, like when Lomachenko was on his way to a knockout win over Jorge Linares to win the lightweight WBA title in his last fight?
THE BOXING LAB – EUROPE'S HOME FROM HOME
Lomachenko fights out of the Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard, California. Other eastern European fighters who train there include:
Oleksander Usyk, undisputed cruiserweight champion
Oleksandr Gvozdyk, WBC world light-heavyweight champion
Egis Kavaliauskas, undefeated Lithuanian welterweight
Maxim Dadashev, undefeated Russian super lightweight
He did not lose orientation or concentration, he made a mistake in his movement. Kolosov insists defiantly. There are no unexplained accidents in Lomachenko's world.
In November, Kolosov took his role to the side of the wall, like he always does.
To be a series of mental problems as quickly as possible under pressure and while he is exhausted. A pair of together.
'We do it close to the next fight at the peak of his preparations when Vasiliy gets very tired. He did the exercise the other day and he broke his record. He was faster than ever. '
So are preparations for the Pedraza fight are going well, then? Kolosov laughs. 'I hope so'.
Lomachemko got up from a knockdown to beat Jorge Linares to the WBA lightweight title
The fearsome puncher has been shot in the 10th round
Linares, in which he ripped his shoulder muscle so badly it required surgery, garnered the most attention but his four fights prior to that were the most eye-catching of all.
These four men were not beaten, they were broken. Marks did not appear on their faces from whipped leather ripped on jaws but they could not go on; there was no point. They all quit.
Four fights, 27 rounds, two undefeated records snatched and the foundations of a legacy built. In honor of Roberto Duran's infamous plea, he was no longer considered 'Hi-Tec' Lomachenko because of his advanced style. He was named 'No Mas-Chenko'. No more.
Guillermo Rigondeaux last December.
Lomachenko's rise to the top speed with four fights in which his opponents quit
Lomachenko claimed his first world title against Gary Russell Jr. in 2014 in just his third fight
Orlando Salido has been equating the record to the world title (3), having controversially lost in his second ever fight against an overweight
No surprise, it was a historic occasion; the first professional bouts where two multiple Olympic champions with undefeated records squared off. Roy Jones Jr even claimed that 'on paper this is the best professional fight ever made'.
Lomachenko's 10th professional fight. The 30-year-old toyed with his rival. Rigondeaux, an attempt to hold his rival's head and punch, but he still could not land.
By the start of the seventh round the undefeated, the top 10 pound-for-pound fighter had decided enough was enough.
Lomachenko shrugged afterwards.
His fight against Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux was billed as one of the best in the years, pitting two undefeated double-gold medallists against each other for the first time in history
Pedraza becomes the next man to run the gauntlet.
'We plan how to solve problems in our training,' Lomachenko says without blinking.
Lomachenko dominated his rival in a fight Roy Jones Jr billed as maybe the 'best ever made'
Lomachenko to this point; a confluence of all factors – talent, environment, character and training. history is behind and well as laid out before him. It is a terrifying but real possibility that will get even better. He has, after all, only fought 103 professional rounds of boxing.
Anatoly told ESPN last year that his son's whiplash ascent to triple world champion is all by 'design', guided by a blueprint drawn up 'before he was conceived'. The final flourishes on that design are yet to be revealed. But at 30 time is against him in the race to be the greatest of all.
Rigondeaux was dejected as he was made to quit at the start of the seventh round of the fight
'I'm thinking I would like to keep boxing for five to seven years,' Lomachenko explains. 'I'm staying at this weight class, 135 (lightweight). This is a lot of things to do in this class.
It should be beaten by the name of the player, and he will be able to show off with Mikey Garcia.
A garment, an undefeated multiple-weight champion with a knockout defeats, would be Lomachenko's toughest test by a long way. The fight should be the first man ever.
If he gets that test, then who knows. Can he stay for the rest of his career and fulfill his quest to be the greatest? Probably not. Maybe he moves back to take on Floyd Mayweather's dangerously talented-but-erratic Gervonta Davis. Maybe he moves to welterweight where big names and bigger money lurks.
After Pedraza, Lomachenko could take on fellow lightweight champion Mikey Garcia (L) or maybe Gervonta Davis (R), who is looked after by the legendary Floyd Mayweather
But for now, that's a question for tomorrow. 'I prepare for my next fight.' He says flatly.
The interview has gone on too long. I do not know how to answer that, he says in response to a question about his style.
It's not for me to describe. The reporters, announcers, those people, they have to look my style and decide. I just can not know how to answer that question.
In the Boxing Laboratory in Oxnard, where he warms up with friends and fighters from Ukraine. A concrete wall behind minimalist machinery at the gym, a sign reads: 'Real boxers are ordinary people with extraordinary determination'.
Las Vegas and the promise of boxing greatness.
Lomachenko says: 'I'm doing all of this for my legacy. Because I want to be the greatest. '
Vasily Lomachenko faces Jose Pedraza in a WBO and WBA unification bout at Madison Square Garden on December 8, televised live on BoxNation in the UK.