Ukrainian boxing great accused of lacking patriotism with flag gesture

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko has angrily called out fellow Ukrainian ring star Vasiliy Lomachenko for not posing with the country’s flag after his victory in New York at the weekend.

Lomachenko earned a unanimous decision victory over Ghana’s Richard Commey in their lightweight WBO inter-continental title fight at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, putting in an impressive performance which on several occasions included the Ukrainian imploring his rival’s corner to step in and prevent more damage for their man. 

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The display from ‘Loma’ earned widespread praise – but one gesture by the boxer after the fight did not go down well with some of his countrymen.

As he celebrated, Lomachenko was seen posing with the flag of his hometown of Belgorod-Dnestrovskiy draped across his shoulders, rather than that of Ukraine.   

That drew an angry tweet (in English) from former heavyweight king Klitschko.

“Wikipedia: ‘Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland. The sentiment is a shared oneness among the people.’ [Vasiliy Lomachenko] won, congrats, but did he represent the Country with his NON use of the Country’s flag? WFT,” tweeted the retired 45-year-old.

Despite winning two Olympic gold medals for Ukraine and flying the flag on previous occasions, it’s not the first time Lomachenko has been accused of a lack of patriotism.

For some in his homeland, Lomachenko is the wrong kind of Orthodox Christian as he follows a branch of the religion which remains loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate, rather than Kiev.

The boxer 33, caused outrage last year when he shared a religious video on Instagram which appeared to feature Russian special forces.

Fellow Ukrainian boxing great Oleksandr Usyk has faced similar slurs over his religious affiliations and refusal to comment on the status of Crimea.

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Last year, both boxers appeared in a religious film‘Hello, Brother! Christ has risen!’, in which they spoke about the importance of their beliefs.

Lomachenko emphasized that he considers Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians as one and the same people.

The pair were hit with a backlash, being added to the infamous ‘Myrotvorets’ list in Ukraine of supposed ‘enemies of the state’.

But after the latest accusations leveled at Lomachenko, some accused Klitschko of hypocrisy.

“You and your brother fought once each in the Ukraine in 116 fights, I wouldn’t call that a sense of devotion or attachment either,” read one reply.

“Great champ [Klitschko], but no one cares about your politics,” wrote another. “Nobody is obligated to wear any flags and nobody is obligated to display any ‘patriotism’.”

“For a guy with PhD you shouldn’t be referencing Wikipedia my friend,” joked another.

“The flag he is carrying is that of his hometown!” said another fan in defense of Lomachenko.

Nothing pro-Russia about it. I think Lom got tired of getting sh*t on by certain political forces in the Ukraine [sic] and this was his way to troll them and say he doesn’t give a sh*t anymore,” argued another.

“The greatest boxer of all time, Klitschko, the brother of the patriot who destroyed Kiev, decided to use English to talk about patriotism,” scorned Ukrainian journalist Anatoliy Shariy, referring to Wladimir Klitschko’s politician brother, Vitali.  

Others defended Klitschko, with one person writing: “It would be different if it was an American fighting in America represented by his city’s flag. And not like anyone knew what flag it was, so why not represent your national flag? Loma isn’t a patriot and there’s been many examples to support this.”

Political squabbles aside, Lomachenko still harbors hopes of unifying all four major titles at lightweight – potentially starting with Australian champion George Kambosos Jr, who holds the WBA (super), IBF, WBO and The Ring belts after his shock victory over Teofimo Lopez last month.

“I will go anywhere I need to go to fight him,” Lomachenko said. “I need this chance. And if God gives me this chance, I’ll take it.”

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