Guillermo Rigondeaux and The Quest for Vengeance
Published: December 09, 2017
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A man can do anything with time and patience. It is up to him to choose the right time to strike. Tonight fans of the sport of boxing will witness history as Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) will move up two weight classes to take on burgeoning Ukrainian superstar Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs). The bout will be the first time two two-time Olympic gold medalists meet in the professional ranks. Rigondeaux and Lomachenko are not two ordinary former amateur fighters as Lomachenko amassed an outstanding record of 396-1 winning Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012. Rigondeaux had an impressive record of 463-12 winning Olympic gold in 2000 and 2004.
The bout is intriguing as it puts two men together at different stages of their careers as Lomachenko at 29 years of age seems to be in his prime and ready to take on any challenge. The Cuban at 37 years of age is likely at the tail end of his career, and the bout with Lomachenko could be his final big fight. The two Olympic stars share a common thread in the professional ranks as Bob Arum’s Top Rank promoted both men. Currently, Lomachenko is one of Top Rank’s most prominent stars along with former undisputed 140-pound champion Terence Crawford. The man known as “El Chacal/The Jackal” was once part of the Top Rank stable until he unceremoniously parted ways in July 2014. Rigondeaux’s final bout for the promoter was against Sod Kokietgym (64-3-1, 28 KOs) in China whom he stopped in the first round.
While Arum has given praise to Lomachenko by lamenting him as the best fighter since a prime Muhammad Ali when Rigondeaux was part of Top Rank he was treated as more of a nuisance. After Rigondeaux’s dominating victory over Nonito Donaire (38-4, 24 KOs) in April 2013, there was more complaining than praising thrown at the Cuban’s way. Rigondeaux won’t be confused with someone like Arturo Gatti for being in all-action back and forth fights, but he is not the 122-pound version of heavyweight John Ruiz either. With a victory over Top Rank’s prized possession, Rigondeaux can enact his version of vengeance over a promoter that he feels may have done more damage than promoting.
Since leaving Top Rank, Rigondeaux has fought seldomly reducing his activity to just one fight per year. In 2016, the Cuban only fought once against James Dickens (22-3, 7 KOs) in the United Kingdom. The bout only lasted two rounds as Rigondeaux landed a left hand that broke the jaw of Dickens. In 2017, Rigondeaux has fought just one round against Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs) on the undercard of the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. The fight was ruled a no-contest after Flores was deemed unable to continue after Rigondeaux landed a punch at the bell. For Rigondeaux, this was just a standard addition to add to his boxing story as a professional.
Lomachenko has been active this year having fought Jason Sosa and Miguel Marriaga in impressive performances. The Ukrainian is ranked by most as one of the top five fighters in the world and the momentum going into a fight with Rigondeaux is on his side. Looking at the two men’s records as a professional they are on relatively even terms. Lomachenko has the advantage in activity and age, and Rigondeaux holds an edge in being undefeated and having the distinction of once being the unified WBO and WBA 122-pound champion.
Rigondeaux will meet Lomachenko at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden on ESPN in front of what could be the largest television audience he has performed in front of in his career. There is a calm confidence to the Cuban that makes one wonder if he knows something that us fans and pundits do not. Make no doubt about it; this is Rigondeaux taking a gamble by moving up to take on Lomachenko. It is possible that he loses the fight and never seen from again. The opportunity to crush another elite member of Top Rank’s stable and bring his career back to relevance by also defeating one of the best in the world pound-for-pound in one fight was too good of a chance to pass on.
Rigondeaux’s quest for vengeance will conclude Lomachenko. The hope for fans and pundits alike is that the fight looks as good on canvas as it did on paper.
Lomachenko-Rigondeaux will be a technical chess match that will be just as much about the fighter’s mental capabilities as their physical. The advantages that Lomachenko has in age and activity make the fight tough to call for Rigondeaux. A bout between two technicians can sometimes turn out to be ugly such as when Timothy Bradley met Devon Alexander in 2011. However, it could also bring a beautiful bout to be studied for ages such as when James Toney faced Mike McCallum or when Juan Manuel Marquez met Marco Antonio Barrera.
Lomachenko will not be as successful against Rigondeaux as he has been against past opponents. The fight will be close with plenty of swing rounds, and ultimately Lomachenko will win a close and controversial decision that many feel could have gone to Rigondeaux.
Lomachenko by decision
I am picking Rigondeaux by decision. Lomachenko is great, no doubt - he is certainly one of the most exciting fighters I have ever watched, his footwork, his angles, his ability to bob and weave - the "Matrix" nickname is well earned. However, I think he has primarily faced "come forward" offensive oriented fighters that have provided the opportunity to highlight his skills.
The most common knock I have heard against Rigondeaux is that Lomachencko is too big, and stepping up two weight classes creates too much of a size advantage for Lomachenko. However, there is a re-hydration clause limiting Lomachenko to 7 pounds after the weigh-in, so right off the bat, I think any potential size difference is negated. Further, Rigondeaux has a 2 1/2 reach advantage over Lomachenko. That reach will serve him well as a counter puncher who will be able to bob and weave himself, negating Lomachenko's angles. Finally, we know that Rigondeaux has one-punch knockout power. While the knockout may not follow Rigondeaux up two weight classes, the punching power will. Lomanchenko is going to feel that power on the counter, and that will eliminate Lomachencko's Matrix-like moves.
Even if I am wrong, and Lomachenko wins, this fight promises to be the sweetest display of the science that fans will remember for very long time.
(Feature Photo: Kelly Owen/Frontproof Media)