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Lomachenko-Rigondeaux: No longer a fight of fantasy

04
Dec

Editor’s Note: This feature was originally published in the January 2017 issue of THE RING Magazine

If the mythical King Midas was a boxing fan, then this all-southpaw collision would be made for him.

Since the turn of the new century, virtually everything that Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko have touched has turned to gold. Both double Olympic champions, both world titleholders inside 10 fights and both blessed with glistening skillsets.

Rigondeaux is a reigning junior featherweight titleholder and is rated No. 1 at 122 pounds by THE RING. The almost-invisible Cuban is too good for his own good, meaning he has had a nightmare securing a big fight since he dominated the superb Nonito Donaire in an April 2013 unification clash.

The equally dazzling Lomachenko fought for a world title in only his second professional bout and, although he dropped a split decision to Orlando Salido in March 2014, he has never looked back. He is a two-weight titleholder after beating Gary Russell Jr. and Roman Martinez at 126 and 130 pounds, respectively.

A bout between the fellow pound-for-pound stars was briefly discussed last summer but they could not reach a concrete agreement on weight. THE RING gathered the opinions of three boxing luminaries on what would be a solid gold superfight.

FIGHTER
LEE SELBY

IBF featherweight titleholder

Rigondeaux has great boxing ability, timing and grit. What he does lack, though, and what would come into play against Lomachenko, is work rate. Rigondeaux likes to sit back and counter, whereas Lomachenko will force the pace. He’s prepared to throw the first punch and would look to counter Rigondeaux’s counter. For me, Lomachenko is pound-for-pound Top 5, or even Top 3. He’s broken records as an amateur and now he’s breaking records as a professional. Rigondeaux is still fresh because he doesn’t take a lot of shots but he’s been very inactive in recent years and he’s 36 years old now. He’s a fighter who relies on timing and reflexes, and age will affect Rigondeaux more than someone who relies on strength and punch. It’s the kind of fight that would be competitive early on but as soon as Lomachenko picks up the pace, he would take over the fight. I think, with the youth and natural weight advantage, Lomachenko could force a late stoppage.

WINNER: Lomachenko

TRAINER
DAVE COLDWELL

Trainer of Tony Bellew and Jamie McDonnell

Rigondeaux is extremely slick. He’s got super speed, great footwork and balance, and he knows how to use those attributes to his advantage. Lomachenko is the better punch-picker; his shot selection and skills are fantastic and his feet are just phenomenal. If you have great feet and a great brain, then you can figure out any problem in a boxing ring and shut down the movers. Like (Julio Cesar) Chavez, Lomachenko can cut the ring down and put you in the positions where he wants you to be. Rigondeaux’s inactivity could also play a part and when he does get tagged, he has the tendency to go over. I can see it being Rigo’s fight early on, but Lomachenko seems to adjust very well. Rigondeaux likes to box at his own pace and you can’t allow that so, if the two ever met, I wouldn’t expect Lomachenko to stand off him. I think if you can take away the speed of Rigondeaux, then he’s there to be hit. For me, with the brain of Lomachenko, and the fact that he stays active, I have to favor him over 12 rounds.

WINNER: Lomachenko

MEDIA MEMBER
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI

Showtime analyst and former titleholder

Stylistically, it’s a beautiful matchup between two of the best pure boxers in the sport. Rigondeaux has unbelievable control of distance and he’s able to make world class opponents feel like they have their hands in their pockets. You only have to look at his fight against Nonito Donaire for evidence. If Rigondeaux doesn’t want to get hit, then he won’t get hit all night – that’s the type of quality he has. Lomachenko is more explosive and has more killer instinct. He is obviously the more exciting fighter but people always make the mistake of putting excitement in the same category as effectiveness. The two never go hand in hand. The excitement Lomachenko brings might actually make him more susceptible to being hit because you can’t overstay your welcome against Rigondeaux or he’ll make you pay. I actually think Rigondeaux is a better fighter, but size matters and Lomachenko would have a distinct advantage in that area. Even though they’re only eight pounds apart, Lomachenko is bursting at the seams at 130 pounds whereas Rigondeaux is making 122 quite easily.

 

Tom Gray is the associate editor for THE RING. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

WINNER: Lomachenko

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  • chickenstock

    I see canelo getting the nod on at least one scorecard.

    • ciobanu catalin

      Loved it :)))

    • Rick

      Adelaide Byrd is gonna phone in her scorecard.

    • Apolloelite888

      Hahaha, I had to read that twice! What a way to “sell” a lucrative rematch. Still, we all know we will watch the second fight. I swore blind I wouldn’t watch Mayweather vs McGregor but when fight night dawned the anticipation was too much.

    • Mike Prado

      Perfect! hahaha

  • FLOMATARD

    This fight – a jab festival.

    A draw – then the rematch will be on PPV. Just like GGG-Canoli

    • Joey Junger

      Dude, nobody outside of the hardest hardcore fans would pay for a rematch if the first fight was a draw. Even with networks probably fudging their PPV numbers with bigger boxers (like Ward and Kovalev), they’re barely making profit on these things. Personality and crazy twitter beefs and media circuses sell fights to the public better than skill does (look at how much attention fat and slow Bellew versus past-prime cruiser out-for-one-last-payday Haye got). Lomachenko speaks better English than Rigo, but neither man has some kind of outsized personality to draw in casuals.

      • Apolloelite888

        In terms of making money you are correct, social media circus get the “I watch boxing once every 5 years” fans to pay to watch. However, if this fight is a chess match and neither fighter steps up to try and take advantage I think pure boxing fans would want to see a rematch for the chance to see who prevails. I was at Wembley for Joshua vs WK and some of the comments from the “I love boxing since AJ became famous” “fans” were just cringe worthy. Was an amazing event to attend though, 90’000 people and a carnival atmosphere.

        • Joey Junger

          The same thing happened with De La Hoya. There was a time when there were more photos of his abs being shown than of his workouts or sparring session.

  • TMT NYC-DA REAL GHOSTBUSTERS

    Rigo cry! Oops. I meant Rigo is great!

  • Joey Junger

    The most important element for me in predicting this fight wasn’t covered in this article, and that’s footwork. Rigo is a great boxer, who, like Cotto, plants his feet and breaks at the waist and does all sorts of things to make you miss while he’s stationary and sitting on his punches. He’s defensively as good while stationary in the pocket as most great fighters working off their backfoot and circling. But that makes him a sitting duck for Lomachenko, who, as Max Kellerman pointed out, fights in those weird semi-circles (like Uysk and all those other Ukranians). As long as Lomachenko keeps stepping to the left and right while doing everything else, he’s going to mentally break Rigo and then sting him with shots that aren’t big, but will eventually make Rigo look like he’s having a bad allergic reaction.

    • Giuseppe

      i suppose the beautiful intrigue is wondering how well Rigo has prepared for that and how well he CAN prepare for it. If we know what Loma can do, obviously Rigo does. Question is: are these guys gonna back themselves as they are or make a radical adjustment for the other – a huge risk. Given their in-ring styles, i would say Rigo is best set to ‘surprise’ us. Shit! who knows! 🙂

      • Dee Money

        To me that is always a fun question in all sports: ‘do what you do’ or ‘something new to out-scheme your opponent’.

        I agree that the more adjustments you try to make and deviate from your base style, the more risky it becomes.

        • Giuseppe

          absolutely. do you go with what you know or what you think will work?

      • Apolloelite888

        I love this conversation. You are both correct in what you say and yet both have no clue how this will unfold. Not because you are not knowledgable about boxing but because this really can go any way and is so so unpredictable. It’s refreshing to get to witness a fight so intriguing.

        • Giuseppe

          I respect Lomachenko for having the desire for this fight. Not one he needs to take at all. How refreshing and how different to someone like Thurman who wants to wait until 2019 to face Spence or Danny Garcia (when is he fighting again? :)). and let’s not forget the endless stalling tactics of the Golden Boy team. If Canelo had the fighting spirit and charisma of Lomachenko, he would have demanded a rematch in December. Can you imagine James toney or RJJ in their prime thinking it normal to wait 6 months between fights? What i have noticed from younger fans on various forums is that they also think its normal to fight in September and wait until May the following year to fight again. Insane, really. I will pick Rigo to win, based purely on his sour little face!

  • ciobanu catalin

    I starting to hate the fact that people are going to take a lot out of loma win, if he gets it done, because he is expected to win against one of the most ducked and great fighters of this gen. Sad…

    • Giuseppe

      If Loma stops Rigo, massive win. If he scrapes a decision i wont be sure if its because Rigo is great or Loma is less great. The weight thing makes it a bit hard to be clear. I think on the night, once we see how they match up physically and speed wise, we’ll know pretty soon.

      • D. Gambino

        You also have to account for the win. If Loma wins a close decision because Rigo was running the whole fight – you can’t fault Loma for that (and vice versa).

        If Rigo tries to stay in the pocket and fight – I feel he get’s stopped late due to the punishment. I suspect that once Rigo tastes Loma’s power – he will be on his bike the whole fight which means Loma still wins.

        • Giuseppe

          you know, you can convince me of anything in this fight. if it turns out Rigo counters Loma all night to a decision win, i wouldnt be shocked. If Loma stops rigo late, i won;t be shocked. its all about how much the weight works in Loma’s favour, for me.

          • Apolloelite888

            Spot on, the uncertainty and real chance of any outcome being possible is what makes this so intriguing. Could be a back and forth chess match or very clear from the early rounds who has the advantage. I can’t wait.

  • william ellis

    Rigondeaux deserves a lot of credit for taking this fight and moving up as he has. Credit to Loma too, since so many have avoided Rigo. But I agree that only a dominant win for Loma will add much to his resume. A Rigondeaux win puts him at or near the top of the PFP list. I liked Malignaggi’s comment that Rigo is the better fighter but that size matters.

    • Apolloelite888

      They are both extremely skilled. If either were fighting anyone else there would be no debate, so the fact that we even have to think is credit to both. Size does matter, however I don’t see this fight being fought up close or being a slugfest so perhaps size matters a little less in the style of fight we are likely to see.

  • Dan James

    To me its not a fair match just because Rigo is moving up 2x weights. If Loma was not such a great boxer, maybe it would be fair, but i am glad to watch two masters duke it out. I expect Loma to pull the victory maybe even stoppage but if Rigo pulls it off, it will be MASSIVE. After this, Loma should do a Rigo and face Mickey Garcia or Crawford(if he agrees to come to 140 for 1 more) cos that is exactly what Rigo is doing now….daring to be great!

  • D. Gambino

    In my opinion, Lomachenko is the superior fighter in this fight. Forget size and weight class. When it comes to boxing skills – Lomachenko is better than Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux is talented but he’s a one-dimensional counter puncher. He cannot be offensive because of his shaky chin.

    If Loma does not stop Rigo, I expect to see a boxing clinic put on by Lomachenko.

    • TNT

      I just don’t agree. They are both superb, sublime pugilists but I feel Rigo is a bit better. Given that they are nearly equal in talent then weight and age definitely will factor into this fight. All boxers and trainers say so because it is just that apparent. The main question will be whether Rigo can overcome these odds to defeat the younger, heavier nearly equally talented Loma. (I’d truly be shocked if either of the two put on an all out boxing clinic).

      • D. Gambino

        I’m not hating on Rigo’s skills by any means. I do feel he’s overrated (I’m sure this will piss off the Rigo-boys). Let’s not forget that everyone is basing their belief on Rigo’s sub par opponents. I’m a firm believer that the better opposition a fighter has, the more the fighter will grow.

        We have seen Rigo struggle with lesser opponents AND he’s been on the canvas multiple times against lesser opponents. I agree with you that Rigo’s age is a factor. Let’s be real, there’s no way in hell his reflexes are the same as they were when he was 29 years old. This has all the makings of a mismatch.

        • TNT

          Of course Rigo’s age factors into his reflexes–especially against a younger, brilliant Loma. I would like to disagree with your final point but logically it makes too much sense. Everyone is pretty much picking Loma to win by some form of stoppage. Safe money bets Loma for a reason.

          In terms of fight records, Loma beat GRjr, Walters, and lost to Siri. Rigo totally outclassed a prime Donaire. When Walters beat Donaire it was in a higher weight class. I just feel that Rigo’s win against a prime Donaire balances out Loma’s biggest wins.

          • D. Gambino

            I’m just hoping for a good fight. I fear that once Loma cracks him we’ll see Rigo on his bike and it’ll be a one-sided fight. It’s really the Cuban style. Sadly, Sullivan Barrera is probably the last entertaining Cuban boxer.

      • Apolloelite888

        The fact that you can even justifiably disagree just shows how good they both are right? Compare either to any other fighter around the weight and there is no discussion to have. Best vs Best, we are lucky, enjoy.

  • Lomachenko deserves to be pound for pound no. 1.
    His defense is far superior as compared to GGG.

    I expect him to win vs relatively old rigondeaux

    • Apolloelite888

      P4P #1 surely has to be Terence Crawford

  • TNT

    I enjoy both boxers. But support Rigo. He may not win but he is such a talent. As is Loma.