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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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