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GUEST ARTICLE: Lomachenko v Rigondeaux – The Boxing Purists’ Dream

By Paul Mason (@PaulMason1986)

Fans are spoiled for choice both sides of the pond this weekend as Frank Warren hosts a big bill at the Copperbox, and there is also a decent HBO card in Las Vegas, featuring Tevin Farmer, Stephen Smith and Orlando Salido. I’m focusing on the Super Featherweight dream match taking place.

 

Fans of the sweet science and the true origins of the sport are in for a treat inside Madison Square Garden, New York this Saturday as two of the best boxers the amateur code has ever produced meet. Cuban starlet Guillermo Rigondeaux, a 2000 and 2004 Olympic Champion, as well as the current Lineal and WBA (Super) Super Bantamweight Champion jumps two weight divisions to try and gain a lot more notoriety and fan following than he has in his professional career so far. In the opposite corner stands Ukraine’s double Olympic Champion (2008 & 2012) and current WBO Super Featherweight Champion, the outstanding Vasyl Lomachenko. While Lomachenko’s stock has continued to soar throughout his ten fight career, where he is already a two weight World Champion, at 35, Rigondeaux does not have time on his side, and although he is currently unbeaten, this represents a crossroads moment in his career. ESPN are the USA broadcaster, while Boxnation are again the channel to find the biggest fights from across the pond. Here I preview the main event.

 

Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, KO7) v Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, KO11) – 12 Rounds For The WBO Super Featherweight Title

For Guillermo Rigondeaux, bad management, and inactivity for large parts of his career have meant that he has had to watch on as his amateur standout contemporary, Vasyl Lomachenko has done exactly what Rigondeaux should have been doing a number of years ago. Rogondeaux has managed seventeen fights in eight and a half years, in a number of tiny venues and undercards in front of a limited amount of people, while Lomachenko was fighting for a version of the World Title in only his second fight. In order to prevent Rigondeaux from sliding through the Boxing trap door to obscurity, he decided to take to Social Media to call out the big boys, namely Lomachenko, who has answered Rigondeaux’s call. The gifted Cuban will have to go up two weight divisions to try to derail the seemingly unstoppable Ukrainian.

 

Quite simply, Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the best amateur boxers in the history of the sport. He won back to back Gold Medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic Games, as well as Gold in the 2001 and 2005 World Championships. He also picked up the Cuban National Title a record seven times. He finished his amateur career with a reported astonishing 475-12 record. As with many Cuban boxers before him, Rigindeaux, along with fellow team-mate Erislandy Lara, failed to show for their bouts at the 2007 Pan American games in Brazil. It was expected that Rigondeaux would turn professional alongside fellow Olympians Odlanier Solis,Yuriorkis Gamboa and Rances Barthelemy, who defected earlier in 2007. As with the other Cuban defectors, Rigondeaux signed a promotional deal with Arena-Box Promotion. However, later the same year, Rigondeaux and Lara were taken into police custody in Brazil, stating that they wanted to return home to Cuba. Cuban leader Fidel Castro then stated that Rigondeaux and Lara could not box again for the Cuban team. In February 2009, Rigondeaux defected again via Mexico City to Miami, and eventually signed with Arena Box-Promotion.

 

Rigondeaux was announced to have defected and was now residing in Miami and being managed by Irishman Gary Hyde. He had to leave behind his wife, a 7-year-old son, and a 17-year-old stepson in Cuba, in order to follow his dreams of Boxing stardom. He made his professional bow in May 2009 in Miami Beach, Florida, stopping Juan Noriega in the third round of a four round contest. After five more wins (four by stoppage) Rigondeaux was thrust into an interim WBA Title fight at Super Bantamweight against Panama’s Ricardo Cordoba. This was good exposure for “Rigo” as the fight took place on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, in front of 70,000 people. Rigondeauxknocked Cordoba down in the fourth round with a body shot, but was judged to be knocked down himself  in the 6th, in what appeared to be a slip. Despite appearing to win clearly, the fight was judged a split decision, with Rigondeaux coming out on the right side of the verdict.

 

Rigondeaux followed the win up by travelling to Ireland to take on Willie Casey in defence of his Interim belt. It was all over inside a round, the Cuban far too good for Casey to handle. The full version of the WBA Title was then obtained when Rigondeaux knocked out Rico Ramos in six in January 2012. He fought a further two times in 2012, stopping Teon Kennedy in five in June, and outpointing Roberto Marroquin in Vegas in September.

 

Rigondeaux then unified the division with a dominant performance in beating pound for pound contender, Nonito Donaire in New York. “Rigo” recovered from a knockdown to take a unanimous decision, and capture the WBO, Lineal and Ring Magazine Titles in the process. His WBA Title was also upgraded to “Super” status. Rigondeaux didn’t back this impressive win up though, as he won every round in a real sleeper of a fight against Joseph Agbeko to retain his Titles. He then travelled to Macau to defend against Sod Kokietgym, and won by first round knockout as Kokietgym tried to touch gloves following an accidental head-butt and Rigondeaux took the free shot invitation to win via knockout.

 

Next up, Rigondeaux retained his World Super Bantamweight title against Japan’s Hisashi Amagasa in Japan. Rigondeaux was down twice in the seventh round and Amagasa was down in the 9th. Referee Mike Ortega stopped the bout after Amagasa failed to get up off his stool after round 11 in a wild fight. Rigondeaux returned to the USA and outscored Drian Francisco in a one sided fight, where he looked to be going through the motions. Due to his diminishing popularity in America, Rigondeaux raised eyebrows by announcing his intention to come to the UK to fight British Champion, James “Jazza” Dickens. The fight was scheduled for March 2016, but Visa issues for the Cuban scuppered this. He did eventually fight dickens four months later in Cardiff. Unfortunately UK fans didn’t get to see much of the genius of Rigondeaux, as he broke Dickens’ jaw with his first meaningful punch in the second, forcing the Liverpudlian to retire from the fight. His last fight came in June this year, after a near one year hiatus, on the Andre Ward v Sergey Kovalev rematch bill at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. This should have been a launch pad for “Rigo”, but again bad luck struck. At the end of the first round, Rigondeaux knocked Flores down with a punch way after the bell. Flores  stayed down, and could not continue the fight. It was up in the air at that point weather the Cuban would be disqualified, but at the time he was bizarrely given a first round knockout win. This was later to be reversed to a no contest when the Nevada State Athletic Commission stepped in. This left Rigondeaux’s stock even further damaged, and his only option was to go vocal on Social Media, which has lead him into negotiating a fight with Lomachenko this Saturday.

 

If Guillermo Rigondeaux’s amateur record is out of this world, then Vasyl Lomachenko’s is in another orbit entirely. Lomachenko’s amateur record is slated to have finished at 396-1. The Russian, Albert Selimov was the only man to defeat Lomachenko, in the 2007 World Amateur Championships, but “Loma” would go on to avenge this defeat twice, and strike Olympic Gold in both the 2008 Olympics in Beijing at Lightweight, and in 2012 at the London Games at Featherweight. This was in addition to his 2009 and 2011 World Championship wins.

 

The Ukrainian turned professional to much courtship and fanfare, eventually settling on a promotional deal with Bob Arum and Top Rank. He made his debut in October 2013 in Las Vegas, immediately gaining a ranking with the WBO at Featherweight. He knocked out Jose Ramirez in four rounds of a scheduled ten rounder to pick up the WBO International Featherweight Title. This allowed him to challenge the wily veteran, and WBO Featherweight Champion, Orlando Salido one fight later. Salido played on Lomachenko’s professional inexperience to perfection, coming in overweight, losing his Title on the scales in the process. But the scalp of an amateur starlet was a much bigger prize for the Mexican, and after rehydrating to 147 pounds, the Welterweight limit, he bulldozed and continually roughed up Lomachenko with more than a few blows below the belt to win a split decision and hand “Loma” his first defeat in only his second fight. Lomachenko was too cagey in the early going, and left it too late to rally back to win the fight.

 

This is a mistake he hasn’t made twice, and has since gone from strength to strength. With the WBO Title remaining vacant, Lomachenko took on the highly regarded Gary Russell Junior, and took his first World Crown by defeating the previously unbeaten in 24 fight American via majority decision.

 

Three relatively simple Title defences followed. After Suriya Tatakhun was outpointed in Macau, Lomachenko stopped Gamallier Rodriguez in nine on the Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao undercard in May 2015, and six months later he knocked out Romulo Koasicha in ten rounds.

 

This lead to a move to Super Featherweight, and he became a two weight World Champion in only his seventh fight, by dethroning Roman “Rocky” Martinez, relieving the Puerto Rican of his WBO Title via devastating fifth round knockout.

 

Lomachenko decided to stay at the weight, and impressively battered the previously unbeaten Jamaican, Nicholas Walters into submission at the end of seven rounds, with Walters seemingly giving up on an impossible task to quit. Another beating was administered in his next fight. The game but outgunned former WBA Champion, Jason Sosa, was thoroughly outclassed and retired at the end of nine rounds.

 

In Lomachenko’s last fight, he again forced a retirement win by defending his belt against Miguel Marriaga. Marriaga was down in rounds three and seven, and by the end of this round, his corner had seen enough, giving Lomachenko another stoppage win.

 

This fight is tricky to call, and people will obviously see the fight going much like a chess match. I think the two will start off cagey enough, but Lomachenko’s unbelievable punch picking, movement and footwork will ultimately win the day. I can see the Ukrainian triumphing handily enough on the cards.

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