By: Kirk Jackson
It’s a great time to be a boxing fan as we steadily approach a legendary fantasy match-up, comprised of elite pound-for-pound talent featuring the likes of Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs, 1 NC) and Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs).
To quote active boxing legend and HBO boxing analyst Roy Jones, “That’s the best paper made fight ever.”
“You can’t find two fighters better on paper to put against each other. That’s the best fight I ever seen made on paper, and I can’t wait,” said Jones.
This classic encounter should be dubbed as “clash of the titans,” as these participants are arguably the greatest amateur boxers to ever grace the earth.
Their success as world renowned amateurs transcended towards professional ranks and they are regarded as the best boxers pound-for-pound.
— Hi-Tech Lomachenko (@VasylLomachenko) December 7, 2017
Although each fighter possesses numerous accolades, accomplishments, high marks of merit, each fighter traveled a different path and are regarded in different manners.
Albeit there appears to be a preference for the Ukrainian born star by many publications and members of the media. Lomachenko is the favorite in Las Vegas as well, as the defending WBO super featherweight champion is more than a 3-1 favorite over Rigondeaux.
Some pundits regard Lomachenko as the absolute best fighter pound-for-pound; over Rigondeaux, Gennady Golovkin, Saul Alvarez, Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford and even over the recently retired, undefeated, Andre Ward while he was active.
The abilities of Lomachenko are extraordinary and assortment of skills is a sight many observers marvel at; his fluid punch combinations, the dancing of feet enabling him to move in and out, side to side seamlessly and even around opponents. He presents several angles and looks creating havoc and making it nearly impossible for opponents to consistently capitalize on. Lomachenko lives up to his nickname “Hi-Tech.”
His resume isn’t bad considering the lack of fights, which is an anomaly in itself regarding his status and claim to the mythical pound-for-pound throne because typically the no. 1 pound-for-pound fighter has more bouts under his/her belt and possesses a more thoroughly defined resume.
And for Lomachenko’s efforts, he constantly mentions the desire to fight the best opposition.
“My goal is to be the best fighter in the world. Being on ESPN means many more people are going to see this fight and to see what I am all about,” said Lomachenko in an interview with ESPN.
“My goal is to continue to fight the best fighters and move up the pound-for-pound list.”
For Rigondeaux, the grass isn’t as green even though he is just as eager to test his skills against the best opposition.
There’s a small contingent of supporters comprised of hardcore boxing fanatics, mixed with a few writers and reporters with an appreciation of Rigondeaux’s defensive mastery.
But of course he has detractors; ranging from HBO commentator Jim Lampley, former promoter Bob Arum, to ESPN reporter Dan Rafael.
Rafael flat out called Rigondeaux boring on numerous occasions, while Arum was quoted saying, “When Rigondeaux stands and fights, the [expletive] has a lot of power and a lot of skill, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight.”
Prominent members of the media and the fighter’s own promoter at the time was against him. Rigondeaux couldn’t even secure a fight on the HBO network.
He travelled to Japan, defended his titles against Hisashi Amagasa and the fight broadcasted across Japanese airwaves.
Because of his skill set, Rigondeaux was avoided by virtually any elite fighter neighboring his weight class.
The former Top Rank fighter was even black-balled by that promotional company and subsequently by the network (HBO) working with the promotional company after he educated one of their prized pupils (Nonito Donaire) in a masterful boxing lesson.
It seems instead of the prestige and influx of compliments one would earn for defeating a top pound-for-pound fighter, “El Chacal” was penalized with derogatory rhetoric and labeled as boring.
Historically, defensive wizards are hardly appreciated especially by the average spectator. And that’s to be anticipated, as the casual viewer typically tunes in to watch punches fly, back and forth action with defense nonexistent.
But the practitioners and hard core admirers of the sweet science can appreciate the majestic wizardry.
It appears though, many of these very same pundits in love with Lomachenko, penalize Rigondeaux for his approach and style of fighting in spite of his accomplishments and technical prowess.
Without criticizing any of the fighters, it’s fair to suggest double standards in play.
The same people listing Lomachenko or Gennady Golovkin as the “Most avoided” may certainly facilitate the same arguments for Rigondeaux and fighters like Erislandy Lara for instance.
Each fighter has an argument for the level of avoidance. Who wants to be embarrassed by someone as skilled as Lomachenko or Rigondeaux?
Facing a fighter like Lara, more than likely the opponent will swing at air and eat counter-punches in the process for the duration of the bout.
Aside from five opponents out of thirty-eight to date, Golovkin punishes and virtually knocks everyone out.
But because of the aesthetic effect and what the audience it narrated to as what is pleasing or the way to fight, certain styles (i.e. Lara and Rigondeaux) are not appreciated.
There’s an argument other issues are at play though. Skin complexion and stereo-types play a factor as well.
What’s interesting, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder endures similar scrutiny, although he is avoided for the very reason fighters avoid Golovkin. But the same standards do not apply of course.
One underlying factor all the aforementioned fighters share in common as to why they are avoided is simple; it’s the money.
It’s a matter of weighing risk vs. reward. If opponents are not offered legitimate fight purses to take the challenge, why risk taking the fight?
Risk vs. reward plagued Rigondeaux his entire career. Lack of willing opponents, lack of big names, fame and fortune that comes with it.
Securing the right fights so he can continue to show the world what he can do – similar to his display against Donaire.
Rigondeaux’s battles are in abundance; whether against the media, promotors and opponents in and out the ring.
His pain and struggle, in which fuels his desire and need for greatness. It’s the driving force behind his desperation to be great.
And the stakes will be high this weekend, because staring at him in the other corner is another fighter great in his own right, seeking to crush his dreams and plant his flag of pound-for-pound supremacy.
In which spectators will witness between the two gladiators; a battle of foot work and distance, a battle of intelligence and adjustments – even as subtle as the hand placement for each fighter.
Can Lomachenko utilize his weight advantage, height advantage, youth, angles and intelligence to outslick the tactical assassin Rigondeaux?
This video provides a great scientific breakdown of the match-up.
Although Rigondeaux is 37-years-old, fought a total of three rounds in the past two years and moved up two weight classes to challenge one of the best boxers in the world, he remains fairly confident.
The confident Cuban southpaw promised to defeat Lomachenko when they square off Saturday night in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“We trained well and we’re 100 percent,” Rigondeaux said. “We had a great training camp. We always train hard for every opponent.”
Although known as one of the best defensive fighters in boxing, its uncertain the approach Rigondeaux will take in this scheduled 12-round.
Speed, flexibility and reflexes tend to slip each day a fighter ages. There’s a possibility Rigondeaux may opt for a more offensive approach but this all depends on what Lomachenko does as well.
“Each opponent is different and I adapt to each opponent,” Rigondeaux said. “Sometimes it takes more offense, sometimes it takes more defense. We adjust as we’re in the ring.”
As we approach fight time, questions remain as to who will win the fight and what’s at stake for each fighter?
Both intend to further enhance their legacy; adding victory to cement who truly is the best.
Lomachenko wants to cement his status at the best active fighter. There are plans for an ascension towards the lightweight division, but he must clear one last road block before venturing forth.
For Rigondeaux, worldwide acclaim and the riches eluded this warrior for most of his professional career. Escaping Cuba and finding success is another series of battles fought and won by the determined fighter.
Rigondeaux is against the odds and aims to prevail yet again.