This excerpt first appeared in this week's issue of the Fightful Boxing Newsletter, which releases each Thursday morning at Fightful.com
In what is certainly the most attractive boxing match since Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin from back in September, Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux is set to headline the final boxing weekend at Madison Square Garden for 2017, headlining a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on December 9.
The fight is an interesting one from multiple angles. The first is the fact how the fight even got made. With Rigondeaux fighting at a weight class two divisions below Lomachenko, it almost seemed impossible for the two to ever meet in the ring, but in the months leading up to his fight with Moises Flores, Rigondeaux took to social media to call out Lomachenko and goad him into fighting him. It almost seemed like bravado and less about a real fight, but the Twitter feud between both men not only caught the attention of the boxing community, but also caught Top Rank’s eyes. With promoter Bob Arum not having the fondest opinions of Rigondeaux, given their rocky relationship in the past, it almost seemed like the fight wouldn’t happen.
Once the fall came, it started to become abundantly clear that the two former Olympic gold medalists would in fact duke it out in the ring t some point. Fans were mostly in the know due to Rigondeaux and promoters giving out hints and updates during the negotiation period until the fight was made official. Like with Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, the power of social media essentially willed this fight to reality.
The fight will take place at The Theater at MSG, which sold out almost as soon as tickets went out. The fight could have easily drawn at least 10,000 if it was done at the bigger arena at Madison Square Garden, but Arum didn’t think a headlined by Rigondeaux would do more than the 5,500 The Theater could hold.
A Lomachenko vs. Rigondeaux fight, especially on ESPN, should fetch an extremely high rating, the highest ratings for a boxing fight on ESPN since Manny Pacquiao’s shock defeat at the hands of Jeff Horn. At least the fight should be a highly-watched one, but everything surrounding the fight‘s promotion indicates the opposite.
There has barely been any promotion for the fight whatsoever, stemming from lack of press conferences, advertisement and any real form of extensive coverage on ESPN compared to the Pacquiao vs. Horn fight. This fight should have been a massively-hyped fight considering what the main event is. Lomachenko is arguably the most exciting up-and-coming superstars in the sport in the past couple of years and Rigondeaux is arguably the most technically-gifted professional boxer in the world today. Both men are double Olympic gold medalists, making this the first time in the history of the sport that two two-time Olympic gold medalists fight each other in the pro ranks.
With the proper build-up this fight should have fetched perhaps two million viewers, especially given the fact that there isn’t major college football games to compete against. Now this fight looks to be in danger of not even getting a million viewers on average for the fight on the main ESPN channel. It also doesn’t help that this fight is coming off two straight weekends where MSG had world title fights take place on HBO, including Miguel Cotto’s retirement fight. The hype surrounding the Cotto fight may have taken away attention from the December 9 fight, but ultimately, ESPN and Top Rank has done a poor job of promoting this bout.
Regardless, the fight is happening and is a definite “Fight of the Year” candidate if the fight is as entertaining as most people believe it can be.
Interestingly enough, both men are southpaws, which is somewhat rare to see in super fights such as these. Southpaws naturally have a disadvantage over right-handed boxers due to their unorthodox stance and ability to throw right-handed boxers off their rhythm early on. Both Lomachenko and Rigondeaux have face southpaws in their pro careers, but Lomachenko perhaps has the best win over a southpaw in Gary Russell Jr., whom Lomachenko defeated in his third professional fight.
In terms of power, Rigondeaux, despite his age, has an advantage due to his devastating straight left hand. Just like Miguel Cotto’s left hand being the stuff of nightmares for opposing bodies, Rigondeaux’s left hand is a literal jawbreaker that Lomachenko will have to pay close attention to. Lomachenko does carry a higher knockout percentage, but doesn’t have the consistent killer knockout at this point in his career. Lomachenko is the bigger man and is his physical prime at 29 years old, so in a way, it does offset Rigondeaux’s power just a bit.
Lomachenko certainly carries a slight speed advantage, especially with his feet and reflexes, over Rigondeaux, but it’s hardly much of an edge. Both men are two of the fastest boxers in the world and although Rigondeaux is not as fast as he was in the Olympics, Rigondeaux still possesses fantastic footwork that allows him to find an open and awkward angle for Rigondeaux to throw the left hand. The challenge for both men comes in actually landing anything. According to a CompuBox study in 2016, Lomachenko and Rigondeaux had the top two positions in terms of opponents’ punches and power punches landed on them. The numbers make sense for both men. Lomachenko is a far more aggressive fighter, which does not leave opponents many chances to throw anything at him and Rigondeaux comes from the world-famous Cuban style of boxing, the country that has produced the most amount of technically-gifted boxers. Lomachenko also has a massively-strong chin, having never been knocked out in more than 400 total fights.
Tale of the tape:
Record: 9-1 (7 KO)
Notable wins: Gary Russell Jr., Nicholas Walters, Roman Martinez
Titles won: WBO Super Featherweight, WBO Featherweight, WBO International Featherweight
Record: 17-0 (11 KO) (1 NC)
Notable wins: Nonito Donaire, Ricardo Cordoba, Hisashi Amagasa, Rico Ramos
Titles won: WBA “Super” Super Bantamweight, WBO Super Bantamweight, WBC International Silver Super Bantamweight, WBA-NABA Super Bantamweight
Where to watch:
ESPN will handle the broadcasting for all the fights on this card, including the preliminary card, which will be streamed online. Below is the main televised card:
- Vasyl Lomachenko (c) vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux: WBO World Super Featherweight Title
- Christopher Diaz vs. Bryant Cruz: Vacant WBO NABO Super Featherweight Title
- Michael Conlan vs. Luis Fernando Molina
- Shakur Stevenson vs. Oscar Mendoza
Here is the preliminary card, which will be streamed on Watch ESPN:
- Bryant Jennings vs. Don Haynesworth
- Jose Gonzalez vs. Adan Gonzales
- Mikaela Mayer vs. Nydia Feliciano
Prediction: This is an extremely close fight and nearly impossible to confidently say either man will be the winner. On the one hand, Rigondeaux is the more complete fighter and even though he is not that far from reaching 40 years old, Rigondeaux has always stayed in phenomenal physical condition. Lomachenko’s youth and more aggressive style will give him an advantage over Rigondeaux, but Lomachenko still isn’t as technically sound as the Cuban star.
In the end, I think it will be a highly competitive fight, with Lomachenko getting a late stoppage. Despite Rigondeaux’s abilities, he isn’t immune to getting knocked down. We haven’t seen Lomachenko get knocked out once in his boxing career and Lomachenko will eventually exploit Rigondeaux’s age and slightly diminished speed. It’s a virtual toss-up between the two, but I’m sticking with Lomachenko to pick up the biggest win of his career.
Lomachenko wins via 11th round TKO.