Lomachenko-Rigondeaux: Matrix like Performance, Gentleman Gerry & More
By Don Smith: Boxing Fans, A SRO crowd of 5,500 including a large press contingent witnessed WBO Junior lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1-8 knockouts) successfully defend his crown against Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-1-11) at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday 12/9. After a close first round, Lomachenko, aka “Hi-Tech” showed off his Matrix like moves and dominated the fight until Rigondeaux (17-1-11 knockouts) told officials a wrist injury (2nd round) wouldn’t allow him to continue thus giving a TKO victory to Lomachenko who is considered the leading candidate for the 2017 fighter of the year after winning 3 impressive victories this year.
From my perspective, the 29 year old Ukrainian boxer pitched a shutout and frustrated his 37 year old Cuban foe that was finally penalized for holding after at least two warnings. The WBO Champ slipped out of one hold with a very graceful spin move; shades of the Matrix. Asked after the fight if he would prefer the nickname of Matrix or his listed nickname “Hi-Tech”, Lomachenko suggested he change his name to “No Mas Chenko” which drew a laugh from members of the press. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum thought the remark was right on, stating that his fighter frustrates all of his opponents; then he begins to come on, looks like he is going to knock them out; they quit because they can’t answer him back.
At the end of round five Rigondeaux became so frustrated that he gave the champ a shove and for a moment it looked like both fighters would have to be separated. I think it would be safe to say that both fighters won’t be sharing Birthday or Christmas Cards in the near future. Their ring dissension continued with Rigondeaux’s trash talking at the media workout and the riveting 90 second stare down at the weigh-in was the highlight of that event. At the final press conference on Thursday, the double Gold Medal winning Olympian disrespected his fellow double Gold Medal winning Olympian by telling the audience that he wouldn’t be fighting Top Ranks best fighter and then he pointed to Top Rank’s Welterweight Champion Terrence Crawford who was seated on the second row at the presser; ouch Guillermo!
Lomachenko spoke to the press after the show and he told us that WBA World super bantamweight Rigondeaux was king at his natural weight but not at the junior lightweight class. Asked why he took the fight and the modest speaking Ukrainian said it was something the people wanted and “I fight for the people”. Lomachenko said very little about Rigondeaux’s possible fractured left wrist; but he did say that he fought with a broken hand in China and fighter’s fight not quit.
As for his next fight, Bob Arum wants him to take some time off and maybe fight again in March, 2018. Does he have someone in mind? He (Lomachenko) said he wasn’t the matchmaker but Arum and a TR associate mentioned champions Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares as possible foes. Arum laughed after throwing out their names and said his fighter would make jokes of both of them. He went on to add that Garcia and Linares were both great fighters but his guy was something special according to the proud promoter. Garcia was a Top Rank fighter until he got into a dispute with TR and departed his former promoter on less than pleasant terms after a self-imposed retirement of 2 years.
Fans were disappointed at the way the fight ended; but it was still an historical night. Both fighters donated their fight gloves to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York and Lomachenko also donated the trunks he wore in the fight to the H.O.F.
The rest of the card was altered after Casey Ramos was unable to fight rising star Christopher Diaz (22-0-14 knockouts for a vacant NABO junior lightweight title due to a health issue with a with a family member at home in Texas. Instead, Diaz, from Puerto Rico, fought last minute replacement Luis Bryant Cruz (18-3—9 knockouts) from New York. Diaz Pummeled a not ready for prime time Cruz until the bout was halted in the third stanza at the 37 second mark. Cruz told me he is moving to Orlando, Florida after the hurricane in Puerto Rico persuaded him to leave his beloved homeland. ABNN will give our readers an update on Ramos in our next issue.
Lightweight Mikaela Mayer (3-0-2 knockouts) used her height and superior skill set to dominate Nydia Feliciano (9-9-3 knockouts) on her way to a Majority decision victory. One judge scored the bout a draw and I rule his verdict shameful. Ms. Mayer is managed by George Ruiz and promoted by Top Rank. TR CEO Bob Arum promised the 5’ 9” 27 year old pugilist she would fight for a title by the end of next year at the Chase Square press conference. The scores were 38-38, 40-36×2. Mayer is quite a talent.
Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson (4-0-2) knockouts schooled Oscar Mendoza (4-3-2) with a quick boxing lesson that recessed in the second round via TKO. Stevenson sparred with Vasyl Lomachenko to prepare for the fight and he is managed by retired world champion Andre Ward.
Heavyweight Bryant Jennings (2`1-2-12 knockouts) opened the boxing show by ending the night for Donnie Haynesworth (13-2-1-11 knockouts) at 2:29 of the 3rd stanza with a powerful short powerful right hand hook. Jennings told me before the fight that he was pretty sure that heavyweight contender was dirty when the Cuban knocked out the 33 year old Philly boxer in 2015. Ortiz has a history of failing drug tests. He has returned to ring action after one suspension was overturned. I was very impressed with Jennings demeanor and willingness to communicate with boxing fans that approached him; he is one of the good guys in boxing.
2012 Olympic medalist Michael Conlan (5-0-4 knockouts) was unable to knock down or knockout Luis Fernando Molina in their 6 round featherweight battle. Conlan hit the Argentinean with everything but the kitchen sink but Molina made it to the end of 6 round contest. At the press conference, I asked if he knew if his fellow Irishman Connor McGregor was going to return to MMA action and he asked me if I would return to fighting if I had collected 40 million dollars from the Mayweather fight; he has a point.
Gonzalez vs. Gonzalez: popular New York featherweight prospect Jose Gonzalez entered the ring with a record of 8-0-1-2 and had to settle for a majority draw in his battle with Adan Gonzalez 3-1-2-2 knockouts). Most fans gave the fighters 2 thumbs up for their performance; nonstop action.
Short Jabs: I missed the media workout in New York at Mendez Gym but I did go to the old school gym and watch WBF International female champion Helen Joseph work out. The 28 year old Nigerian lives in New Haven and spoke to me about the rigors in boxing and living the dream of becoming a world champion. Someday, female boxing will get the adulation and money they deserve……Boxing fans should keep an eye out for 16 year SoCal high school student Joseph Landeros. Joseph possesses a professional record of 13-0-13 knockouts with all of his victories coming in Mexico due to age requirements in the states. Landeros lives and in Riverside California and ABNN has requested an interview with the budding protégé who combines studies with a career and according to all reports, he excels in both aspects of his life. We don’t know if he attends school in Riverside and does his academic work online. Hopefully, we will get a chance to interview the young man in the near future.
On The Rise: I talked to 20 year old Brooklyn born lightweight Teofimo Lopez (7-0-6 knockouts) was to fight on the card but his opponent backed out; so, TR promised to put the talented pugilist on the 2/3 Corpus Christi Card. ABNN will share our talk with him in our next issue. The kid has quite the motor and his skill set is awesome!
Boxing News: The Riddell Brothers (Tim & Ryan) fought and won in Mexico recently. Tim is now 5-0-3 knockouts and the elder brother hopes to get down to 135 from the 165 weight he fought in Mexico. Ryan 7-0-5, knockouts, is scheduled to fight on the next Iron Boy Card 2/24 at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. Fidel Hernandez is expected to headline that card and Carlos Castro may hold down the co-main position. Other fighters rumored to be on the card include Alexis Santiago, Janks Trotter and Luis Espinoza…..welterweight Jose Benavidez Jr (25-0-16 knockouts) starts his comeback on the Ramirez title card in Corpus Christi versus Matthew Strode (24-5-9 knockouts), 2/3. Brooklyn lightweight Teofimo Lopez (7-0-6 knockouts) has been added to Ramirez card, also…..no official word on next Golden Boy show at Casino Del Sol in Tucson…. We have been informed that the Benavidez/Gavril super middleweight rematch has been moved from 1/27 to a tentative 2/17 at an unconfirmed venue in Las Vegas; my guess is the MGM Hotel & Casino or the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas….Fernando Martinez (Mendoza Boxing) and Elijah Garcia (Hammer Boxing) medaled Gold at the Nationals in Salt Lake City, recently…. A reminder, the Arizona State Silver Gloves is scheduled for 12/16-17th at Sonny’s Boxing Gym in Goodyear; call Andy Soto for details at 602-515-4747….Iron Boy publicist Emily Pandelakis ties the knot with her boyfriend at the Celebrity Theatre on 2/24 on fight night during intermission. The event isn’t on ShowTime or HBO; but, with the possible exception of Prince Harry taking the plunge next year; Emily’s elegant February walk down the aisle is the Glamour Event of the year.
Mail Bag: Michelle Torres of Goodyear, Arizona wants to know if I saw anything unusual while I was in New York and what was the total number of Arizona reporters covering the MSG event? Answer: To my knowledge, I was the only Arizona journalist with a credential. I heard that Ralph Velez Jr. (announcer) was on Facebook telling his fans that he would be in the “Big Apple” for the show; but, I didn’t see him. I did see Michelle Rosado, aka the Raging Babe; she gave me a half hand wave-oh so chic. As for you second question, I saw a number of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and a hooker propositioned me 100 yards from Madison Square Garden and 60 feet from a parked police car. I gave 4 of the homeless persons a dollar each and a wave to the hooker. Also, I bumped into former Knicks superstar Walt Frazier and Good Morning America cast member Robin Roberts. I paid $36.00 to ride to the top of the Empire State Building; what a ripoff.
Kelly George, from Surprise Arizona, wants to know when is the next Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission meeting and when will the submitted rule changes be implemented? The next meeting is scheduled for 12/20 at 10a.m. on Washington Street in Phoenix; check the commission website for more details and expect rule changes if approved to be incorporated by April or May of 2018; don’t hold your breath.
Cooney Chat: Former Heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney (28-3-24 knockouts) introduced himself to me as he walked by my chair, shook my hand and asked me not to squeeze too hard. His request made me think he asked because of health problems; but, he was just pulling my leg. A few minutes later, I went over to his seat to ask him what he was doing and his life after boxing has consisted of some acting, promoting boxing shows (Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho, George Foreman, etc.). In June 2010, the affable Gerry became the co-host of Friday Night at the Fights aired on SIRIUS Radio XM Radio. He lives in New Jersey with his wife (Jennifer) and the couple is the parents of 3 children. Nicknamed “The Gentleman”, Gerry is deeply involved in J.A, the first Union for boxers and he works to help prevent domestic violence; good guy and real gentleman.
I asked the 6’ 6” ex fighter what was his suggestion to decrease the number of head traumas injuries in boxing and he said use bigger gloves. When I told him bigger gloves would be a turnoff for fans and he replied “do you want safety or excitement? Most boxing fans go to boxing matches to watch knockouts. WE shook hands and I returned to my seat…..Until Next Time!