By Chris Williams: Undefeated Cuban star Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) says Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) can never beat him no matter how many times he was reborn. Rigondeaux says he’ll beat the 2-time Olympian Lomachenko every time. Unfortunately for Rigondeaux, that’s not what the odds-makers believe.
They see Lomachenko winning tonight against the much smaller 37-year-old Rigondeaux in their fight on ESPN from Madison Square Garden in New York. The odds-makers have Lomachenko a clear favorite to win. Lomachenko has everything stacked in his favorer from gloves, size, youth, weight, height, boxing fans, hype and the promotion of the fight. The last promoters for tonight’s career, Top Rank, promotes Lomachenko, and the top guy with the company Bob Arum is telling the boxing media that Lomachenko is comparable to Muhammad Ali. Rigondeaux will need to do something special tonight for him to get a decision, because if the fight is close, you have to believe the judges will give it to Lomachenko. He’s the one with the hype, and his promoters at Top Rank are putting on the card tonight.
“If Lomachenko was reborn ten times, there wouldn’t be a version of him that could beat me,” said an upbeat and confident Rigondeaux.
Talent-wise, Rigondeaux is the better fighter of the two. There’s no doubt that Rigondeaux has the better boxing skills and overall speed and agility than Lomachenko. But, what gives Lomachenko the advantage is him being 2 inches taller, and quite a bit heavier than Rigondeaux. When the two fighters step into the ring tonight, Lomachenko will likely have at least a 10-pound advantage. My guess is Lomachenko could be 15 pounds heavier than Ringondeaux. That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? Never the less, when you factor how small both fighters are, having a weight advantage of 10-15 pounds is the equivalent of a fighter at heavyweight walking into the ring with a 50-pound weight advantage over his opponent. It’s going to be very hard for Rigondeaux to deal with that kind of size advantage for Lomachenko.
It’s just too bad that Lomachenko wouldn’t meet Rigondeaux halfway between his weight class at super bantamweight and his at super featherweight. Lomachenko wanted to have an advantage over Rigondeaux, which is sad because it tells you that he didn’t have the confidence that he could win the fight if the two both had to give ground rather than just Rigondeaux. It’s boxing though. In this sport the more popular fighter can put his thumb on the scales to gain the advantage over his opponents. You don’t see that in the NFL and NBA. You don’t get teams gaming the system to gain advantage over the other teams by using their popularity to have the weight play in their favor.
Trainer Virgil Hunter says Lomachenko has to be viewed as the favorite to beat Rigondeaux tonight based on his size. Hunter thinks it’s going to be hard for Rigondeaux to overcome Lomachenko’s size advantage in the fight.
“If you logically think, you have to pick Lomachenko because of all the advantages he has,” said trainer Virgil Hunter to Dontae’s Boxing Nation. ”First and foremost, starting with the size. Rigondeaux had to move up 2 weight classes. It’s quite obvious the advantages lie in his court,” said Hunter.
Only Lomachenko knows why he didn’t to make the fight fair by fighting at a catch-weight in between 122 and 130. It would have been the fair thing for Lomachenko to have done. By choosing to make Rigondeaux move up 2 weight classes, Lomachenko is ensuring that he wins the fight at all costs. It’ll be interesting to see if Lomachenko chooses to use weight to help him win fights in the future when he moves up to lightweight. He’s supposed to be moving up to the 135-lb. division in 2018. His promoter Bob Arum wants him to fight the winner of Ray Beltran vs. Paulus Moses for the WBO lightweight belt in early 2018. Lomachenko will stick around the super featherweight division for 1 more fight if Arum can set him up with a rematch with Orlando Salido. Lomachenko wants to avenge his loss to Salido from 2014.
Salido is now 37-years-old, and not the same fighter he was 3 years ago when he beat Lomachenko. It doesn’t matter to Lomachenko and Arum. They still want/need that fight so that it will erase the only blemish on Lomachenko’s record. The hardcore boxing fans will obviously know that Lomachenko took advantage of Salido’s old age to get a win, but the casual fans will be none the wiser. They’ll just see it as a case of Lomachenko avenging his loss to Salido, and they’ll likely give him full credit if he wins. Top Rank will likely give Salido a big enough offer to get him to agree to the rematch. With Lomachenko moving up to lightweight, it might create enough pressure for Salido to agree to the fight. I don’t think Salido really wants the rematch, because he’s clearly older now and he’s had 3 very hard fights since then against Roman Martinez [twice] and Francisco Vargas. Even Salido’s last fight against journeyman Aristides Perez was a tough one for him.
The WBA has let Rigondeaux know that he’ll be stripped of his super bantamweight title if he loses to Lomachenko tonight, even though he’s not going to be defending that belt. Virgil Hunter sees it as a way for the WBA to get Rigondeaux out of the way, so they can install the fighter they want as the WBA super bantamweight champion. Currently, Mexican Moises Flores is ranked #1 with the WBA. Rigondeaux destroyed Flores recently on June 17 in stopping him in round 1, but the fight was ruled a no contest due to one of Rigondeaux’s punches landing after the bell had sounded to end the 1st round. Flores didn’t look hurt when he went down, but he never attempted to get back up. Rigondeaux thought Flores was faking so that he could win by a disqualification. Flores didn’t win, but he didn’t get the loss and he’s still ranked #1 with the WBA. If Rigondeaux gets stripped of his WBA 122 lb. title, then Flores will be in position to either have the title given to him or he can fight for it against the next highest ranked contender, which is #2 WBA Tomoki Kameda.
“Rigondeaux, with not only the pressure of winning this fight, but if he loses, he loses a belt that he’s not even fighting for,” said Hunter about the World Boxing Association telling Rigondeaux he’ll lose his WBA super bantamweight title if he gets beaten by super featherweight champion Lomachenko tonight. “It’s almost criminal. It’s borderline criminal because you’re taking something away from him that he didn’t really lose. You have to lose it in the ring. He’s moving up 2 weight classes, but if he loses, he loses his belt. What it really says is it’s going to be easier [for the WBA sanctioning body] to maneuver to that championship spot who I want there without him having to go through Rigondeaux,” said Hunter about the WBA. What other explanation can the sanctioning body give? Where’s the explanation? Who justifies that? No one has gone on record to justify or explain why,” said Hunter.
That does seem unfair to Rigondeaux to lose his WBA title without even defending it against Lomachenko. What’ll be interesting is if the WBA not only strips Rigondeaux of his title, but also drop him so low in their rankings that it’ll take him years to get ranked high enough for him to get a title shot. Look at what the IBF title when Shawn Porter lost his IBF welterweight title to Kell Brook in 2014. The IBF removed Porter from their top 15 rankings entirely even though he lost a close 12 round decision to the challenger Brook. By removing Porter from the rankings, the IBF made it almost impossible for Porter to ever come back and fight Brook for that title in a timely fashion. It’s moves like that which make it nearly impossible for a champion to win back his title once he loses it. At 37, Rigondeaux doesn’t have the youth to slowly work his way back up the WBA’s rankings if they drop him low in their rankings or remove him from the top 15 if he gets beaten tonight by Lomachenko. That means a guy like Moises Flores could hold onto the WBA title for a long time even though he’s nowhere near as good as Rigondeaux.