Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO) raised gloves in victory over Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KO), retaining his WBO super featherweight title on ESPN after six rounds. The challenger, a Cuban amateur legend, only sulked over what he swore was an injury to his left hand.
The two are recognized as the finest southpaws of their generation. So technically proficient are they that public interest forced super promoter Bob Arum‘s hand into making the matchup despite a sizable weight advantage for Lomachenko, the premier 130-pound boxer on the planet. Rigondeaux had never before fought for a world title above the super bantamweight limit of 122 pounds.
Rigondeaux must have known the odds were stacked against him. He looked glum before he even entered the ring. Timothy Bradley, on the call for the network, mentioned as much too. Already 37, Rigondeaux couldn’t keep up with Lomachenko. The Ukrainian played some light tag with his man in the opening frame. But by the second round, he was a Ukrainian two-step ahead of Rigondeaux.
The Olympic gold medalist from Cuba isn’t used to facing a puzzle he can’t solve. He clamped onto Lomachenko’s head in Round 2 out of frustration. There was some jawing between the two men when the bell rang.
The raillery was more action than the next two periods would see. Lomachenko jammed three consecutive uppercuts into Rigondeaux’s guard and remained busy feinting and adjusting his feet, maintaining lead foot dominance and denying Rigo’ any chance for a clean shot. The Cuban hardly threw a punch in the third, let alone land one. And surely nothing significant enough to injure himself.
The highlight of the fourth period was an 11-punch combo from Lomachenko to the head of his crouching opponent. Rigondeaux landed some leather of his own, but only to the back of Lomachenko’s head and below his belt. Referee Steve Willis made it known he wouldn’t put up with much more.
Willis had to pull Rigondeaux aside again in the beginning of the fifth round. Lomachenko struck Rigondeaux after the bell for his antics. The fight was getting chippy, but it wasn’t the chess match fight fans hoped for.
Rigondeaux was finally deducted a point in the sixth stanza. Lomachenko wasn’t eager to end the fight. He pumped out four, five, six jabs in succession. Never from the same spot. Never without utter precision.
Then there was a “no mas” from Rigo’s corner that might as well have echoed throughout the arena, the Madison Square Garden—home to so much fistic history. This fight won’t go down in the annals like so many others who ducked their heads through the ropes there. It was an obvious quit job.
But, still, the cameras showed multiple Ukrainian flags pop up from a sea of teeming humanity—a reported sell-out crowd. People want to see Lomachenko. And he won’t be 30 until February. Considering how little he gets hit in the ring, the two-weight world champion has a lot of prime left in him.
Hopefully, his next will be against someone his own size. But don’t count on it being against anybody of equal talent.
There might not be anybody in the world who is.
Photos by Mikey Williams – Top Rank