All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

2017 has been a terrific year for boxing and that will continue when two of the sport’s best, Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, go toe to toe on Saturday night, December 9, 2017, in the main event of an ESPN televised card that will take place at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Before we analyze the fight and break it down from a stylistic standpoint, it’s important to note the historic significance of the bout.

Not only is this a fight between two top pound-for-pound fighters, and a fight that could even determine the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but this will be the first professional boxing match to feature two fighters who have both won two Olympic gold medals.

Lomachenko won consecutive gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 games, while Rigondeaux won consecutive gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 games. The two also have some of the best amateur records boxing has ever seen.

In this bout, Lomachenko, who currently holds the WBO Junior Lightweight belt, will put his title on the line and the contest will take place at 130 pounds, two weight classes up from Super Bantamweight, which is Rigondeaux’s normal weight class.

Although he’s only 9-1 as a professional, Lomachenko has quickly established himself as one of the best fighters on the planet. “Hi-Tech” has won eight fights in a row, with his only loss coming against Orlando Salido in his second professional contest.

Possessing lightning fast hands, Lomachenko isn’t the most powerful man competing at 130 pounds, but he has showed the ability to finish opponents, as seven of his victories have come by way of stoppage. Preferring to move forward, Lomachenko also utilizes strong footwork, creative angles and he’s incredibly accurate with his combinations.

While Hi-Tech is more of an offensive fighter, it’s not a stretch to say that Rigondeaux is one of the very best defensive boxers we’ve ever seen. “El Chacal” is an elusive counterpuncher, and some have even criticized him for his unwillingness to engage unless an opponent truly brings it out of him. Regardless, he too is one of the best in the world and his 17-0 professional record shows that.

Despite his defensive capabilities, however, Rigondeaux is also strong on the offensive end. He’s incredibly powerful for his weight class, which is seen with his 11 career stoppage victories, and his hands are amongst the fastest you’ll see.

Given the talent of both men, it’s difficult to predict this bout. It’s also important to note the intangibles, however. Like I mentioned, Rigondeaux is moving up two weight classes, and he’s admitted that he would’ve preferred to fight at a lesser weight.

Lomachenko isn’t necessarily a huge 130 pounder, but it’ll be interesting to see if  El Chacal’s power moves up with him. Also, it’s key to remember that the Cuban is 37 years old as opposed to Lomachenko, who sits at 29 and is in the prime of his career, and that Rigo hasn’t been as active in recent years.

Ultimately, I feel as if this bout will be determined by the fighter that can implement his style and game plan more effectively. Lomachenko will likely come out firing, which could play into Rigondeaux’s strengths, but I’m going to side with Hi-Tech due to age, weight and activity.

Rigondeaux has proven susceptible to flash knockdowns in the past, but I’m not sure we’ll see a finish. I expect it to be an incredibly close fight, although I see Lomachenko pulling away as the fight goes on and earning a decision victory.

Either way, it’s rare we see a bout between two men so talented and two men so widely regarded in boxing’s greater picture.

So fight fans, sit back and enjoy the show.

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