In the event of a disputed decision win for Lomachenko the excuses were already neatly shrink wrapped - “He’s Bob Arum’s boy, he’s the Golden Child of ESPN of course he got the nod.”
Or had Lomachenko stopped him clean apologists for Rigondeaux would have argued the weight/size and age were factors too great to overcome. That Rigo lobbied hard for this fight himself and a clause was inserted into the contract that Lomachenko could rehydrate to no more than 8 pounds above 130 (his official weight was 137.4) will matter not to fans of the Cuban.
For the rest of us living in the real world however you cannot make excuses for quitting.
The great Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov once said:
At the end of the day it’s not about winning & losing, but of course it’s about winning and losing.
Those diehard know it all boxing fans who believed Lomachenko to be a hype job and easy work for the Cuban are now taking those excuses by mouth and washing them down with a tall glass of saltwater.
Normally I would not say this, but we told you so.
All of that aside. Bob Arum the ‘Hall of Fame’ promoter who has been attached to such greats as Muhammad Ali seems he may have another legend in the making on his hands in the Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko.
This fight however, in all reality never should have happened. Folks have completely overlooked what losing to Rigo might have done to Lomachenko’s career - skilled as he is - Rigo is the smaller man to the casual observer, Lomachenko is the “A” side - the more hyped fighter, losing at this stage even to someone of Rigo’s quality could have had unintended consequences for Team Loma, Arum even ESPN!
Lomachenko was already a two weight world champion and now it seems highly likely he’ll move up to 135 where fighters like Mikey Garcia & Jorge Linares are waiting for him. There is a chance Loma could hang around and try to unify titles with WBC champion Miguel Berchelt. However, Berchelt is out with an injury currently and is an HBO fighter and with boxing’s fractured promotional landscape seems an unlikely fight to make.
Then there was the potential rematch between Lomachenko and Orlando Salido. Salido had the chance to take that fight this summer for a career high six-figure payday but begged off. Instead Lomachenko fought Miguel Marriaga - the only man brave enough to do so and Salido sat out until last night when he took on the very tough Miguel Roman and was stopped in the 9th round.
Salido has now announced his retirement.
However, if he watches Lomachenko’s fight against Rigondeaux - and I hope he does he should be very proud of the lessons he taught the young man.
Nevertheless we got our Comic Book Fight - Vasyl Lomachenko fought Guillermo Rigondeaux - Batman vs. Superman...and Arum created a stage to potentially embarrass Rigondeaux, a fighter he’s publicly insulted on more than one occasion as he’s done before to other fighters, trainers and promoters. One should take Ol’ Grandpa Bob with a grain of salt, but you could see him giddy as he clumsily ambled along the ring apron and Vasyl himself assisted the 86 year old promoter into the ring to feast on the red meat of victory, revenge is a dish best served cold and the blood was flowing all over the table in the red corner.
The surreal moment when the bell rang brought a cagey start to the first round as expected.
Nothing of significance was landed by either fighter and it could be argued that Rigo won that round with his poise alone.
However, this is where things already started to go wrong in the blue corner. Trainer Pedro Diaz who has been with Rigo since his days as an amateur gave the advice to Rigo to just “score points.” This seems ridiculous advice on its face - did you forget after 17 pro bouts that this is pro boxing? Meanwhile Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl’s trainer and father had the pot on simmer.
Action picked up in the second, and got more chippy as well. Rigo began to clinch to save himself from damage once Lomachenko got inside - which he did easily - much more easily than anyone thought, myself included. During one exchange, Rigo clinched both arms of Loma, with Loma’s back to ref Steve Willis, Rigo landed a sharp uppercut as they were separating and Loma fired back with a hard right hook that buckled Rigo’s legs!
For me that was the turning point. However, Rigo still appeared in the fight.
Round three was the beginning of the end as Loma stepped up the pressure, Rigo he did land a one-two but not hard enough to backup Loma, Rigo did his best to avoid damage, he frequently bent at the wait to hide behind his shoulder and present Loma only with the back of his head - a non scoring target, Loma merely side stepped to his left to make room for the right hook which found its mark several times in the fight.
At one stage, frustrated and shelled up Rigo again crouched, Loma put his right Forearm on the back of Rigo’s neck and with leverage danced around Rigo to the center of the ring. More clinching by Rigo to end the round and as Loma tried to break free the two stumbled toward the ropes, Rigo now had Loma in a head lock and when the round ended Rido jerked on Loma’s head, but when he turned around was met by a straight punch to the face, my Ukranian is a bit rusty but that roughly translates as Fuck You Rigo!
By the 5th round Rigo had not connected with more than 3 punches in any round as measured by CompuBox and the foot work and angles continued to befuddle the Cuban. All he could do was clinch and try to land a punch on the break, to which Loma would simply respond by attacking Rigo whether Steve Willis broke them apart or not. Rigo was then docked a point for excessive holding as the round drew to a close.
It was a surprise to some then, but not to me that Rigo came up lame and did not come out for the 7th round, sighting a left hand injury.
Rigo’s corner stated the injury occurred sometime in the second round. As of this writing there is nothing definitive. However, the timing was apt. Heading into the midway point of the fight, losing on all three judges cards, now docked a point for clinching, unable to control the range or handle the pace of Lomachenko Rigo found a way out, and fair play to him. Even if he did break his hand, he was losing the fight anyway. No one has found a way to even slow down Lomachenko with two good hands, it would be impossible for even Rigo to with only one!
In the pre fight presser Rigo showed some respect to his opponent, he did say “I’ll do my talking in the ring.” A common trope among fighters.
Rigo followed through on that proclamation, he did his talking in the ring and said No Mas.
The Final Bell
Prior to the fight it was widely reported that WBA President Gilberto Mendoza had elected to strip Guillermo Rigondeaux of Super Bantamweight title despite that belt not being contented should he lose to Vasyl Lomachenko. Due in large part to the public out cry and the mitigating circumstances that Rigo may have suffered an injury in the fight the protests out of the Rigo camp may have been heard and ring side officials that commented after the fight said they were willing to meet with Rigo’s team to discuss the situation.
However, Rigo is done.
The decision by the WBA was reprehensible, let Rigo keep the belt, save face and vacate the title on his own terms and announce his retirement. He has earned a decent chunk of change from this fight. At age 37 (if that’s what you want to believe) he won’t get a rematch with Loma and despite being the WBA Super Champion is probably going to be even less of a draw than before now that he will be stamped with a label like Quitter - I’m not saying that’s fair or I necessarily agree but I’m a realist and boxing is a sport where you’re only as good as your last performance.
Rigo has only ever appealed to hardcore boxing fans and his body language last night and through much of his career has been one of dispassion. He seemed to despair at his luck or lack thereof in not getting the push he thought he deserved in risking everything - up to and including his life coming to America to try to earn a living at the only thing he was ever good at, the only thing he knows how to do and for it he was called a traitor by Fidel Castro and will be seen as a coward by the average boxing fan. Rigo didn’t help himself in many respects in his career up until now, but hard to argue he deserves this.
For Lomachenko - next stop is the outer atmosphere.
With a dominant win like this, even crackpots like Teddy Atlas who have already placed Vasyl Lomachenko atop the pound for pound list will have more legitimacy. A spot until this summer occupied by Andre Ward until he abruptly announced his retirement. Your other choice might be Terence Bud Crawford another Bob Arum fighter and ESPN attraction.
And meanwhile Orlando Salido has to be smiling, Lomachenko received an unceremonious welcome to the pro ranks by the grizzled veteran and some of Salido’s take no prisoners tactics can be seen in the ever evolving young man.
Lomachenko took absolutely no shit last night from Rigo and proved to the Cuban what Salido had proved to the green as grass Lomachenko that point fighting doesn’t win fights it wins medals. That’s two completely different mentalities - even two different sports!
After all You Don’t Play Boxing and Lomachenko is playing for keeps. I wrote earlier this week Rigo had two choices: on your back or on the stool - he chose the latter and the rest was merely academic.