In a lot of ways, a defeated fighter has tangible remnants of his spirit, degrees of self, forever removed as he takes that “L”. Figuratively, the winner absorbs the aura of the man he’s just conquered, puts it in his back pocket, placing a permanent smudge on what may have otherwise been an unblemished existence. Think Tyson-Holyfield, Mosley-Forrest, Jones-Tarver. Last Saturday, December 9th, in one of the most sought bouts of 2017, Vasyl “High-Tech” Lomachenko was not only victorious in a historic clash against Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux, the Ukrainian stud made the Cuban legend quit. A shocked, sell-out crowd gathered at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City as millions more watched “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN”.
Pre-fight reputations have rarely been higher, pertaining to the level of acclaim, notoriety and respect universally shared by two Pugilists, about to throw hands with one another. Two gold medals apiece, world titles, pound for pound rankings by most hardcore fans and ESPN paying them large sums of money to perform. For lower weight, non-American fighters, it truly doesn’t get any better than this, which made Rigondeaux’s eventual capitulation puzzling. It was also the fourth consecutive time Lomachenko’s reduced an opponent to quitting, spawning the revelation of his alter-ego, “No Mas-chencko”.
From the outset, Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO’s) was noticeably bigger, taller, stronger, quicker, younger and more dynamic. In response, the grizzled, experienced Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KO’s) didn’t hesitate to dig into his bag of ol’ wily veteran Boxing tricks. Rigo clinched with both arms as early as round 1, trying to sneak Loma after holding him, then complaining to the ref when the shot was blocked and reciprocated two-fold, in the 2nd. Using the forearm hold/hit tactic, made famous by Lennox Lewis, dipping excessively low to his own left, to evade shots. Punching on the break and spinning Loma, Rigo tried it all. He clinched no fewer than 20 times, leaving the ref no other recourse but to finally deduct a point by the 6th.
In the midst, Lomachenko moved, feinted, landed southpaw jabs, connected with triple uppercuts and began playing with Rigondeaux by round 3. Loma got more and more comfortable, firing off an increasing number of two-fisted assaults, which ramped up the level of urgency in Rigo’s corner, between rounds. Vasyl all but pirouetted around Guillermo as he dipped, in the 4th, nearly making a full-circle around him. By the time of the aforementioned deduction, “El Chacal” was being feinted into potential openings for left hands, which landed harder and cleaner with each ensuing stanza.
Prior to the start of the 7th, Rigondeaux wanted no more, citing a hurt left hand, which was strange given the lack of flush lefts landed by the southpaw. It goes without saying fighters have persisted with injured or broken hands for decades. You can never tell what another person is feeling, but you’d certainly like to see a professional fighter endure more in such an important bout. Rigondeaux sacrificed time with his family, defecting from Cuba to box professionally and he was undefeated since 2003. Seemed strange to give in to Lomachenko so meekly, in front of the largest captive audience he’ll ever perform in front of. He’s still the man to beat at 122 pounds, but its doubtful networks will be standing in line to broadcast any of his future fights. Rigondeaux played himself last Saturday night; that’s the long and short of it.
Sooner or later, Lomachenko deserves his props. Four consecutive opponents quitting is quite the feather in one’s cap. Clearly, there’s something about Vasyl that continues to reduce elite, world class fighters to giving up on themselves mid-fight. To defecate upon their Boxing legacies, so easily. Perhaps it’s the much talked about footwork, the angles, feints, speed, athleticism, rhythm, skills, ring intelligence and defense. Not an appreciably hard puncher, Lomachenko systematically breaks foes down anyways. He demoralizes them mentally, spiritually and rubs it in their faces. When it comes to combat, Lomachenko’s an asshole, and that’s a good thing. Beating you isn’t enough; he wants the loss to linger. “No Mas-chenko” encapsulates Loma’s competitive arrogance succinctly.
What’s next for Lomachenko is anybody’s guess given the litany of options. He can unify at 130 where fellow titlists Miguel Berchelt and Alberto Machado reside. There’s bigger names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Gary Russell, Jr. (who’s spoken of moving up from 126 to avenge his loss to Lomachenko) in the mix. Gervonta “Tank” Davis is always in the loop, depending on what weight he can make nowadays. There’s Jorge Linares, a belt holder at 135, which would be the third division Lomachenko’s won a world title in, but the fight to be had right now is Mikey Garcia. If Bob Arum doesn’t hold too big of a grudge against Garcia, who left his stable years ago, Lomachenko-Garcia will be one the biggest bouts of 2018.
Dream pairings consist of Loma moving up to 147, facing the likes of Keith Thurman, Terrance Crawford and Errol Spence. While those names may ultimately prove to be too big to chew on, it’s not the least bit unreasonable to give Loma a favorable chance against most other Welterweight s or every Jr Welterweight, for that matter.
Simply put, Vasyl Lomachenko’s the best fighter in the world, pound for pound.