Guillermo Rigondeaux steps up two weight divisions to challenge Vasyl Lomachenko for his WBO World Super Featherweight title at Madison Square Garden on 9th December. This has been the year of big fights, but to the true boxing fan, this is as exciting a fight as any to see out an entertaining year. Both fighters are regarded as two of the best amateur boxers in history, having won two Olympic gold medals apiece in their careers and are ranked as two of the best pound-for-pound active boxers. In terms of boxing skills, it doesn’t get much better than these two.
With ‘The Jackal’ stepping up two weight divisions to face Lomachenko at super-featherweight, naturally the advantage is already with the Ukrainian. Nevertheless, the Cuban is physically big and rangy for his weight, possessing a two-and-a-half inch reach advantage, suggesting he will naturally fit into the increased weight and opponent.
Rigondeaux is eight years ‘Hi-Tech’s’ senior and consequently has more professional ring experience, having fought seven more opponents and gone 21 more rounds than his opponent.
Both possess impressive KO records for their weight classes against high calibre opponents, signifying the contest could be a patient and technical approach with both waiting for the perfect opening, knowing that the other has the skill and power to pounce on the smallest of mistakes.
Of Lomachenko’s 10 professional fights, nine have been world title bouts. In just his second fight, the Ukrainian lost in a split-decision against Orlando Salido for the WBO World Featherweight title, only to go on and win the belt just three months later against Gary Russell Jr.
‘Hi-Tech’ went on to defend the belt three times before stepping up to super-featherweight and winning the WBO in his first fight at the weight and just the seventh of his career.
To be a two-weight world champion after just 10 fights shows the quality of boxer on show and his lack of fear to face any opponent.
Rigondeaux got his first world title shot in his ninth professional bout, knocking out Rico Ramos in the sixth round for the WBA World Super-Bantamweight title, which he has gone on to defend nine times while also collecting the WBO against Nonito Donaire and the vacant WBC International Silver against Drian Francisco to become the unified super-bantamweight world champion.
During his last outing against Moises Flores for the IBO title, Rigondeaux knocked out his opponent during the first round just as the bell rang with the referee ruling it as a legal blow. However, the NSAC reversed the referee’s decision, recording it as a no-contest.
Although ‘The Jackal’ has essentially ruled the division most of his career, he has never fought the two best names in the division - Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg - meaning Lomachenko truly will be his toughest test to date.
Rigondeaux possesses an impressive KO record during the first three rounds, recording seven of his 11 in total during the early stages. However, this appears more impressive compared to Lomachenko due to the simple fact that the Ukrainian went in at world level in just his second outing, whereas ‘The Jackal’ built his way up with easier early opponents like so many boxers do.
Taking into account the fact that Lomachenko has only ever faced world class opponents, his KO record (70%) is all the more impressive. What's more, he has recorded all seven of his KO victories between round four and 10, showing he uses the early rounds to work out his opponents and then pushes forward from there, something only the very best can successfully achieve.
Having an extra four years’ experience in the paid ranks for Rigondeaux could be a decisive area in the fight with the knowledge and longevity of handling the biggest of occasions. Furthermore, Lomachenko has suffered a world title defeat – albeit in his first attempt and second bout – but the fact the ‘The Jackal’ has never tasted defeat says much about the two.
Notably, Rigondeaux will be fighting for just the fourth time in just under four years, nearly half the amount of the Ukrainian. Rigondeaux’s inactivity in the ring compared to Lomachenko’s consistent showings - all in world title bouts - could be a major factor the longer the fight goes on.
Rigondeaux’s extra four years as a professional naturally results in him having fought opponents with a higher total number of wins, losses and draws. However, on average, Lomachenko has faced opponents with three more wins and one less defeat to their name, further demonstrating the high calibre fighters he has fought in just 10 bouts.
On average, ‘The Jackal’ has recorded his KO victories during the third round compared to ‘Hi-Tech’s’ seventh. Rigondeaux’s explosive starts against Lomachenko’s calculated openings does make this even more intriguing to see who will be the aggressor during the first half of the fight and consequently, how this affects the later rounds.
In summary, it is difficult to envisage there being a KO from either side, but the increase in weight for the Cuban against one of the very best in boxing appears a very brave, yet perhaps calculated decision. With the highest standard of speed, precision, ring-craft and power on show, a split-decision is most probable. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian does possess a slight advantage in terms of age, weight and regularity in the ring, factors which may just edge the fight in his favour if it goes the distance.
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