Vasyl Lomachenko came out on top in his Junior Lightweight championship showdown with Guillermo Rigondeaux. Deservedly, but definitely in anticlimactic fashion. Rigondeaux, who claimed to have suffered an injured left hand in the Madison Square Garden headliner, was pulled out of the fight following the 6th round, much to the displeasure of every hardened fan who had tuned in to this anticipated clash of boxing’s finest technicians.
But hey, it’s now over. The result is inked into the history annals. Lomachenko, who successfully made defense number five of his WBO title, now rises to 10 wins, 1 defeat, 9 knockouts, while Rigondeaux picks up his first pro career blemish, reducing to 17 wins, 1 defeat, 11 knockouts.
So why all the controversy surrounding Rigondeaux’s suspicious exit? In other words, did Rigondeaux – seemingly not hurt yet perhaps feeling sorry for himself – actually quit after the 6th? Well, while it’s very possible he did injure that left hand, it’s also true that Rigondeaux didn’t actually fire off many shots with that hand in this fight.
Prior to the retirement, it’s also true that Rigondeaux never looked particularly comfortable. Rigondeaux was fast falling behind on the scorecards, and was being increasingly picked off by a confident, stalking Lomachenko, particularly in the 5th and 6th stanzas. In fact, I had the fight a 60-53 shutout for Lomachenko when the proverbial towel came in.
The fight came awfully close to mirroring that of Lomachenko’s meeting with Nicholas Walters (in November 2016), in which an overwhelmed, broken-spirited Walters retired himself, with the belief that he simply couldn’t compete. However, while Rigondeaux claimed an injury, it’s true that, like Walters, he seemed to be more spiritually crushed than physically hurt at the time of his withdrawal from tonight’s bout.
In a nutshell, here’s how Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux went down. The first couple of sessions were predictably cagey, with both men testing one another’s reactions. But it was the more positive Lomachenko, employing the busier hands, with a probing double/triple jab, who got my vote on the scorecards. Rigondeaux wasn’t in notable danger, but his tendency to tie up (whenever Lomachenko closed the distance) suggested some anxiety.
With the more defensively-minded Rigondeaux continuing on the backfoot, Lomachenko’s confidence began separating the pair, with the Ukranian letting his hands go more freely. Lomachenko was the more positive guy, getting his punches off first, and basically doing a whole lot more, not hurting his man, but certainly banking rounds.
It was all Lomachenko in the 5th and 6th. Lomachenko was warmed up, employing his famous pivots, and started to close down Rigondeaux, who was getting tagged by combinations, with his usual exit strategies diminishing. With Rigondeaux still determined to tie up Lomachenko when he could, the referee fairly deducted a point in the 6th. Lomachenko also managed to stagger Rigondeaux before the close of the round.
Finally, what of all that speculation surrounding size difference before the fight? Let’s briefly look at those physical statistics once again. Lomachenko (5′ 6″) had a two-inch height advantage over Rigondeaux, the physically smaller guy who had never fought above Junior Bantamweight (with a career-high ‘scales weight’ of 122 lbs vs Lomachenko’s 130 lbs). Furthermore, Rigondeaux was seven years older at 37.
So, really, should we have all expected Lomachenko to win this thing outright, long before they ever touched gloves tonight? Well, that, and a lot more areas of conversation, are now up for serious debate in the coming hours. Let me know what you think in the comments below. How did you score Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux? Was the outcome conclusive enough? Or, at best, only partially digestible? Lastly, where do you place Lomachenko on the Pound for Pound scene?