This coming weekend boxing purists will be treated to a matchup of perhaps the two most technically gifted boxers in the sport today when Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko square off.
Aged 37 from Cuba, Rigondeaux is an Olympic Champion with incredible amateur pedigree who has gone on to claim an undefeated 17-0 professional record.
Perhaps his most impressive win to date was against Nonito Donaire who at the time was rated extremely highly in pound for pound rankings. Rigondeaux completely outboxed Donaire and claimed a fantastic win.
Rigondeaux is a defensive genius with some of the most incredible evasive movement seen in many a year. He makes his opponents look crude and then lands pin-point, accurate shots of his own.
He has been accused of being a boring, negative fighter which is extremely harsh but there are times when he could perhaps give more than he does. In a way that is because he isn’t forced to do more because he can beat these guys whilst be appearing to be in second gear.
Despite such success and clear talent, his professional career has been somewhat of a disappointing one with long absences from the ring. Rigondeaux and his handlers have found it very difficult to get other top fighters to face him.
Sadly like many other Cuban fighters, Rigondeaux lacks the home fanbase to present possible opponents with enough commercial incentive to take the huge risk of fighting him. Everyone knows how good he is and they want to be financially very well rewarded if they are going to fight him.
This has resulted in Rigondeaux being in the so-called ‘who needs him club’ and perhaps this is why he is fighting Lomachenko two weight divisions higher than he normally competes in. He simply has to give up a lot of advantages in order to get a big fight.
The promotional job done by Rigondeaux’s team over the years has been pretty dreadful with many casual fans probably never having heard of him before.
In contrast, Vasyl Lomachenko has made a much bigger name for himself under the guidance of Rigondeaux’s former promoter Bob Arum. Arum has worked hard to showcase Lomachenko’s talent on big events and build him into a big name.
Aged 29 from Ukraine, Lomachenko is also an Olympic Champion and widely regarded as the greatest amateur boxer in the history of the sport.
As a professional, he has become a two-weight world champion despite having only had 10 fights which is absolutely unheard of. Unlike Rigondeaux he is not an undefeated professional though having suffered a controversial defeat to Orlando Salido in his second fight when he challenged for the WBO featherweight world title.
Since then Lomachenko has gone on to look supreme defeating the likes of Gary Russell Jr, Roman Martinez, Nicholas Walters and Jason Sosa.
The Walters fight is perhaps the most impressive as he came into the fight as a highly respected and feared puncher but left it looking shell-shocked.
He had been completely neutralised from an offensive standpoint that he simply couldn’t fathom what to do. He had been so frustrated by Lomachenko that he couldn’t take anymore and quit the fight when he was clearly physically capable of boxing on.
This is the level of fighter that we are talking about that he is able to make a world champion completely lose the plot and give up out of sheer desperation.
Lomachenko is a master at landing shots from unusual positions and angles that opponents cannot predict but whether such shots will land against Rigondeaux is something that only time will tell.
In terms of major factors heading into the fight, the weight has got to be mentioned. Rigondeaux normally operates in the super bantamweight division but has been forced to face Lomachenko at the super featherweight class.
Many are speculating that Lomachenko will prove to be too big for Rigondeaux and that he will be able to dominate him. Although the weight could well be a crucial factor it has to be noted that Lomachenko is by no means a come forward, pressure fighter who leans on his opponents and looks to assert physical dominance.
The weight may not play as bigger a role as some may think and if there is a boxer who is capable of making such a weight disparity look like a non-entity then it is without doubt Rigondeaux.
In terms of looking at the fight from a stylistic stand-point, Lomachenko is likely to be the more aggressive fighter who looks to come forward and land multiple shots. Rigondeaux is expected to look to counter Lomachenko and mainly be more defensive with his work.
There are clear, logical arguments being made for both fighters with Lomachenko being the younger, bigger, more active fighter and Rigondeaux being the defensively supreme, slick counterpuncher who has never tasted defeat as a professional.
When it comes to sticking my neck of the line and making a prediction I am going against general consensus and backing Guillermo Rigondeaux to pull off the win. He is an incredibly talented fighter who for so many years has gone badly unappreciated.
He is going to be so determined to show the world just how good he is and prove that he is the best that the sport has to offer. He has the ability to frustrate Lomachenko and evade his shots whilst landing his own work in return.
It is by no means going to be an easy fight but my prediction is a split decision win in favour of Rigondeaux.
I do however have a bad feeling that should Rigondeaux deserve the win that the judges may not reward him rightfully. Far too often our sport seems to fall victim to politics and controversial scoring so it is, unfortunately, something that has to be raised as a possibility.
Let’s just hope that whoever deserves the victory does indeed walk away with the glory of being declared the winner as that is what the fans and even more so the fighters themselves deserve most.