In the end, it was anti-climatic, the competitive nature of the bout never materialising as WBO Bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux was made to quit on his stool at the end of the sixth round against the WBO Super Featherweight king Vasyl Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It was the fourth consecutive time in which a fighter would wave the white flag of surrender against Lomachenko, Rigondeaux following in the footsteps of Miguel Marriaga, Jason Sosa and Nicholas Walters to bring a feeling of deflation from around the packed MSG.
“Listen, the only thing I can say is you guys are seeing something really special,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said of Lomachenko. “The body of work from this kid is something that is virtually incredible. I’ve never seen anything like this. I never have. He gets these guys, he frustrates them, it looks like he’s gonna knock them out and they quit because they can’t answer back. This is something really unique. Rigondeaux goes in with Lomachenko and he is totally bewildered. He can’t hit him with anything.”
Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs) cited an injured left hand for the reason he retired from the bout
“I lost, no excuses,” Rigondeaux said through a translator. “I injured the top of my left hand in the second round. He’s a very technical fighter, he’s explosive. I’m gonna come back because that’s what I do. The weight was not a factor in this fight. It was the injury to my hand.”
Rigondeaux for the first time in his career looked bewildered on how to adjust to the complexity of the fighter in front of him, Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) used the jab in the first before working in his left hand in the second, setting the tone, dictating the pace.
Rigondeaux thereafter was forced to hold on for dear life bringing referee Steve Willis to warn him constantly before the eventual point deduction in the sixth. The reasoning for doing so was because of an injured left hand, Rigondeaux being sent to the hospital afterwards to have his hand examined.
“He said [he] couldn’t throw his left hand at all,” said Roc Nation Sports’ Dino Duva, Rigondeaux’s promoter. “I gave Rigo the first round, but after that it was all Lomachenko. It just amazes me what this guy does to his opponents. He frustrates them with his athletic skills. He frustrates them so bad they don’t even know what to do. He didn’t even know what to do, Rigo.”
Lomachenko was leading on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage by scores of 60-53, 59-54 and 59-54.
“What I sense is I am seeing something so special it will have to be part of history,” Arum said. “I’ve been around great fighters, [Sugar Ray] Leonard, [Marvin] Hagler, Floyd [Mayweather], [Manny] Pacquiao. I’ve never seen a fighter like this, even Ali”
“I thought Loma would win. He’ll take anybody. He’ll go to 135 pounds, and he’ll make a joke of [world champion Jorge] Linares. He’ll make a joke of [titlist Mikey] Garcia. They’re really good fighters, but this guy is super special. You’ve never seen anything like this. Maybe he’ll go to 140, I don’t know. He’s going to do this to everybody. We’ll be able to make the fight. With ESPN behind us, we have plenty of money to offer for big fights. ESPN wants the best, and this guy is the best.”
Lomachenko didn’t seem too interested in the history involved in the bout, not even considering it a great victory.
“This is not his weight, so it’s not a big win for me,” Lomachenko said. “But he’s a good fighter. He’s got great skills. I adjusted to his style, low blows and all.”