SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 10, 2017 – Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko solved the riddle of Guillermo Rigondeaux, forcing the celebrated Cuban two-time Olympic gold medalist to quit after six rounds of a planned 12, handing Rigondeaux his first professional loss Saturday. This is the fourth straight opponent who has quit against Lomachenko.
Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs) cited an injured left hand as the real he withdrew from the fight. Whether the hand injury was legitimate or not, Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) played Rigondeaux like a fiddle, dancing in the ring to music only he could hear. Of the six rounds on three scorecards, only two rounds were scored for Rigondeaux at the time of the stoppage. Rigondeaux had also been docked a point two minutes into the sixth round by referee Steve Willis for holding. The point loss likely sealed Rigondeaux’s decision to quit, a last straw after a frustrating outing.
Lomachenko put on a display of boxing skills beyond most of his peers: footwork, balance, speed, punch selection and accuracy, effective aggression, and ring generalship. Many fighters do a few of these things well. Lomachenko does everything well. When Rigondeaux realized by the second round how badly he was being outclassed. He could not hide the look of dejection on his face, or the body language of sheer dejection. This man isn’t used to losing, or even being behind on the scorecards. He hadn’t lost a fight in 14 years until tonight. So he put himself out of his own misery by quitting.
“Maybe I change my second name, maybe I change – now my name is NoMasChenko,” Lomachenko said after the bout. “He is a good fighter, he is a top fighter, he is a king in boxing. But he is a king in his category. It’s not his size, it’s not his weight. It’s not a big win for me because it’s another weight category,” said Lomachenko of his victory.
Later after the bout, Lomachenko said, “Nothing he did surprised me. Nothing at all, not even the finish. I didn’t expect him to do more in the ring, and from the press conference beforehand, I was waiting for him to say ‘No Mas’.”
Rigondeaux explained after the fight, “I lost, I lost because it was my hand. In the second round I injured the top of my hand and I could no longer continue.” His asessment of Lomachenko: “He’s a very technical fighter. He’s normal though. He’s quck, he’s explosive.”
Two of the three judges scored the first round for Rigondeaux; it was a shutout on the cards from the second round on, with the additional point deduction in the sixth round. Lomachenko used the first round to size Rigondeaux up, and went to work. His footwork allowed him to dance around Rigondeaux, and his ability to throw with speed from nearly any angle left Rigondeaux
Rigondeaux vowed to come back. “I’ll fight against anybody, because there’s no excuses. Lomachenko really wasn’t doing anything, it wasn’t about the weight, it was just the hand and I could not continue. I do give Vasyl Lomachenko credit though, he is an excellent boxer.”
Lomachenko landed 55 total punches to just 15 in six rounds for Rigondeaux. All Rigondeaux could do is duck and hold. It’s difficult to see how Rigondeaux hurt his hand with so little offensive output. It’s more likely he hurt it as part of a defensive clench or hold. Lomachenko pulled away sharply out of a clench in the first round, and this could have been enough. But a true champion continues even when hurt. Miguel Cotto fought six rounds with a torn left bicep muscle. As Kelly Pavlik famously said, this is why you have two hands.
Rigondeaux may live to fight another day, but he damaged his reputation with his “no mas” moment. it’s difficult to imagine what kind of offers are left for a defensive-minded tactician who struggles to put fans in the seats.
Lomachenko said he doesn’t consider himself the top pound for pound fighter in the world today. “So what [if I have won three times in 2017]. They’re not big wins. Maybe they’re big wins for the fans but not for me.” It begs the question: what would Lomachenko consider a big win? It will be fun to find out.
Lomachenko’s star should continue to rise. It woud be a wise move for him to follow the example of lightweight champion Terence Crawford and unify the 130-pound super featherweight division, then pursue the bigger prey at 135 pounds, and perhaps eventually at 140 pounds. Miguel Berchelt holds the WBC title, Alberto Machado of Puerto Rico recently won the WBA title; the IBF title is currently vacation. Berchelt would provide Lomachenko an aggressive, fun to watch opponent.
Undercard winners at Madison Square Garden: Conlan, Jennings, Mayer, Stevenson, Diaz
Former Olympians had strong performances on Saturday’a undercard in New York.
Two-time Olympian Michael Conlan of Ireland (4-0, 4 KOs) returned to the scene of his professional debut, going the distance for the first time as a professional in a six round featherweight bout and winning a shutout unanimous decision (60-54 on all three cards) over Luis Fernando Molina (4-3-1, 1 KO). The popular young Irishman had a solid performance, taking his time and perhaps using the opportunity to develop his skills rather than pressing more aggressively for a knockout win. Top Rank already has a hold on the Theater for a Conlan fight on March 17, 2018, opponent TBA. Mark your calendar.
“I felt comfortable in there, I felt I used my boxing skill very well,” said Conlan. “I’m happy to get the rounds, my next fight is back here in the Garden on March 17, eight rounds … I want to be ready for it.”
2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (4-0, 2 KOs) put what he learned sparring with Vasyl Lomachenko to use in his sharpest performance as a professional. Stevenson scored a second round TKO win over Oscar “El Coyote” Mendoza (4-3, 2 KOs). Stevenson didn’t knock Mendoza down, but he dominated the bout. Referee Sparkle Lee decided she’d seen enough at 1:38 of Round 2 when Mendoza seemed unable to do anything but cover up as Stevenson came at him.
Of sparring with Lomachenko, Stevenson said, “It helped me a lot. Vasyl Lomachenko is one of the best out there.”
2016 American Olympian Mikaela Mayer (3-0, 2 KOs) went the distance with a tough Nydia “Tha Phenomenal” Feliciano (9-9-3) winning a majority decision by scores of 40-36 X2 and 38-38.
Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (22-0, 13 KOs) won the NABO junior lightweight title with an impressive show of speed and power in his TKO victory over Bryant Cruz (18-3, 9 KO). Diaz knocked Cruz down in round one with a short right counterpunch, and again in the second round with a left hook to the body. Cruz could only survive 37 seconds into Round 3 after a barrage of punches from Diaz, and Harvey Dock stepped in to stop the punishment. An emotional Diaz fell to the canvas upon winning.
“This means a lot of hard work. I dedicate this victory to all of Puerto Rico … I said two weeks agao I’m going to be the next superstar. (Miguel) Cotto is retired. I’m going to fight the best fighters for a world title … I’m here for a long time.”
Opening the card, former world heavyweight title challenger Bryant “By-By” Jennings (21-2, 12 KOs) needed just three rounds to stop Don “Mr. JBT” Haynesworth (13-2-1, 11 KOs) in his first fight since 2015. It’s a pleasure to see the Philadelphia native active again in the heavyweight division.
Jose “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (8-0-2, 2 KOs) and Adan Gonzales (3-1-2, 2 KOs) fought an entertaining eight round featherweight bout to a majority draw. Don Ackerman had it 58-56 for Jose Gonzalez, with the others scoring 57-57.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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