If a boxing “superfight” can be defined as an eagerly awaited showdown between two supremely talented prizefighters, then Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux is a “superfight,” albeit one only die-hard fight freaks can love. It’s a match-up reserved for connoisseurs, something exceedingly rare and complex, an acquired taste, so to speak. Presumably the organizers of the contest recognized this some time ago and decided it was also a fight barely worth promoting, which is a shame, but it’s also not surprising. The lack of buzz for Loma vs Rigo continues an unfortunate narrative connected to the career of the unique fighter they call “El Chacal.”
Rigondeaux, widely regarded as one of the most crafty and skillful boxers alive, will be entering the ring on Saturday for only the eighth time in five full years. That’s an abysmal activity rate for an elite-level fighter who isn’t announcing his retirement every 18 months. Considering that most observers agree that the Cuban is a very special pugilist, it’s almost tragic. Some blame Rigondeaux himself for this, while others blame the sorry state of boxing in the 21st century. Either way, Saturday night’s appearance is only the second time that a boxer who some regard as a generational talent has the chance to demonstrate his uncommon skills on a truly big stage, the first being back in 2013 when Guillermo humbled Nonito Donaire.
But if Saturday night represents an opportunity for Rigondeaux to flip the script and finally take himself to a higher altitude, it also represents something significant for the man they call “Hi-Tech.” In contrast to his Cuban opponent, Lomachenko’s career is moving fast and its trajectory and momentum will only become irresistible should he vanquish “El Chacal” in impressive fashion. However, a defeat at this stage, to a fighter both older and smaller, will bring him crashing down to earth and necessitate a return to the proverbial drawing board, not to mention a reevaluation of his current standing as an all-time great in waiting.
Bottom line: the stakes are high and the two southpaw talents involved are beyond exceptional, so yeah, it’s a “superfight.” The general public will no doubt take little notice, but for hard-core, die-hard fight fans, this is, without question, a must-see match-up. And those are the only kind of boxing fans you’ll find at The Fight City. Without further preamble, our picks.
Stepping up two weight classes is a tall order anyway, but the fact Rigondeaux is also challenging a strong candidate for the position of world’s best boxer makes it an almost insurmountable task. Even worse, the Cuban is also up against it from a stylistic standpoint. Rigondeaux is a low volume counter-puncher, whereas Lomachenko is a high volume aggressor, but not a reckless one.
For my money, Rigondeaux will have a hard time keeping up with Lomachenko, especially if his punches prove less effective at the higher weight. That is why the physical aspect is so important, as it will strongly influence how the fight plays out stylistically. Rigondeaux is a boxing savant with sublime footwork and defensive skills, but his power plays a crucial role in taming his opponents and dictating the pace.
Another thing to consider is how Lomachenko may be better equipped to deal with fellow lefties. When you have a “matched lead” encounter such as this, the front hand and foot are no longer in conflict and, tactically, this could pave the way for “Hi-Tech’s” more conventional jab and two-fisted body attack. To see what I mean, take a look at Lomachenko vs Russell Jr. and Rigondeaux vs Cordoba.
Rest assured, because of his busy, eye-catching style, Lomachenko will be favored by the judges unless Rigondeaux is undeniably dominant. And for that to happen “El Chacal” must either lure Lomachenko into a left hand and knock him out, or force him to severely reduce his output with timely counter-punching. I doubt, however, that an undersized Rigondeaux will have the physicality or power at 130 to do either. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Lomachenko turns out to be the bigger puncher.
I hope I’m wrong and the fight ends up being a chess match of the highest order, something like the brilliant technical duels between James Toney and Mike McCallum, or Pernell Whitaker and Buddy McGirt. But I suspect we’ll see something more like Carlos Monzon vs Jose Napoles, or Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Juan Manuel Marquez; in other words, a physical mismatch. Lomachenko by unanimous decision or late round TKO. — Lee Wylie
The best match of the year or, at the very least, the best since Ward vs Kovalev II. Why? Because Loma and Rigo may well be the best boxers in the world. Make no mistake, the greatest of this time and place in boxing history could be decided on Saturday night. And who will win? In my opinion, Rigo. The man is just too cool a cucumber to be spun, overwhelmed or frustrated by Loma. Ever since the loss to Salido, Loma has never, not for a single second, seen things not work in his favor and I suspect he will be flustered by Rigo’s poise. “Hi-Tech’s” size and power must be taken into serious consideration but, if Rigo’s at his best, while Loma will have his moments, the night will belong to “El Chacal.” Rigondeaux by decision. — Sean Crose
These are two fighters who may be somewhat similar in approach, if not style, but one is just far, far closer to peak form. Whereas Guillermo Rigondeaux’s sharp offense and defensive movement are still impressive at 37-years-old, he can still be touched and it doesn’t take an elite fighter to do it. Vasyl Lomachenko’s combinations and evasive darting require the sort of reflexes that border on precognition, and he’s smack dab in the middle of his prime at 29. If Rigondeaux is in the shape he claims to be in, the age might not be a massive issue, but size almost certainly will. Lomachenko just has too many advantages here. If Rigondeaux were to pull it off, major accolades should go his way. I don’t think that will happen. Lomachenko by decision. — Patrick Connor
This is do or die for Rigo. As an attraction, he’s not worth much, plus he’s difficult and demanding and just an all around pain in the ass for the powers that be in the fight game. Lomachenko is being groomed for stardom; Rigondeaux is being prepped for slaughter. But the Cuban is no dummy. I’m pretty sure he understands the stakes and knows nothing less than the performance of his life is required on Saturday night. My guess is he brings it and Lomachenko finds himself in some very unfamiliar territory. This is the dangerous side of being so talented and dominating: when you finally face some real adversity, you don’t know how to react. It’s going to be a tactical match, likely long on jousting and jabbing and short on action, but after 12 rounds, to the shock and dismay of many, the Cuban’s hand will be raised. That is, unless the judges get it wrong, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least. — Robert Portis
The athletics of boxing is one thing and the business of it another and I think people are overlooking the possibility that this match may be happening because it has the potential to be something more than just a vehicle to make Lomachenko a star. Certainly it would do boxing some good if we get performances which fulfill the loftiest of expectations, if both men’s reputations are enhanced by 12 highly competitive rounds. Perhaps a Loma vs Rigo rivalry is just getting started, as I suspect we will see a rematch if it goes to the cards. And betting on a draw doesn’t seem all that stupid with odds of 25-to-1.
It’s also rare to get 4-to-1 odds on one of the sport’s all-time-greatest practitioners, his generation’s genius nonpareil (yes, people, Rigo, not Floyd). Size and weight are of course paramount — no factor is more important in boxing — but it’s a mistake to dismiss Rigondeaux as merely a live underdog, to not realize that the potential is there for him to out-fox the bigger man. Think invincible George Foreman losing to an older Muhammad Ali, or an aging Pernell Whitaker making a prime Oscar De La Hoya look like a novice. I’m struck by the lack of appreciation some have for “El Chacal.”
I think the bout will be close, with much chess and psychology in the early going. The first handful of rounds could be difficult to score due to a lack of sustained action but they may set the overall tone for the judges’ cards. Rigondeaux will likely throw some bombs early to gain respect. Whether he can really damage Lomachenko is the question, and I believe that he can, especially given the bigger man’s proneness to busting up. Anything can happen once the punches with bad intentions start flying in the middle rounds, but I suspect both men’s stock will be higher when it’s over, especially Rigondeaux’s. Lomachenko by close decision. —Michael Ezra
As usual the consensus will more than likely be with the Ukrainian, and as usual I have to buck the trend. I’m no fan of how Lomachenko got an easy ride to a title shot and the big money, whereas Rigondeaux got the complete opposite treatment. As usual, the smaller fighters don’t get the respect they deserve and, as usual, a great smaller fighter is forced to go up and battle outside his realm in order to reach the dollars and respect that the higher weight classes enjoy. The people picking The Jackal to win are true purists of The Sweet Science and in addition to that, I choose him out of respect. Rigondeaux by decision. —Manny Montreal
On paper Loma vs Rigo is a terrific matchup, and a fitting way to wrap up a 2017 that brought us Ward vs Kovalev 2, Joshua vs Klitschko, and Canelo vs Golovkin. However, I have a bad feeling Loma vs Rigo might end up being the least spectacular of these best vs best fights, for two obvious reasons: age and weight. Lomachenko holds decided advantages in both departments, and while a case could be made Rigo is already showing signs of slippage, it’s inarguable that Lomachenko continues to improve and may be at his peak. I just can’t see Rigondeaux hurting Lomachenko, but I can envision The Matrix turning it up once he realizes The Jackal’s punches don’t bother him, if they even reach him. Loma by clear decision. —Rafael Garcia
The old saw says a good big man beats a good little man, but for me this match is more a case of a good young, active boxer beats a good old and inactive one. While the extra weight certainly matters, with two guys this intelligent and skilled, I just don’t see brawn or power being the decisive factor. The fact that Rigondeaux is 37-years-old compared to Lomachenko’s 29, plus the fact he’s only boxed three rounds in two fights over the last two years, compared to 28 rounds and four fights for Loma, tells the story of this match-up. I still see ‘The Jackal’ making this an interesting and competitive fight, and can’t wait to see the high-stakes chess unfold, but I have to go with the younger, more active and more dynamic fighter. Lomachenko by decision. –Matt O’Brien
While the fight’s variables inform against Rigo, I suspect Lomachenko will bring out a better version of him than we’ve seen since his win over Nonito Donaire. Even that won’t be enough to overcome Loma’s greater size, but Rigondeaux is too good not to enjoy a few fine moments. I am most excited to see what sort of fight plan Rigondeaux employs. So confident in his ability to think around lesser fighters, he is now facing a boxer whose brainpower may match his own. How will he mitigate Loma’s speed and activity? Will an alchemy of guile, experience and skills be enough to thwart the machine-like pace he will likely see? However artistically-inclined a “boxer-painter” Lomachanko professes to be, there is still much substance to his approach, and overwhelming advantages in weight, age and institutional backing make him a clear favourite. The heart says Rigo, but the head sees Loma by majority decision in a fight where “El Chacal’s” subtle brilliance finds a few holes in “Hi-Tech’s” armour. — Eliott McCormick
As great a fighter as Rigondeaux is, all the odds are stacked in Lomachenko’s favour. Someone has made the comparison to Mayweather vs Juan Manuel Marquez, and it’s a good one. The Ukrainian’s size is a distinct advantage, but setting that aside for a moment, he’s also the younger man by nearly 10 years. He’s been busier as a professional, too. I think his footwork, power and eye-catching cluster attacks will win the day. Rigo is a master but he is too small and I can see him struggling to get off on such a busy, fluid fighter. It’s almost always the case that you can’t pull the trigger at 37 the way you could at 27. Loma is in his prime and Rigo has probably crept past his. Factor in the size and it seems like a no-brainer. Lomachenko by decision. —Ronnie McCluskey
Rigondeaux will be victorious. The way this genius has been marginalized is nothing less than a black eye on the sport. This is arguably the best match-up of the last two decades and Rigondeaux is one of the all-time greats. This fight will prove it. — Gary Elbert
Lomachenko has been more active and is naturally the slightly larger man and I think those factors combined with his work-rate will prove to be the difference. Rigo is a master of negating opponents’ pace and activity but I think Loma has the additional skill and versatility to adapt to that. I see a result in “Hi-Tech’s” favour, in a fight to be appreciated for its subtleties rather than a crowd-pleasing affair for the masses. Lomachenko by decision. — Damien Burton
I’ll leave the truly in-depth analysis of Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux to Lee Wylie. Both are master boxers, so in a match-up of two pugilists with genuinely genius ring IQs, it makes sense to go with the younger, faster, bigger, and more dynamic fighter and that’s Lomachenko. This is still a difficult match to call, and it would have been downright anxiety-inducing to pick it just a couple of years ago, but perhaps there’s no need to overthink the ultimate thinking-person’s fight. Lomachenko by unanimous decision. — Zachary Alapi
It’s a tough match to call but I’m going with The Jackal. I think he has more ring aptitude, is trickier to catch plus, overall, he is the more intelligent fighter. Lomachenko is highly skilled but he hasn’t been tested by someone of higher caliber, much less someone of Rigo’s caliber. Rigondeaux by decision. — Sheila Oviedo
In his short career as a professional boxer, Lomachenko has shown that he can beat his counterparts in a variety of ways. His lateral movement, quickness, footspeed and head movement make him difficult to hit. His positioning forces opponents to lunge in an effort to land quality punches, thus leaving openings for his crisp counters. All that said, Rigondeaux is the best pugilist Loma has faced to date. So expect some entertaining moments with some good exchanges, but don’t expect a Rigondeaux victory. Lomachenko by decision. —Thad Moore
It goes without saying that Rigondeaux is an excellent boxer, but Lomachenko’s in his prime, more active, red hot, plus the bigger man. I just don’t see him getting schooled by the Cuban. The only danger I see is if “Hi-Tech” is underestimating Rigondeaux, but I think that’s unlikely. Lomachenko by decision. — Simon Traversy
Unlike many fans who don’t appreciate his style, I’m mesmerized by Rigondeaux’s patience in the ring. His silent efficiency is terrifying. Though he’ll be stepping up in weight, I think he’ll be the more dangerous fighter on Saturday night. Lomachenko is prodigiously talented, but he is not particularly powerful and the Cuban has a two-and-a-half inch reach advantage, which will allow him to strike while maintaining his distance. Rigondeaux is too quick and too intelligent to get caught by Lomachenko’s angled shots and he’s too disciplined to be goaded by “Hi-Tech’s” ring theatrics. Still, I’d like to see what happens if the Ukrainian is foolish enough to wave an imaginary bullfighting cape at “El Chacal.” My vote is for patience, power, and skill. Rigondeaux by decision. — B.A. Cass
Have to hand it to Rigo for jumping up two weight divisions to take on the younger, fresher talent in his prime. In a match-up the likes of which we may never see again, one between two double Olympic champions, the ultimate question is whose style will prevail? Will it be the Ukrainian’s varied and high-volume offense or the Cubans air-tight defense? I can’t help but go with Rigondeaux in this one. He’s so good at lulling his opponents into his fight and rhythm, just like Bernard Hopkins did so many times, and I see Rigo doing the same here. While the Ukrainian will provide his stiffest test to date, I think The Jackal will pull this one out. Rigo by decision. — Jamie Rebner
Despite his relative inactivity, Rigo doesn’t strike me as someone to gather ring rust, but the weight difference is just too much. And while the Cuban can bang, so can Loma. It’s hard to say which is the superior technician; both have the angles, power and footwork to cause havoc against any elite fighter. But Loma’s current momentum and the size advantage should see him get the win. Lomachenko by stoppage. — Sherif Dhaimish
Some will point out that Lomachenko hasn’t faced anyone close to Rigondeaux in terms of skill and ring smarts, but the converse is also true, plus the latter has been terribly inactive for some time. Yes, these are two special talents but one is older and smaller and I just cannot envision the Cuban securing the younger man’s respect to the extent that he can control the fight and win rounds. In the later stages Rigo will tire, while “Hi-Tech” will only become more dominant and aggressive. Lomachenko by TKO.
— Michael Carbert