SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Several ESPN boxing experts have proclaimed Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko the sport’s premier pound-for-pound fighter. Promoter Bob Arum has referred to his client as the most skilled boxer he has ever seen, including the legendary Muhammad Ali. After Lomachenko’s latest victim, Guillermo Rigondeaux, refused to leave his corner to start the seventh round of their feature bout at Madison Square Garden on December 9, the above ESPN pundits nicknamed the Ukrainian “Nomaschenko,” incorporating the Spanish phrase “no mas,” as in no more. Rigondeaux wanted “no more” of Lomachenko after the first six rounds, clearly showing his advanced age and long stretch of inactivity.
Lomachenko made boxing history by winning the first professional match against a fellow two-time Olympic gold medal winner. He easily disposed of his Cuban challenger, who quit while sitting on his stool and claiming an injured left hand.
Lomachenko has now made his last four opponents quit: Rigondeaux, Miguel Marriaga, Jason Sosa and Nicholas Walters.
“The only thing I can say is you guys are seeing something really special,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said in an ESPN interview on December 9. “The body of work from this kid is something that is virtually incredible. I’ve never seen anything like this. 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.”
Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO) easily retained his junior lightweight WBO world title for the fourth time in a much-anticipated battle against junior featherweight world title holder Rigondeaux, who moved up two weight classes to face his fellow southpaw.
The smaller, older, less active Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KO), who had boxed only three rounds in the past two years, showed very little as Lomachenko toyed with him from the opening bell. Rigondeaux said the pain in his left hand began in the third round and got worse. It was his first loss since a 2003 amateur fight.
In spite of making boxing history with his victory, Lomachenko did not consider it that big a deal.
“This is not his weight, so it’s not a big win for me,” the proud Ukrainian said in a post-fight interview on ESPN. “But, he’s a good fighter. He’s got great skills. I adjusted to his style, low blows and all.”
Lomachenko, 29, set the tone early with his jabs and more active approach while Rigondeaux, 37, landed a few body shots. The Cuban began holding his opponent in round two, only to have Lomachenko breaking away and nailing him with a solid right hand. Lomachenko refused to get tied up and referee Steve Willis had to forcefully break up the fighters several times.
By the fourth round, Rigondeaux had swelling around his right eye from several Lomachenko shots, and in the fifth round he was warned again for repeated holds. The Ukrainian’s domination was so strong Rigondeaux had no choice but to grab hold or risk getting knocked down and out.
Frustrated by the constant holding in the fifth round, Lomachenko threw a punch at Rigondeaux after the bell. Referee Willis finally took a point from the Cuban for holding in the sixth round, drawing cheers from the crowd and putting Rigondeaux into deeper trouble. He never got up for the seventh round.
The fight was heavily anticipated and sold out months prior (5,102 attendance at MSG’s The Theater), primarily because the two boxers ranked among the elite fighters in the world pound for pound, and are widely considered two of the best amateur boxers in history. The two won a combined 859 amateur fights, with Lomachenko going 396-1 and claiming Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012. Rigondeaux fashioned an amateur record of 463-12, including Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 for Cuba. Each boxer also won two world amateur titles.
Past achievements did not help Rigondeaux in his match against Lomachenko. Heading into the sixth round, Lomachenko was ahead 60-53, 59-54 and 59-54 on the scorecards. The Ukrainian landed 55 of 339 punches (16 percent) and the Cuban connected with a scant 15 of 178 (8 percent).
Next on the horizon could be a jump to the 135 pounds weight class (lightweight) and a challenge to Jorge Linares or Mikey Garcia. Lomachenko, who won a featherweight world title before moving up in weight, may go to lightweight for his next bout in the spring. For now, his plans were to enjoy his latest overwhelming victory and the upcoming holidays.