Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, both champions and two of boxing's best, were even more than that as amateurs.
They were the gold standard.
So a fight between them seemed natural, the first professional bout pitting fighters who each won two Olympic gold medals.
They fight Saturday at the Theater in Madison Square Garden for Lomachenko's 130-pound title, a popular pairing for fight fans who marveled at their mastery of the craft back when the prizes were medals around their necks, not belts around their waists.
Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) won Olympic gold in 2008 and again four years later in London fighting at a different weight, the highlights of an amateur career in which the Ukrainian compiled a 396-1 record. He won a 126-pound belt in just his third pro fight in 2014, has made three defenses of the 130-pound title he won in 2016, and is likely headed for a move up to lightweight next year.
The Olympic gold medalist for Cuba at 119 pounds in 2000 and 2004 would have preferred it at a lighter weight, where he wouldn't be giving up size to a fighter who has the offensive arsenal of Lomachenko. But 130 pounds was where Rigondeaux, 37, had to go to get the opportunity that has eluded him throughout his unbeaten career, even when he toppled Nonito Donaire in 2013 in a fight that gave him another title but not really many more fans.
His defensive-minded style was the way to pile up the points as an amateur, where on top of his Olympic golds he also won world titles in 2001 and 2005, and Pan American Games gold medals in 2003 and 2005. But it hasn't done much to make him marketable as a pro, where Lomachenko's six straight victories by stoppage demonstrate the kind of aggression casual viewers favor.
"I don't think it's going to be the kind of fight everyone is waiting for," Lomachenko said. "You know his style. I need to chase him. I need to do this and not forget my defence because he will wait, wait, wait and wait."
"It is a historical bout and most importantly it is an interesting bout for me. A lot of time was spent to make this bout. For a while it was never happening and finally it happened. It is very, very interesting and all of the boxing fans wanted to see the bout and finally we can deliver it."