By Andreas Hale
The December 9th showdown between Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the most highly anticipated fights in all of boxing. So much has already been written about Lomachenko and Rigondeaux being arguably the two greatest amateur boxers of all-time.
There have also been words written about Lomachenko having the opportunity to seize sole control of the #1 spot on boxing’s fictional pound for pound list.
But what we aren’t talking about is whether or not Rigondeaux becomes the new pound for pound king if he’s able to dethrone Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Unlike Lomachenko, Rigondeaux isn’t nearly as cut and dry as Lomachenko is when it comes to the pound for pound conversation. He may be undefeated, but Rigondeaux hasn’t truly wowed boxing fans since the systematic dismantling of Nonito Donaire in 2013. Since then, his career has been a combination of ho-hum fights and mediocre opponents.
We’ve had to rely mostly with the eye test when it comes to the Cuban’s skills. Those skills are undeniable, but, admittedly, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has been hard on the eyes of boxing fans.
Rigondeaux is the ultimate rubix cube that chews up opponents who dare try to toss their leather at him. This usually results in a “wait and see” approach as Rigondeaux’s opponents become more and more tentative.
As for Rigondeaux, he’s perfectly content with waiting until his opponent does something before going to work. This has led to a number of frustrating fights where Rigondeaux and his opponent are engaged in an epic battle of stares rather than an exchange of punches.
But considering Lomachenko’s penchant for going on the offensive, Rigondeaux should have plenty of opportunities to counter his Ukrainian foe. Whether he can do so successfully against a fighter who is two weight classes above him and seven years younger will be the interesting part.
What if Rigondeaux pulls of the upset? And the word “upset” is the operative word considering that he’s a significant underdog at the sports books. But those who watch boxing wouldn’t be all that surprised if Rigondeaux managed to win the fight. If he does, where does he land on boxing’s pound for pound list?
There’s certainly a case for him to be #1. According to Ring Magazine, Rigondeaux is the #4 pound for pound fighter while Lomachenko is #3. Gennady Golovkin sits at #1 while Terence Crawford holds the #2 spot. Surely, the space between these four fighters is extremely narrow. ESPN’s P4P ranking finds Lomachenko in the #2 spot behind GGG with Rigondeaux at #7. Over here at Boxing Scene, Cliff Rold places Lomachenko in the #4 spot while Rigondeaux is at #6. With Gennady Golovkin’s draw against Canelo Alvarez and Terence Crawford unable to land a Top 5 opponent, a Rigondeaux victory should set him up for that top spot. However, things get complicated depending on how he manages to win.
If Rigondeaux were to stop Lomachenko, it’s likely everyone would move him to the top spot. However, there would be some hesitation if you take overall resume into consideration. Rigondeaux would have turned back two of Bob Arum’s rising stars, but there’s really nothing outside of that.
Rigondeaux’s resume doesn’t stack up as well as Crawford or Golovkin’s do. And there’s always this looming idea that perhaps we’ve overrated Lomachenko. He may have wiped out Nicholas Walters and Roman Martinez, but neither were pound for pound fighters. After all, Lomachenko only has 9 total pro fights.
As good as Rigondeaux has been, he’s certainly drawn a fair share of criticism for being boring. And boring is something that people may hold against him. It won’t help his cause if he manages to stink one out against Lomachenko, either. Hardcore boxing fans may appreciate the Cuban’s tactical skill, but nobody would go as far as to say that he’s fun to watch. He’s not as dynamic as Terence Crawford or as powerful as Golovkin. Winning a decision against Lomachenko will force people to make very tough decisions when it comes to what they value in a fictional pound for pound list. Be certain that Rigondeaux doesn’t check as many of those boxes as his P4P counterparts.
Nevertheless, Rigondeaux is a superb talent who would hold the most impressive victory of his boxing career should he beat Lomachenko. It has to be taken into consideration that Rigondeaux moved up two weight classes to challenge the champion and he should be rewarded for his effort. It will be an interesting debate to see what people’s thoughts are in the event that the Cuban pulls off the victory. Regardless of how he accomplishes the feat, if he’s able to beat Lomachenko, Rigondeaux should be the #1 pound for pound fighter in boxing. Whether the rest of the boxing community agrees will be an entirely different conversation.