By Ben Jacobs
Next month sees two of the best fighters in the world square off against each other at Madison Square Garden in New York City when unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) steps up to challenge WBO super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs).
In what is a dream match-up for boxing purists, and despite the obvious top quality of both men, the fight is seen by some as a mismatch due to the weigh disparity with the Cuban leaping from 122lbs to 130lbs.
Respected coach Pedro Díaz told BoxingScene.com this week from their training base in Miami, Florida that he sees the contest as more of a question of ability rather than weight.
“Rigondeaux has more quality than Lomachenko, he’s a better boxer,” insisted Díaz.
“The thing is, Lomachenko has had more help, especially with the media. But we’re not worried about that. On December 9 the world is going to see once again who Rigondeaux is, because he’s done it before, and he’ll do it again.
“For me Nonito Donaire was more dangerous than Lomachenko, in terms of punching power, plus he was the Fighter of the Year in 2012. He also had a great team. I don’t want to comment on Lomachenko’s recent fights, he throws a lot of punches but he doesn’t punch hard, and Donaire punched hard. Lomachenko is a southpaw as is Rigondeaux and you’re going to see a surprise.”
2017 marks the first time since 2014 that Rigondeaux will have fought on two occasions in a calendar year. In his last bout in June, he controversially knocked out Moisés Flores at the end of the first round, but the bout was later declared a no contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission having decided that the punch was landed after the bell.
A year prior to that, ‘El Chacál’ travelled to Cardiff, Wales where he stopped James ‘Jazza’ Dickens in the second round, fracturing the Liverpudlian’s jaw in the process. Having had difficulty getting fights for various reasons, Díaz believes that Rigondeaux’s critics will be changing their tune after this encounter.
“All the press that have been influenced in such a negative way, that have said that Rigo doesn’t sell tickets, that he’s boring and doesn’t put on a show, they’re going to be the same ones giving him the credit he deserves and putting in the position he deserves in boxing.
“I want to know which boxer in the world goes up two weight divisions to fight the supposed best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport? Who does that? Rigo is not taking this fight for money, he’s doing it for honour and to show that he’s the best in the world. When Rigo wins they will give him the credit that he deserves.
“People who really know boxing know the quality that Rigondeaux has, but boxing politics has come out with the ‘Rigo doesn’t sell tickets’ line. Why have the other champions at these weights not wanted to go up and fight Lomachenko? Rigondeaux is the one with the quality and the balls to do it, and to beat him too.”
Any concerns about Rigondeaux’s 37 years of age are dismissed by Pedro who maintains that the Cuban’s dedication and lifestyle have ensured he remains the same boxer he was a few years ago.
“Rigo isn’t affected by age,” Pedro affirmed.
“He lives for two things, his family and for boxing. He doesn’t have any vices. He wakes up early, he takes care of himself, he eats healthy food, he trains every day, he’s happy and he’s going to win this fight.
“There is a clause in the contract that says that Lomachenko, at 9am on the day of the fight cannot weigh more than 138lbs. We’re not worried about what he does. I don’t believe Rigo will weigh more than 130lbs on fight night, but he will be at an ideal weight. We will take his speed and power up in weight.
“I have good friends close to the Lomachenko camp, and I’ll say this, Lomachenko needs to sleep well in camp because on December 9 he’s going to have a nightmare.”