A legacy down the drain



Because I was too busy over the weekend, I failed to follow through live streaming over social media the supposed marquee fight between Vasil Lomachenko of Ukraine and Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba. Well, good thing I never devoted a single minute following the fight, because that would have been a total waste of time.

The Cuban counterpuncher and two-time Olympic gold medallist quit before the start of the seventh round, claiming an injured left hand, which resulted in the Ukrainian gaining a stoppage win. Ringside reporters said Lomachenko, also a two-time Olympic gold medallist, dominated his opponent, who was challenging the Ukrainian for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super featherweight (126 pounds) championship.

Rigondeaux is the WBO and International Boxing Organization super bantamweight (118 pounds) world champion and World Boxing Association super world champion in the same weight. With two regular world titles and a “super” world title, many fight fans were expecting the Cuban to give the Ukrainian a stiff challenge, and both fighters entered the ring over the weekend with impressive records: Lomachenko boasting of 9-1 with 8 KOs and Rigondeaux 17-0 with 11 KOs.

But the fight almost turned into a borefest if it were not for Lomachenko’s efforts to up the fight’s tempo; Rigondeaux stuck to his usual style of waiting for his opponent to launch an attack so he can counter, and clinching instead of infighting. In the fifth and sixth rounds, Rigondeaux clinched Lomachenko more than a dozen times.

While Lomachenko landed only a few telling shots on the Cuban, it was obvious from the very first round that Rigondeaux absolutely had no answer against the fighting style of his Ukrainian opponent. And many regarded Rigondeaux as one of the most outstanding counter punchers and ring technicians today alongside Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward, who are both undefeated until now.

The Cuban quitting before the start of the seventh round because of a left hand injury will have a telling effect on his legacy, since most elite fighters do not quit because of injuries. Just take the case of Manny Pacquiao who fought full 12 rounds in his megafight against Mayweather, even if the Filipino claimed after the fight that he had a right shoulder injury.

Nonito Donaire Jr. even finished a few of his championship fights with a bloodied hand or two, but we never saw him quit.

So don’t blame Donaire, who lost to Rigondeaux in a title fight in April 2013, if he has very harsh words for the Cuban. The unwritten rule in elite championship fights is very simple: you just don’t quit even with an injury. Again, just take the case of compatriot Pacquiao.

Even Lomachenko said he would continue fighting if he was the one who had a hand injury. The Ukrainian added he defeated in November 2014 Thailand’s Suriya Tatakhum even if he injured his left hand. That fight was part of the Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri undercard, which was an opportunity for the Ukrainian to demonstrate his skills to the world.

“So it depends [on]you. If you wanna win, if you wanna fight, you’re willing to die in the ring,” Lomachenko told boxingscene.com.

Maybe Rigondeaux was no elite fighter from the start, as his resume will show he fought only one real elite opponent in Donaire. On the other hand, Lomachenko stamped his class after he beat via stoppage in the eighth round Jamaican knockout artist Nicholas Walters in November last year. Walters was 25-0-1 with 21 KOs when he fought Lomachenko. Among Walters’ stoppage victims was Donaire.

At this point, I feel very sorry for Rigondeaux as his showing against Lomachenko over the weekend exposed the weaknesses in his skills and mettle. If Rigondeaux was afraid of going down or stopped, then he doesn’t belong to the ranks of elite fighters who suffered stoppage losses but still went down fighting. And Donaire and Pacquiao are among those fighters.

I mean, just imagine if Pacquiao quit on his stool in the middle of his fight against Mayweather because of a shoulder injury, or Donaire just turned his back against Walters as he got pummelled badly by the Jamaican prior to the sixth round?

The great Roberto Duran quit in his second fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in November 1980 but claimed that he found it frustrating fighting against a “clown.” But one way or the other, fight fans gave Duran a second chance to redeem himself and the Panamanian boxing legend went on to register big wins against elite opponents and lost some, including crushing loss to Thomas Hearns in the second round in June 1984.

So will Rigondeaux be given another chance by boxing fans? Maybe, if he fights elite opponents and does not quit, even if he is losing a fight. Otherwise, his legacy will surely go down the drain.


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