by Cliff Rold
While unsatisfying, it might have been the most fitting end.
Guillermo Rigondeaux fought in the way that worked best for him over the years. Even as some of his fights, night like Joseph Agbeko and Drian Francisco, drove fans mad with their inaction, he won and moved on. He was a fighter who refused to adjust his style to expand his fan base, no matter the calls to do so.
If that meant stubbornly letting lesser guys hang around when he might have been able to knock them out sooner, more violently, it didn’t matter. It was all calculation and cerebral determination; rarely an outward expression of passion. On Saturday, that same stubbornness was apparent as Rigondeaux refused to go out on his shield.
It was a rational action from the all calculation fighter.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Lomachenko A; Rigondeaux A/Post: A; A-
Pre-Fight: Power –Lomachenko B+; Rigondeaux A-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Lomachenko A; Rigondeaux A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Lomachenko A; Rigondeaux A-/Post: A; C
There was always a distinct possibility Saturday would not be an action classic, but the idea of the precise Rigondeaux perhaps finding a way through the movement and volume of Lomachenko was intriguing.
The Cuban did take some shots. He landed some nice body shots, a few subtle inside uppercuts, and a missile of a left hand just missed in round five. He also showed off the effortless ability to slip punches that can be taken for granted. There was a moment in the fight when Lomachenko pulled of a nice showboating move, spinning around a hunched Rigondeaux.
ESPN showed a replay of the moment, marveling at Lomachenko’s clowning ability. Hard to miss in the replay was a sustained flurry of shots that all seemed to miss.
Of course, the problem in facing someone as sharp and offensively steady as Lomachenko is that even when they’re missing they are still landing too. Lomachenko showed his ring IQ early, altering the angle of his lead left to find a home for it.
In the end, Lomachenko was too big, too quick, too smart, too young, and too good for Rigondeaux. His style was the perfect counter to Rigondeaux’s and he outboxed him more than he physically beat him up.
For Rigondeaux, the surrender left a bad taste with many and it may make it easier to keep avoiding him at his natural 122 lb. domain. Given his age, he likely doesn’t have a long time left anyways. His win over Nonito Donaire in 2013 should have been enough for at least one other notable Jr. featherweight to try him.
It was not and nothing about the loss Saturday makes what happened the last few years competitively excusable. It also doesn’t excuse the ending for folks who expect different from a fighter.
Contrast Rigondeaux surrendering the way he did to fellow 37-year old Orlando Salido on Saturday, defeated on a separate card later in the night. Salido went out swinging because that’s who he is and always has been. His approach as the Arturo Gatti of the 20-teens, a transformation as his legs and reflexes slowed, resulted in at least half a dozen classics.
It might not be fair to expect everyone to lose the way Salido did, but Rigondeaux never appeared to go for broke or dare greatness on Saturday. Instead, a great talent saw no reason to risk a beating in a fight where he was in checkmate. Maybe his hand was hurt.
His mind was beaten more.
It was ultimately the most Rigondeaux ending it could be.
Lomachenko moves on now and whether that means at Jr. lightweight or into the lightweight class remains to be seen. There are interesting foes out there from Miguel Berchelt to Jorge Linares to Mikey Garcia in what has “fight of a generation” type potential to it.
Lomachenko is going to be a favorite for all of them. They still have to fight the fights. It could be a lot of fun.
Report Card Picks 2017: 44-18
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org