Lomachenko goes Jackal Hunting
Anatomically described as a medium-sized omnivore closely related to dogs and wolves in the genus Canis. They are an animal built for long distance travel and are opportunistic hunters.
Metaphysically speaking the jackal in western culture evokes a clever, wily creature not to be trusted. Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the Egyptians was closely linked to their dogma of rebirth through mummification.
The Golden Jackal which ranges over the vast territory in the middle east was mentioned 14 times in the Bible.
So Guillermo Rigondeaux, known as El Chacal the Jackal is similarly regarded as a clever and crafty hunter and no less than one of the true boogeyman in all of boxing.
On the hunt for the jackal is a young Ukranian with mesmerizing gifts and abilities in the squared circle.
The perfect hunter for an elusive and intelligent quarry is a similarly skilled one.
This coming Saturday the 9th of December Vasyl Lomachenko takes on Guillermo Rigondeaux, a victory that would cement him in the minds of fans and media alike as a truly great fighter.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s hunting season!
If you have been following BOXRAW on social media over the last month or so you will have no doubt seen some promotional info regarding the partnership between Vasyl Hi-Tech Lomachenko and BOXRAW to co-promote the brand. And we could not be more excited!
BOXRAW is immensely fortunate to have a stable of fighters who represent this brand from all over the world and are themselves the absolute class of the sport from regional fighters to other world champions.
Vasyl Lomachenko could have signed with well-known sportswear companies and likely made millions but Lomachenko’s style in and out of the ring meant that he was willing to go a different way.
He is a unique fighter and we are a unique brand.
So now the commercial is out of the way, I write this all by way of explaining that I nor BOXRAW make any pretence toward objectivity in this fight - we are 100% Team Lomachenko! However, we are also massive fans of Rigondeaux.
Please follow this link to read the piece I wrote earlier this year about Guillermo Rigondeaux if you don’t know much about the man. He has an amazing, inspiring story that is also quite heartbreaking in some respects.
The Way of the Jackal
Guillermo Rigondeaux is arguably the best amateur boxer to turn professional - certainly of this generation and maybe ever. He is a seven-time Cuban National champion - no easy feat since Cuba’s amateur boxing system is the envy of the entire world. He is a two time World Amateur Champion and of course a two time Olympic Gold medalist. It’s this fact and his purported record of 463W-12L in the amateur ranks...nearly 500 amateur bouts that supporters of Rigondeaux usually point to as evidence that the man has otherworldly boxing ability. And they would be right.
However, he’s far from invincible.
The official record states that Guillermo Rigondeaux (often ‘Rigo’ for short) was born 30 September 1980 making him 37 years old. However, due to notoriously poor record keeping and the Cuban penchant for fudging their real age, it’s possible, in fact, likely that Rigo is older than this stated age. Possibly 40 or even older. You would never know it though to look at him.
At 5’4” walking around very close to the Super Bantamweight limit is the physical ideal of perfection.
Rigo is almost beautiful.
Dark brown skin. A jaw like a razor. High cheeks cut by a diamond with deeply set chestnut brown dispassionate eyes and a body that ripples with muscle.
Rigo turned pro in 2009 almost immediately after arriving on US shores following his second attempt at defection. Once the first bell rang Rigo proved he was levels above his competition. In just his seventh fight he positioned himself to contend the interim WBA World title at Super Bantam. Rigo managed to score a knockdown over seasoned opponent Ricardo Cordoba in the 4th but was himself knocked down making the job a little harder for himself than necessary. The fight took place on the undercard of Pacquiao vs. Margarito seven years ago this past November. Rigo’s PPV debut arrived with much fanfare and ended for many with a shrug. Rigo’s defensive-counterpunch-based style could not be understood by the wider boxing fan base and on a bill with sluggers like Pacquiao & Margarito topping the bill they can be forgiven for their ignorance.
Three years would elapse before Rigo would get another shot at a big fight on a ‘big’ stage when the Cuban put on a clinic against Nonito Donaire on a primetime HBO card. Though Rigo would unify the WBO & WBA Bantamweight titles a chink in the Cuban’s armour was again visible as Donaire was able to deck Rigo in the tenth - mind you Rigo never appeared hurt and sprang up before the referee counted to “1” but the damage was done. In a fight Rigo had thoroughly dominated two of the judge's cards became uncomfortably close; Tom Schreck scored 112-115 and John Stewart scored 113-114.
A steady stream of victims continued to fall at the feet of the man many hardcore boxing fans called the #1 pound for pound best fighter in the world along the way Rigo developed the reputation he has now - the ultimate high risk, low reward fight in boxing - end of.
What manager wants to put their fighter with a guy like Rigo that conventional wisdom says can’t draw a dime and will probably break your fighter’s face - yeah, really. Ask Jazza Dickens, Hisashi Amagasa or Teon Kennedy.
I have first-hand experience with Rigo’s other problem. Poor promotion. Earlier this year before the fight was first scheduled with Moises Flores to unify the WBA regular and WBA Super title I called Mundo Boxing his Miami based management team to arrange an interview with Rigo. Being a fan of his I thought any press would be good press and his team would be willing to arrange something. What followed was a frustrating wild goose chase.
The man who answered the phone spoke little English and gave me a number to a man I was told was Rigo’s doctor, Rigo was in his office to give blood for pre-fight medical screening. I called that gentleman who said Rigo was not there that he was actually coming the next day to do those labs that he was actually at sparring today but that I should call back the next day.
When I called the doctor’s number several times the next day the phone only rang and rang and rang.
It’s no secret that Rigo has bounced around between managers and promoters and even trainers.
With the sand constantly shifting under his feet at a certain point one has to start asking if Rigo is getting in his own way. And that as much as the way the mainstream boxing public views his style is hurting him professionally and financially.
Cuban National Teammate and “co defector” Erislandy Lara is another example of how not to market a highly skilled and highly unpopular boxer.
The Sin of Bitterness
Rigo and whoever runs his Twitter account have been very vocal about wanting “the big fight” and have taken exception in particular to Lomachenko’s success and the adoration fans and the boxing press have lavished upon the Ukrainian. Much of which is understandable. Their amateur records and accomplishments are nearly identical there’s overlap in their professional achievements as well. However, Lomachenko has resonated with fans for a number of reasons.
Lomachenko's ambitions are no less grandiose than Rigo’s. He wants to be regarded as the best boxer pound for pound in the sport. He wants to earn enough money to construct a comfortable life for himself and his family since both men know what it’s like to live in communist/post-Soviet countries. However, to the average boxing fan, Lomachenko has done far more to make himself accessible. He’s learning more English and tries to give interviews pre and post-fight in English. He has a real sense for the crowd and though some people find his antics off-putting - Freddie Roach even went so far as to say “he [Lomachenko] lost a fan” after clowning Miguel Marriaga, his last overmatched opponent.
Of course, the counter-argument is boxing needs characters and compelling athletes to get fans to tune in and Lomachenko is all of that and then some. His team has gotten Bob Arum and massive cable sports provider ESPN to buy in, as Lomachenko is part of the Triple Threat of fighters along with pound for pound contender Terrence Crawford and none other than Manny Pacquiao as the tent poles of this deal.
So fine. Be careful what you wish for Rigo. Now you have your fight.
For the better part of two years, Rigo and his team agitated for this bout, with no shortage of accusations coming from the Rigo camp that Lomachenko and others like Carl Frampton and Luis Santa Cruz were ducking him and that all three moved up in weight to avoid fighting him. Nevermind the logic of fighting men moving up in weight to box other fighting men who would be bigger and punch harder being a sign that you are feared and avoided however that was a popular narrative certainly among many die-hard Rigo fans. Nevertheless, attempts were made to get the fight between Lomachenko and Rigo signed and they broke down largely over money and weight.
At this point Team Rigo no doubt realize that their time is now or never.
Lomachenko has gone on to solidify himself as a good draw and a two-weight world champion. He’s the “A” side so everything that seemed like an impediment to the fight being made Team Rigo has had to capitulate.
Rigo is the definitive “B” side and the fight is at 130 pounds, eight pounds above Rigo’s home at Super Bantamweight.
Much has been made of the size difference between the two men however objectively speaking Lomachenko is not the hulking beast he’s made out to be.
Height is nearly equal, Lomachenko will have a two-inch height advantage, however, Nonito Donaire, still Rigo’s biggest win had a 1 ½” height advantage. Amagasa came down from Featherweight to battle the Cuban and towered over Rigo at 5’ 10 ½” so yes size matters, however, the skill set of the two men and their comparable size seems to be a none factor. Lomachenko does, of course, cut some weight to make 130 pounds and will have a larger frame, but the mobile Rigo with his precise pivots should be more than capable to play matador.
Rigo does enjoy one anatomical advantage; he has a 2 ½” reach advantage. This does play into Rigo’s preferred fighting style with is to sit back in an exaggerated bladed stance, distract with a pawing jab to land his left straight to the body or the head and Rigo covers distance so well when he strikes it may as well be a 10” reach advantage.
The fact that both men are southpaws though is an interesting dynamic. For us the viewing public and media anyway.
Not likely for Loma or Rigo. with a combined 870 plus amateur fights, countless years sparring are we to believe that neither man is capable of handling a tricky southpaw?
Tactically the concept of achieving outside foot position will be less important. In a Southpaw vs. Orthodox matchup, the ability to flank your opponent to throw and land punches at will is a massive advantage and something both men do better than anyone in boxing at the moment. However here, both men will be staring into a mirror.
Roughly six months after Rigondeaux squashed Nonito Donaire in primetime Vasyl Lomachenko made his debut and KO’d Jose Ramirez to claim the WBO International Featherweight title. The first Olympian to claim a title in his pro debut. Of course, we know Lomachenko fell short in his next fight in a bid to capture the vacant WBO featherweight belt against grizzled vet Orlando Salido who purchased an advantage coming in overweight and fouled Lomachenko repeatedly. Still, Lomachenko made a good showing and late in the fight was battling back against the odds and forced a split decision.
Particularly instructive is how Lomachenko came back in his next fight. Barely three months later Lomachenko faced another highly decorated amateur and southpaw Gary Russell Jr. Like Rigo, it was believed that Gary was too fast, too skilled and plainly too much for Lomachenko. Here again, the two men fought for the vacant WBO featherweight title. In the early rounds Gary had success with his jab, however, Lomachenko worked every possible angle, feinted and presented a constantly moving target.
Gary flashed some combination punches but was ineffective - Gary was unable to sit down on anything of note to hit the elusive Lomachenko with or push him back, the relentless Lomachenko attacked Gary’s body viciously and the later rounds were a virtual whitewash.
This will be a key tactic against Rigo, pressuring with footwork - not unlike GGG, not allowing Rigo to dictate range. By doing so he will force Rigo to fight inside where the slight size advantage will benefit Lomachenko and disarm El Chacal’s ability to land those surgical left-hand punches. He will punish the Cuban’s body and set up the lead uppercut-left hook that Lomachenko throws so often and sent Rocky Martinez to the Netherrealm and while Rigo can’t be described as “chinny” and he’s never been KO’d Rigo has been down several times already against lesser fighters than Lomachenko. While not possessing concussive power, the KO of Martinez aside, an accumulation of hard accurate punches and bewildering pressure has forced his last three opponents to quit on the stool.
That fact cuts to the heart. Lomachenko is the most intelligent pressure fighter since perhaps Roberto Duran.
Many critics of Lomachenko see his dynamic footwork as flashy or reckless. So too, many thought Duran was a wild brawler, missing the subtle intricacies of how Duran used overwhelming pressure and movement to make his opponent uncomfortable. The slight slips and rolls Duran used to avoid much punishment himself. The hand fighting, traps and grappling Duran employed, swimming under his opponent's arms, outmanoeuvring them and delivering his punishing body attack.
Only time will tell if Lomachenko can rise to the level of mastery an icon like Roberto Duran. However interesting similarities abound including the dominance the latter exhibited at 135 pounds one breath away from Lomachenko’s current division.
What some see as wild and chaotic I see a Martial Artist. Not just a boxer.
Vasyl Lomachenko flows and crashes like water around his opponents - to paraphrase the late Bruce Lee because Lomachenko is such a finely tuned instrument of destruction he’s able to calculate within a millisecond where he needs to be in relation to his opponent and fill that space with pressure and pain.
In reality, these two men - Guillermo Rigondeaux and Vasyl Lomachenko are two of the most gifted boxers we will see in a ring at the same time in my lifetime. On that level alone both men deserve the utmost respect.
However, as I said this is no time for neutrality. Lomachenko is a part of the BOXRAW FAMILY and family sticks together.
So the weapons are clean and ready.
The permit has been stamped. A fresh Jackal pelt will look good on the wall.
So you choose how to lose Rigo - on your back or on your stool, like everyone else.