The cult of Guillermo Rigondeaux is small, but as the term “cult” might suggest, it’s pretty devoted. It’s had to live underground with Rigo’s long career hibernation that dates back to 2013, the year of his one and only major win against Nonito Donaire, with only the occasional decent win since. If the cultists have remained faithful all that time, you wonder how much deprogramming they’ll need after Rigo got humiliated this weekend by a far superior fighter, Vasyl Lomachenko.
It feels like bullying to pick on such a tiny subset of adherents, but when they get to write 3-billion word treatises on large websites like Deadspin, their propaganda gets a megaphone. “Rigondeaux is the better fighter by far,” Charles Farrell wrote in advance of the fight. There was no evidence of this flat declarative beforehand. There’s a lot less evidence of it now.
The problem with Rigo is that except for one win, his pro excellence was largely theoretical, and there was plenty to contradict it besides. Make no mistake, Rigo is, or was, a very, very good fighter, the kind to hang around the pound-for-pound top 10. But one win against any opponent of any elite caliber isn’t enough to give him the kind of p4p king status Farrell and other Rigo cultists wanted to give him. On the second point about “plenty to contradict it besides”: Rigo constantly gets knocked down by scrubs, and there aren’t a ton of p4p king-worthy types out there getting dropped by the kind of guys Rigo got dropped by on the regular.
And it’s no coincidence he gets knocked down. “His style is defined by technical perfection and the absolute absence of any unnecessary movement,” the same outlet wrote of Rigo post-fight. It’s not just a shaky chin that abets Rigo’s serial trips to the mat, though. It’s also that his stance is just about as wide as any fighter you’ll ever see. So, yeah, not so technically perfect.
But even if he was technically perfect, Rigo’s whole approach is flawed. “Rigondeaux never throws many punches, and there have been rounds where he’s thrown nearly none,” Farrell wrote. “If you were a competent judge of boxing, you’d understand that he won those rounds nonetheless.” (Eye roll.) Look, yeah, you CAN win rounds with a punch count of “nearly none,” but in rounds where almost nothing happens, the guy who threw “nearly none” is 95 percent of the time going to deserve to lose that round. Saying that isn’t about incompetence; saying the opposite is gymnastics on behalf of your fave.
And this brings us to the winner of this weekend’s junior lightweight fight on ESPN, Vasyl Lomachenko. Farrell would’ve had you believe Lomachenko’s activity and versatility was some kind of flaw. That’s a big “no.” Lomachenko had a size advantage, for sure. Lomachenko had an age advantage. But let’s say you could make equalize both of those things. What percentage better would it make Rigo in a fight with Lomachenko?
That number would have to be REALLY high for the fight to have been any different. Lomachenko beat Rigo easier than he has beaten absolute non-contenders. Again, Rigo is or was really, really good, and like Loma he was one of the best Olympians ever. Loma defeated him easily. Super, super easily. Ya know why? Because Rigo couldn’t land more than three punches in a single round. For all his “technical perfection,” he somehow couldn’t land MORE THAN THREE PUNCHES IN A SINGLE ROUND. Maybe, and just maybe, it’s because Loma was the better fighter all along. OK, dropping the sarcasm: Loma was the better fighter all along. And one of the reasons he was the better fighter is that he was capable and willing of eclipsing a punch count of more than “nearly none.” The only way “nearly none” applies to Loma here is as a measurement of the fighters on this planet who are better than him right now.
Various other points from this weekend’s boxing!
- I’ve historically taken fighters at their word when they say they were injured. But Rigo’s supposed hand injury came in a fight where he was getting flabbergasted and embarrassed. And considering he only 15 chances the whole fight to hurt his hand by hitting anyone with it, and considering he never landed anything all that hard, yeah, I’m calling shenanigans.
- Of course Orlando Salido’s final fight was a war. He lost to Miguel Roman over on HBO in another junior lightweight fight, like every fight discussed here, but it was fitting. Gonna go out on a bit of a limb here and suggest: Hall of Fame? Without doing the math, just eyeballing it, Salido was in nearly as many Fight of the Year contenders as Arturo Gatti, and that guy’s in the Hall. Plus the win over Lomachenko, plus the win over Juan Manuel Lopez when he had p4p cred, plus beating a number of top 10 contenders… If I had a vote (and I don’t [and haven’t sought one]), I’d probably vote for him.
- I’m surprised HBO commentators didn’t have at their recall another comparably gory ear injury at their recall as Stephen Smith’s ripped-in-half ear flopped around gushing blood. Antonio Margarito vs. Sebastian Lujan, anyone? Francisco Vargas’ ear-ripping still wins that showdown, probably, though. And here’s the part where this blog post moves on because we’ve talked too long about ear-rending.
- Let’s get this out of the way first before moving on to a secondary point: Tevin Farmer absolutely deserved the win over Kinichi Ogawa Saturday night. And his back story is great. But I’m not as impressed by his in-ring potential as the gushy HBO team. He let Ogawa win too many moments of too many rounds, and got him more than a supposed defensive savant should. Let’s hold up on this stardom talk, Home Box Office.
(Photo: Vasyl Lomachenko lands on Guillermo Rigondeaux; via)