So a fight for the Boxing purists, a fight which was history in the making and a fight between arguably the two finest ring technicians in the game today ended like a movie – as in the box office flop. You know the feeling, you’ve been looking forward to watch a movie at the cinema, it’s got great actors, a great storyline, it’s got the medias attention, hype is slowly building up to a boiling point and then you go to watch the movie and nothing. It stinks, you come out feeling something wasn’t quite right and something was missing – and you want your money back. Why was the movie so bad when it had all of the ingredients to be a classic?
Well boxing fans were left with that same bitter taste after experiencing the shambles which was Guillermo Rigondeaux v Vasyl Lomachenko last night. Let’s make it clear, none of the blame can be attributed to Lomachenko, the Ukrainian came out as we expected, the more aggressive of the two but Rigondeaux was nowhere to be seen, content to duck and weave under punches and clinch his opponent, he threw very few punches and just did not look like he wanted to win at all.
Rigondeaux has often played the sympathy card during his career, it can be argued that usually he was right, shunned by the big networks and avoided by the best fighters, he never received the recognition and accolades a man of his talent deserved. This was supposed to be the day Rigo vindicated himself, where he was finally in the spotlight and could showcase his talent to the world, a good performance here would set him up for more fights and more money, he had the chance to prove he wasn’t what everyone said he was and silence his critics.
Instead though, Rigo ended the fight with more critics than he started with and became the 4th man to quit on his stool against Hi-Tech Lomachenko. But Rigo didn’t appear to be hurt, he had not been wobbled by Loma, he had not taken a lot of punches or much damage, all that appeared to be happening was that Loma was outworking him and Rigo was not returning fire so the fight was mostly Loma throwing and missing punches, then Rigo going in for the clinch. There was some wondering why Rigo was not countering and throwing that thunderous left hand of his, it was supposed to be his best weapon in the fight, using it to keep his fleet footed aggressive opponent honest and prevent Loma from dancing forward the whole fight. But then all of a sudden, with Rigo falling further and further behind on the scorecards(not to mention having a point deducted for excessive clinching) he failed to come out for round seven, there wasn’t even an inkling that anything was wrong which made it all the more surprising and more confounding why he was not coming out for the next round. News quickly broke that Rigo had hurt his left hand in round two and had complained to his corner of the pain after rounds two and three. What the injury was, whether it was broken or not we don’t quite yet know, only Rigo knows how bad the pain was, Rigo has never been one to show emotion, his stone face never changes so you never know what mood he is in, perhaps that is why the critics are so upset, because Rigo has always looked like he doesn’t care and in this fight, he fought like he didn’t care.
There is an unwritten rule in boxing – fighters don’t quit yet Lomachenko is forcing fighter after fighter to swallow his pride and put aside his ego and to quit in the ring, you’ve got to give credit to Loma here, although Rigo wasn’t really being troubled by Loma, you got the feeling he gathered he wouldn’t be able to mount much of a charge in the second half of the fight and would suffer a lopsided points loss and so decided he wasn’t having any more of it. But herein lies the problem of Rigondeaux, a supremely talented boxer, why did he not go out on his shield? Only last week we saw Miguel Cotto rupture his bicep leaving him to fight with one arm for the latter half of his last ever performance in the ring, did Cotto decide well I’ve had a long and storied career, I don’t need to continue here. No, Cotto continued to charge on with one arm, he took the loss but he saw the bell and the end of the fight, he wasn’t going to end his career sitting on his stool having quit. Earlier in the year David Haye ruptured his achilles in a fight with Tony Bellew, one he was largely expected to win, Haye fought on for five rounds on just one leg before his corner threw in the towel – Haye didn’t quit, he would have fought on if Shane McGuigan didn’t throw in the towel! The stories of boxers battling through pain are endless, Ali endured a broken jaw and continued to the end against Ken Norton. Danny Williams, the British Heavyweight famously won a fight with a dislocated shoulder, knocking out his opponent with his one arm. If you want to compare hand injuries because that was the injury Rigondeaux suffered, then there are countless boxers who fought on with broken hands, I just mentioned David Haye against Tony Bellew, well Bellew suffered a fractured hand during the fight at the same moment Rigondeaux injured his in last nights fight, round two or three, Joe Calzaghe fought on and also won with a broken hand, Tommy Morrison fought on with not just a broken hand but broken jaw and won the fight – imagine having to take a heavyweights punch when you already suffering from a broken jaw! Andre Ward defeated Carl Froch with a left hand broken in two places, Deontay Wilder beat Chris Arreola with a broken hand(and torn bicep) last year, the list goes on….
What Rigondeaux did is take the easy way out because he just wasn’t interested, perhaps at his age he was looking for one last pay day before he packs it in, having fought just three rounds in the past two years perhaps he has been so used to having his way in the ring that when he came up against someone as talented as he was, he just was not used to having to struggle and really stretch himself so decided enough was enough, ring rust and inactivity are a boxers worst enemies and once he was deducted points for clinching did he think he was now out of options? Can’t punch can’t clinch, bigger, stronger, younger opponent, why go on? Perhaps Rigo just doesn’t care, always happy to only dance to the beat of his drum or perhaps the pain really was so bad that he couldn’t continue.
El Chachal says he will be back, that he will fight anyone, but who will believe him? Will any TV network or promoter want to give him a shot after last night’s bizarre performance? Will he be offered any sizeable amount of money to fight again? To make matters worse, Rigondeaux was stripped of one of his 122lb titles due to inactivity. It would be a shame if his career ended in this manner, he has been so good for all of his career, to end it in this manner, quitting in his biggest fight, a fight that would have done more for his legacy than any of his other fights, both pro and amateur is a bitter pill to swallow, and I say this as a fan of Rigondeaux, he is one of my favourite fighters, maybe that’s why I am so annoyed, because I knew he was capable of so much more last night, he was like a hidden treasure that could have finally been shown to the world last night, but on the biggest stage of his career he was a no show, instead he will stay hidden, possibly forgotten and only remembered for refusing to come out to fight in round seven, whilst his conqueror Vasyl Lomachenko continues on his rapid rise to boxing super stardom.