Search and Destroy Mission at the Garden: Hi-Tech Hunts the Jackal

By Christian Giudice on December 9, 2017
Search and Destroy Mission at the Garden: Hi-Tech Hunts the Jackal
Neither Lomachenko nor Rigondeaux has exhibited any serious flaws. (Photo: Courtesy)

What makes this the dream matchup for the “purist” is the competitive nature of the bouts as well as the contrasting styles…

When one watches Vasyl Lomachenko perform, the experience can be tantalizing. A boxing juggernaut, WBO Super Featherweight champion Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) offers fans a smorgasbord of feints, angles, and combinations. With a supreme focus combined with brief episodes of entertainment (often a byproduct of boredom), Lomachenko can be so dominating that even his fierce offensive attack can get weary sometimes. Conversely, his opponent on Saturday evening at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Cuban pound-for-pound specialist Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs) does not spark the same passion and is more business-like when entering the ring. Searching desperately for opponents to defend his 122-pound WBA Super Bantamweight belt against, Rigondeaux has been forced feast on less than stellar opponents, and in the process, has fought in only a handful of bouts over the last five years. In a move to resurrect a fading career, Rigondeaux will be moving up eight pounds on Saturday to challenge Lomachenko for his 130-pound belt.

In a clash of styles where Lomachenko is hell-bent on dictating a furious pace, and Rigondeaux is more concerned with a more calculated approach, the potential for strategical warfare is palpable. What makes this the dream matchup for the “purist” is the competitive nature of the bouts as well as the contrasting styles. More importantly, Lomachenko and Rigondeaux have never been exposed; in fact, since their magnificent amateur careers, neither fighter has exhibited any serious flaws. That doesn’t mean all reviews have been gushing endorsements.

Most critics praise what the engaging fighter Lomachenko is willing to do to get his audience involved in comparison with what Rigondeaux isn’t. What that translates to is that Lomachenko hunts his opponents, whereas Rigondeaux stays in his comfort zone until he feels threatened or sees an opening that involves little to no risk. Then he uncoils and attacks with astounding speed. Don’t, however, mistake him for a miniature version of his talented countryman, Erislandy Lara. Lara purposefully eschews confrontation; Rigondeaux may not seek it out, but he also doesn’t avoid it at all costs. Therefore, the “boring” tag doesn’t fit.

However, what makes this matchup special is that any controversy outside the ring has been silenced by what may happen inside of it. Inside the ring, Lomachenko has done exactly what he has wanted, when he has wanted as a champion (since his third bout). Anybody who has witnessed Lomachenko’s growth recognizes that his constant movement, endless angles, and swift combinations create a rhythm that reflects a youthful brilliance. The opening round will set the tone: expect it to be a fast one. Anyone who faces Lomachenko has to be prepared to adapt to his pace; often, they have no option. Both men paw with the jab, but use the tactic in different ways: Rigondeaux tries to find an opening for his left hand, while Lomachenko goes high and then low and does it with speed so that he can set up combinations. Comparatively, Rigondeaux’s jab is slower and he doesn’t usually double up on it. 

When working off his jab, Lomachenko can do so many things—hook off of it, set up combos, land a straight left followed by a right hook—that an opponent can never take a breather; conversely, Rigondeaux has access to that arsenal, but doesn’t seem as comfortable moving away from throwing a jab and straight left. Why should he? The approach has worked wonders. However, as the smaller fighter, Rigondeaux has to be extremely cautious with a formidable puncher like Lomachenko, who hurts opponents through a vicious accumulation of power shots. Although Lomachenko doesn’t have the one-punch power to KO a superstar in Rigondeaux, each punch pays dividends and could exhaust a smaller fighter in the same vein that Gennady Golovkin did to Canelo Alvarez.

Offensively, Rigondeaux, who can lead or counter effectively, naturally feints to his left as he analyzes opponents early on in a fight. Additionally, he often crouches down almost touching the canvas to seemingly get leverage on his opponent, but has gotten nailed in the past against Nonito Donaire.  A similar tactic may leave him vulnerable to Lomachenko’s short left hook. Defensively, Rigondeaux, who tends to move to his right, occasionally employs head movement, but never, under any circumstances, drop his left hand. Thus, he is always in position to punch or protect himself; Lomachenko takes the opposite approach as he drops his hands, provokes his opponent to come forward, and uses significant head movement.

But what drives everything is the way Lomachenko uses his foot movement. So talented, Lomachenko can make mistakes, put himself in harm’s way, and still win rounds easily. Why is it so attractive for the serious as well as the casual fan? Because he—and maybe one other fighter in the sport—is capable of controlling a fight in such a manner. That’s the draw. That’s why he is the guy next in line to carry the pound-for-pound mantle.

Ultimately, the fight comes down to how Rigondeaux will fare against Lomachenko’s pressure. It’s unlike any type of pressure that he has encountered professionally. It’s not smooth like a young Hector Camacho or as intense as Wilfredo Gomez; instead, Lomachenko’s pressure is defined by momentary ambushes where he steps in waits, moves away, and then returns. Conditioning-wise, Lomachenko can make those attacks take any shape or form. Although Rigondeux is not comfortable with a fast pace, he’s very skilled in keeping off fighters with a looping right hook to ensure space or even a quick step back move to lead into a quick straight left. He will land against Lomachenko, counter him coming in. If Lomachenko gets too close, Rigondeaux will immediately clinch to stop his movement. In the end, however, Lomachenko will prevail with an impressive decision victory. He has too much at his disposal for even a great fighter like Rigondeaux to handle. That’s not a condemnation on Rigondeaux, but merely praise for a fighter hitting his peak—and still climbing.

Christian GiudiceAuthor: A Fire Burns Within: The Miraculous Journey of Wilfredo Gomez
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran


Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Galvar 08:33pm, 12/09/2017

    No excuses.  If PAC can go fight bigger guys then Rigo should too.

  2. Matt 12:03pm, 12/09/2017

    Alveres is a pussy. He lost the first time ! He’ll lose again !!!

  3. Mikee 09:57am, 12/09/2017

    Title should read Jackal hunts Hi-Tech.  After all, Rigondeaux is the one jumping two divisions to make the fight.

Leave a comment