Around two weeks ago at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, I got into a little bit of verbal sparring with legendary Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz about his fighter, the great Guillermo Rigondeaux. As the press corps formed a circle around Team Rigondeaux, asking one boring ass question after another, I'd had enough.
“Look, when is Rigo going to have a superfight? He's running out of time. Isn't that the reason why you started training ‘El Chacal' near the end of his career?” I asked, pointedly, of Diaz while looking at Rigondeaux for effect.
A medley of truthful frustration of pent up venom of the unleashed variety ensued.
Diaz then went on a soliloquy longer than the time it took for Rigondeaux to earn a ‘No Contest' after striking Moises Flores with a sledgehammer ever so slightly after the first round. He mentioned things like Rigo's great showings in Japan and the general lack of respect he's afforded while demonstrating artistry that is ‘no different than Floyd Mayweather', for which he followed up by saying is ‘better than what we see from Vasyl Lomachenko'.
Each time he answered questions from different media, he would look in my direction, as if still searching for the right answer to those questions. At the end of the session, Diaz made his way over to me enthusiastically.
“I respect your candid questions,” Diaz allowed through interpretation, while allowing for a one-on-one interview with Rigondeaux for NY Fights. “This (Rigondeaux) is one of the greatest fighters of any generation, but he has been treated with disrespect. Respect that we plan to get.”
“Well, who can he fight specifically for this respect and when? Is Lomachenko who you're really referring to?” I followed. After a standing eight count exchange of direct eye contact with a wry grin, Diaz fired an unequivocal and confident, “Yes”.
Moments later, with Rigondeaux in front of me, I asked him if he can indeed fight beyond 126lbs. His response was cryptic, honest and very telling; revealing I think he wasn't at all aware of Diaz's desire for him to face Lomachenko.
“Now you're asking me to jump two weight classes. But fine, give me the right check and I'll fight a heavyweight,” said Rigondeaux, with defensive animation and hyperbole.
For Rigondeaux, a heavyweight is exactly what he would be facing in Lomachenko.
LOMACHENKO V RIGONDEAUX
Much was made of Rigondeaux's April 2013 baptism of Nonito Donaire. It is thus far the signature moment of the amateur greats' so-so professional career. I was present that day at Radio City Music Hall and very sure that what I was watching wasn't on par with Mayweather's artistry. It presented a mental conundrum that ultimately lead to both underrated and overrated when assessing Rigondeaux. What was so great and special about Mayweather's “Pretty Boy Floyd” was his ability to constantly punch with great opponents at both featherweight and super featherweight. He never bored us at all at his best weight, where he was greater than anything he produced at welterweight. Rigondeaux's shown reluctance to engage at his best weight removes favorable comparison to Mayweather- and Lomachenko.
When Floyd moved up in weight and became “Money” he retained his speed while being much more careful with great power/speed. He generally stayed away from it– after being tested on even terms with a simply above average fighter in Zab Judah (who dropped him if we're fair). Do you think Rigondeaux could handle Mayweather at 130lbs? I don't think so. In fact, I think Floyd would've stopped him for the same reasons Lomachenko would. He's bigger, stronger and much more willing to engage than Rigondeaux is accustomed to.
This fight would be a lot like Sugar Ray Leonard V Wilfred Benitez in some ways. Almost like watching a 12 round science fiction movie in the ring, for both of them would showcase a skills fest. Their amateur greatness is virtually a dead heat, but Vasyl has demonstrated much more toughness and resolve as a pro with a willingness for risk. At the elite level, any small advantage becomes great, and Lomachanko would eventually crack all of the hidden China in Rigo's chin. Here's to crossing my fingers that it'll happen. If it does, I think a fairly even and highly intriguing contest becomes a Lomachenko slaughter after six or seven rounds. Vasyl Lomachenko would KO Guillermo Rigondeaux at or around the 9th round.