The War Report: Idle hands (Week 49, 2017)
“Let him solve it. We’ll see if he can solve it. It’s one thing to say it and it’s another when the demon is standing in front of you. He can say what he wants – you this or you that – It’s just me, him and the ref. When the bell goes ding, let him solve it.”
One of the few truisms everyone can agree on, when it comes to Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux, is the unabashed disposition that reeks from the Cuban defector. It’s even written on his lifeless face and, in this Spanish interview, a few weeks before last Saturday night, when approached with the idea that WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko has to solve his style to prevent a boring fight, Rigondeaux unapologetically welcomed the idea. It was one of many things said between the two camps leading into last weekend, as these idle hands, which earned two Olympic gold medals each, were set to exchange in New York City.
Over the past few years, these two boxing wizards from opposite ends of the earth have been mentioned together often but, with Lomachenko moving up in weight to seek a challenge, the match-up was thought to be more fantasy than reality, in recent time. You wouldn’t know it from the minimal promotion the fight received in the months leading up to it but, once the fight was announced, the Madison Square Garden Theater was sold out within 48 hours.
After six complete rounds, the fight was over.
Citing an injury to his left hand, Rigondeaux, 17-1 (11), was in the middle of an outclassing that couldn’t really be justified by the difference in size and weight. Lomachenko was quicker, much more assertive and swarmed the defensive-minded Cuban like no other had done before. Lomachenko solved his riddle and, by the end of the sixth minute of the contest, Rigondeaux resorted to some dirty tactics in the fight, which started with holding the back of his counterpart’s head while throwing punches, in that moment. Eventually, the frustration led to some excessive holding throughout the fight by Rigondeaux, not to mention, straying low a few times before referee Steve Willis had enough of his antics and docked a point from him toward the end of the sixth. Having not won a single round, perhaps that was the last straw for Rigondeaux before realizing his hand hurt and calling it quits. For a man in his position, that was probably the worst thing he could’ve done.
Lomachenko, 10-1 (9), a staunch Christian who clutched a rosary during Thursday’s final press conference, was immaculate in his performance and, as he peered into Rigondeaux’s corner in the moment Rigondeaux quit, you could see the Ukrainian mouth, “No mas?!” It was the fourth opponent in a row Lomachenko convinced he had no chance of winning. While he took part in some trash-talking as well, Lomachenko actually backed it up and evidently did his homework on a complex fighter whose career could be best described as fervently avoided. Even under the guise of victory, after it all, Lomachenko still put things in perspective for those watching at home.
“He’s a good fighter. He’s a top fighter,” Lomachenko said about Rigondeaux, when interviewed by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna. “He’s a king in boxing but he’s a king in his weight category. (Junior lightweight)’s not his size; it’s not his weight – so it’s not a big win for me because it’s another weight category.”
One may wonder how Rigondeaux got to this point of surrender. Well, being inactive, nearing 40, moving up two weight classes and at the tail-end of what has been a tumultuous professional boxing career, idle hands are the devil’s playthings and, considering he signed up for this, there are no excuses…