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15 OCTOBER 2018

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Lomachenko Forces Rigondeaux To Quit In New York

Pic Mikey Williams Top Rank
Pic Mikey Williams Top Rank

By Derek Gionta, ringside:


Vasyl Lomachenko continued his rise among boxing’s pound for pound best on Saturday night by defeating Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, retaining his WBO junior lightweight title at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.


Lomachenko forced him to quit on the stool from a reported left hand injury after the sixth round in their twelve round main event televised on ESPN.


Up to that point, Lomachenko was in complete control of the fight between the two, two-time gold medal winners. This was the first time boxers with the mentioned Olympic accolades fought one another as professionals.


This fight took years to materialize but the deal was finally made for the fitting venue of Madison Square Garden’s Theater. A sold out crowd of 5500 witnessed the match of boxing royalty.


Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc., the former promoter of Rigondeaux (now promoted by Roc Nation Sports), 17-1 (11) 1 NC, and current promoter of Lomachenko, 10-1 (8), inked a deal with ESPN recently to begin televising their boxing events, which have created a positive buzz in the boxing world.


The two southpaws squared off at 130 lbs, two divisions about Rigondeaux’s natural weight class where he holds the WBA title at 122 lbs. Weigh-in results of 129 and 128.4 for the Ukrainian and Cuban respectively, were no indication of the size difference between the two.


Lomachenko had three inches in height and looked considerably bigger at the weigh ins as well as when the two met in the center of the ring.


Both fighters entered the fight on the Lb 4 Lb top ten list by ESPN (Lonachenko #2, Rigondeaux #7) with the WBO title of Lomachenko’s at stake and more importantly, bragging rights among two proud professionals that boast two of the most successful amateur boxing careers of all time.


Rigondeaux, trained by Pedro Diaz in Miami, Florida, started the fight jabbing and slowly gauging the distance in an expected feeing out round. His kept a tight defense and stayed out of Lomachenko’s range, earning the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards.


Things went downhill quickly as Lomachenko picked up the pace and snuck in some clean shots on Rigondeaux, sweeping the rest of the rounds up through the sixth and final.


Before the start of the seventh, the Rigondeaux corner called off the fight, sending shock waves through the Garden and pro-Loma crowd. A left hand injury was the cause according the Cuban’s corner.


Rigondeaux’s output went down each round as he made some swift defensive moves with minimal countering, a known strength of his.


The Cuban held and clinched Lomachenko often over the second through sixth rounds, finally prompting referee Steve Willis to deduct a point, causing more of a deficit.


Scores at the time of the stoppage were 59-54 x 2 and 60-53.


Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels reported to press level that Rigondeaux complained of the injury after the third round. Rigondeaux moments later told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna the injury surfaced in the second round. A tough outing for the 37 year old Cuban leaves some doubt for his future as many in attendance and press level believe he quit out of frustration and made up the injury.


"It was the hand, I wasn’t able to continue. He’s a great fighter," said Rigondeaux.


"I will come back."


Lomachenko, trained by his father Anatoliy, and managed by Egis Klimas, was content with the result, emphasizing the size difference between the two and his plans moving forward were simple.


"Whoever they put in front of me," said Lomachenko.


The idea of fighting Mikey Garcia was thrown out there multiple times by various writers at the post fight press conference, and Lomachenko responded, "Sure, I would fight Mikey Garcia."


Top Rank’s Carl Moretti explained that Vasyl will be going home to the Ukraine for the holidays and they hope to have him back in the ring around March, a plan obliged by Arum.


Two-time Olympian (2012 Bronze medal and 2016 appearance) Michael Conlan, 5-0 (4), of Belfast, Ireland, won a shutout over featherweight Luis Fernando Molina, 4-4-1 (1), of Argentina in the six round co-feature bout of the night.


Conlan went the distance for the first time in his young professional career, piling on points from his orthodox and consistent southpaw stance. Obvious scores of 60-54 across the board were read by Michael Buffer for the one and only TV bout that went the distance.


Conlan is scheduled to be back in action at Madison Square Garden March 17th.


Junior lightweight Christopher Diaz, 22-0 (14), of Puerto Rico, dominated late sub Bryant "Pee-Wee" Cruz, 18-3 (9), of Pt. Chester, NY scoring a TKO at 37 seconds into the third round.


Cruz took the place of Casey Ramos, who was said to have had an issue with his heart when tested during his medical exams a week before the fight.


It was reported that Ramos was cleared by the doctor but had a second opinion by his own doctor who advised him not to fight.


Promoter Bob Arum was questioned after the show if Ramos will suffer any sort of penalty for this. Arum responded, "No not at all, if it were my son I wouldn’t want him to fight if he wasn’t 100%."


Diaz, trained by Chino Rivas, opened up early and often against Cruz.


A counter right hand followed by a left hook dropped him in the first. Cruz held on and finished the round.


Things got much worse in the second.


Two more knockdowns by Diaz nearly finished Cruz, but the final knockdown compliments of his left hook and follow up barrage sealed the deal as referee Harvey Dock called the fight off.


A very emotional Diaz had this to say when interviewed by Bernardo Osuna, "I’m gonna be the next superstar of Puerto Rico. I wanna fight for a world title. I’ll fight anyone."


Ranked 6th at 130 lbs by the WBO, Diaz, now holds the NABO title along with his ranking and seemingly very bright future.


In the opening TV fight of the night, 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, 4-0 (2), of Newark, New Jersey, dismantled Santa Maria, CA featherweight Oscar Mendoza, 4-3 (1), by a second round knockout.


Stevenson, who has sparred Lomachenko leading up to this fight, felt disrespected lately for recent performances had this to say after his explosive finish.


"They gonna keep disrespecting me and I’m gonna keep picking it up."


Accused of holding a lot in the ring, Stevenson let it all out as he unleashed a series of single power punches followed by combinations to the head and body of Mendoza. By the second round referee Sparkle Lee made a good call to stop the fight at the 1:38 mark as Mendoza had no answer for the sharp southpaw.


Off-TV undercard bouts:


2016 US Olympian Mikaela Mayer, 3-0 (2), of Los Angeles, continued her rise in female boxing by defeating a game Nydia Feliciano, 9-9-3, of New York in a four round lightweight contest.


Mayer, at a clear height advantage, boxed well behind a stiff jab and complimented her attack with clean body shots over the duration of the fight.


Feliciano, a former champion, put up a game effort but not enough activity to earn a round on two of the judges’ cards. 40-36 x 2 and 38-38.


Secondsout scored the fight 40-36.


Mayer commented after the fight, "She was a tough fighter, I’m ready to step up to six rounders now."


Promoter Bob Arum is excited about Mayer and plans to have her headline a show in 2018.


A battle between two featherweights named Gonzalez ended as a majority draw which was a good fight from start to finish and by far the most competitive of the night. Jose Gonzalez, 8-0-2 (2), of New York, boxed conventionally from his southpaw stance while his foe, Adan Gonzales, 3-1-2 (2), of Denver, pressured and kept the fight in a phone booth every chance he had.


Jose shot his jab and a quick counter right hook in the opening moments while Adan fired a hard right hand square on the target, setting the tone that he came to win.


Back and forth action continued throughout the fight as Jose continued to throw sharp left hands to the face of Adan, while the Denver native did his best to rough up the local and spoil his homecoming.


By the midpoint all three judges had the fight even at 38.


Round five was uneventful as both fighters seemed to take a short break. An accidental head clash opened up a cut on the left cheek of Jose, leaving some work for his cutman before the pivotal sixth and final stanza.


Another back and forth round left the outcome in doubt. Jose landed a clean right hook near the end of the round causing Adan to shake his head. That seemed to be the telling blow of the round but only earned the New Yorker the round on one of the three judges’ scorecards.


Final tallies of 58-56 for Adan Gonzales and 57-57 x 2 was no shock to anyone ringside or in attendance.


Secondsout scored the fight 58-56 for Jose Gonzalez.


Philadelphia heavyweight Bryant "By-By" Jennings, 21-2 (12), had a successful opening bout, stopping North Carolina’s Donnie "Mr. JBT" Haynesworth, 13-2-1 (11), in the third round of a scheduled eight.

Jennings started the fight patiently behind his jab to the body, while Haynesworth looked to sneak in an overhand right and a couple left hooks to the body. None of which found the target.


Action picked up in the second as Jennings pumped his jab more, setting up power shots. Haynesworth was game in absorbing the blows and did his best to return left hooks to the body.


Jennings fired his right hand more in the third, the final stopping Haynesworth in his tracks on unsteady legs. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. took a good look at Haynesworth as the action came to a brief halt. Moments later he rightfully waved off the bout at the 2:29 mark. What seemed like a standing eight count was just a brief check on Haynesworth, which may not have been the exact way to handle the situation being that New York does not have a standing 8 count rule. However, the outcome was inevitable and Mercante kept Haynesworth’s health intact by stopping the action prior to the official end.


Jennings, the former world title challenger, now trained by John David Jackson and managed by James Prince and Antonio Leonard, now looks to regain the status he once held as an American heavyweight to be reckoned with.


Promoter Bob Arum, who recently turned 86 the day before the fight, acknowledged his excitement to be working with ESPN. Being a sports network, he feels it will boost ratings and capture fans that may not have watched if it were on HBO or Showtime. Having the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony prior to the event, he feels created a big success with the TV ratings for his event.


Arum showed no signs of slowing down, providing comical insight about various topics and great enthusiasm towards his Ukrainian superstar. "He’s the most dominant fighter I’ve ever seen. He and Muhammad Ali in his prime are the two most dominant fighters I’ve ever seen."


December 10, 2017

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