Last night’s ESPN super fight was a strange one, even before the opening bell. A fighter moving up two weight classes for a fight isn’t especially uncommon; a 37-year-old fighter, whose style is mostly to not punch, moving up two weight classes to fight a man eight years his junior who has massive size and athleticism advantages—well, it was hard to imagine what, exactly, Rigondeaux was going to do to threaten Lomachenko.
It turned out the answer was: nothing. Lomachenko’s size advantage was hilariously apparent from the moment the two fighters first shared the ring—he fucking towered over Rigondeaux—and his overall physical advantages were decisive right from the opening bell. The Compubox numbers are a treat, even if the actual contest really wasn’t: In none of the fight’s six rounds did Rigondeaux land as many as four punches. Yes, sure, that’s his style, and he did plenty of wily semi-dirty veteran stuff to protect himself and annoy Lomachenko, but there was not one single second of actual fight when the prospect of Rigondeaux’s tactics adding up to a win seemed remotely possible. For the most part, he looked like a man trying to survive. Lomachenko landed more punches in the fourth round (16) than Rigondeaux landed the entire night (15). Lomachenko threw more punches in each of the fourth (74) and fifth (67) rounds than Rigondeaux threw in any two rounds.
The fight already felt like a grim march by the middle of the sixth round, but when Rigondeaux was docked a point for holding, it became absurd, and felt cruel. Rigondeaux must’ve known it was completely over: He quit in his corner after the round, eventually offering a deeply suspect injured hand as the rationale. Honestly, Rigondeaux landed so few punches, and even fewer power shots, the notion of a severely injured hand was and is hard to swallow. He was getting thrashed out there, in a fight in which his opponent had what sure looked like insurmountable physical advantages. Quitting, when he did, was an act of self care with zero stakes—under no circumstances was Rigondeaux going to turn things around. The injured hand, real or no, allows Rigondeaux to save some face, even when prefaced by “no excuses”:
“I lost, no excuses,” Rigondeaux said through an interpreter. “I injured the top of my left hand in the second round. He’s a very technical fighter. He’s explosive. I’m gonna come back because that’s what I do. The weight was not a factor in this fight. It was the injury to my hand.”
Afterward, Bob Arum did his level best to sell this as something other than strong young man smash tiny old man:
Lomachenko looked relentless and terrifying. Rigondeaux looked like a tired and tiny old man hoping to survive a lion attack long enough for a game warden to wander along. I would smash my hand with a mallet to avoid standing in with Lomachenko for six rounds, so who am I to complain?