Fighting

Miami boxer’s lackluster performance might hurt is image, but he still has plans

Guillermo Rigondeaux, left, punches Vasyl Lomachenko during their Junior Lightweight bout at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9, 2017.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, left, punches Vasyl Lomachenko during their Junior Lightweight bout at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9, 2017. Getty Images

Guillermo Rigondeaux has dealt with fight fans’ and boxing kingpins’ displeasure that his bouts lack the competitive streaks common of compelling events.

After his highly anticipated bout against Vasyl Lomachenko late Saturday in New York, the Miami resident and reigning 122-pound champion will likely now face another form of audience disapproval. Rigondeaux quit on his stool, failing to answer the bell for the seventh round because of an injury to his left hand.

The surprise TKO stoppage elicited jeers from the capacity crowd of 5,102 at the Theater in Madison Square Garden during Rigondeaux’s post-fight ring interview.

“From the second round, I couldn’t throw my hand,” Rigondeaux said. “I lost.”

Despite being considered one of the best ring technicians in the sport and earning recognition among boxing’s top fighters, Rigondeaux hasn’t translated his specific skill set into mass appeal. Not even a decorated amateur career, highlighted by two Olympic gold medals, enabled Rigondeaux to maintain a busy fight calendar since the Cuba native turned professional eight years ago. 

When the opportunity to face Lomachenko arose, Rigondeaux quickly accepted, even if it meant moving up two weight divisions to challenge Lomachenko’s World Boxing Organization junior-lightweight title.

Like Rigondeaux, Lomachenko also won two Olympic championships, but Lomachenko already has become a popular professional headliner. And Lomachenko now can boast additional claims in the pound-for-pound pecking order following his dominant victory over Rigondeaux.

“He’s a good fighter, he’s a strong fighter,” Lomachenko said. “But it is not his weight and size.”

Rigondeaux had his best round in the first, when his lead right jab found its target. However, Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) increased his punch volume in the second and gradually outclassed Rigondeaux with shots from different angles. Rigondeaux fell into a deeper deficit after referee Steve Willis deducted a point from him for holding in the sixth round.

Rigondeaux, 37, didn’t use the weight difference as an excuse for his performance and said he would continue to fight anyone. But given his decision to end Saturday’s fight prematurely, Rigondeaux now has another negative perception to fight.

AROUND THE RING  

His suspension lifted, Miami resident Luis Ortiz quickly took advantage of his ring opportunity and now can target the prize he has coveted since becoming a heavyweight contender.

Ortiz made quick work of David Martz, scoring a second-round knockout victory in their bout Friday night at Hialeah Park and Casino. One couldn’t blame Ortiz for overlooking Martz, especially since World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder watched the fight from ringside.

Ortiz was scheduled to face Wilder on Nov. 4, but the bout was postponed after Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance. The WBC suspended Ortiz from its rankings after the infraction, but the fighter and his camp successfully appealed the sanctioning body’s ruling, setting the hype for another fight date with Wilder next year.

The fighters increased the buildup for the possible match after Wilder stepped into the ring and exchanged words with Ortiz.

“He’s a coward; I saw fright in his eyes, but now I believe this fight is going to happen,” Ortiz said of Wilder.

Wilder accused Ortiz of cheating and says Ortiz is fortunate to be discussed again for a title fight. 

“This is the fight I want, I wanted this fight back in November,” Wilder said. “I put everything in this fight — my heart, my soul, my spirit. We were robbed of a good fight because of Ortiz.

“I can’t do [anything] about the drug testing suspension [anymore]. The WBC let him back in. So there’s no need for me getting mad. I want him, welcome him back.” 

Coming up

Thursday (10:30 p.m., ESPN2): Diego De La Hoya vs. Jose Salgado, 10, junior featherweights.

Friday (10 p.m., Fox Sports1): Jessie Vargas vs. Aaron Herrera, 10, welterweights.

Saturday (9:40 p.m., HBO): Billy Joe Saunders vs. David Lemieux, 12, for Saunders’ WBO middleweight title.

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