Rigondeaux tells Caryn A. Tate that fighting Lomachenko holds no fear for him
ON social media, the hashtag used by Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux when referencing his upcoming fight with Vasyl Lomachenko is #Notafraid. There’s a reason for that: once you’ve braved shark-infested waters in a small boat, it’s doubtful you’ll be afraid of another person.
For Rigondeaux, the former scenario isn’t rhetorical. It’s what he had to endure to defect from his home country of Cuba in 2009, in his second attempt.
Now, after dominating the superbantamweight division, WBA champion Rigondeaux is moving up two weight classes to face WBO super-featherweight king Lomachenko. The bout will take place on December 9 at Madison Square Garden in New York, and will be televised on ESPN in the US and Boxnation in the UK. Both fighters are two-time Olympic gold medallists with remarkable amateur records, and both are known for their superb technique in the boxing ring. Fans have wanted to see this fascinating matchup for some time.
Moving up two weight categories (with eight pounds between their respective divisions) isn’t a small thing, but Rigondeaux maintains that putting on a few pounds will pose no problems for him. “I just have to be smart and strategic about my eating habits, but there will be no drop-off when it comes to my speed and explosiveness,” he said. “At the end of the day, I asked for this fight and I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to reach the appropriate weight.”
Make no mistake, Guillermo not only wants this fight – he’s downright excited about it. One could argue that his last
‘I HAVE TO BE STRATEGIC ABOUT MY EATING HABITS, BUT THERE WILL BE NO DROP-OFF IN MY EXPLOSIVENESS’
‘THE REALITY IS HE’S NEVER FOUGHT SOMEONE WITH MY PEDIGREE’
truly elite opponent was Nonito Donaire, a then-top pound-for-pound fighter whom Rigondeaux outboxed in 2013. Since then, “Rigo” has had promotional issues, resulting in some inactivity. But now, with promoter Roc Nation Sports, Rigondeaux finally has another major bout around the bend.
“In order to be recognised as the best in your sport, you need to fight, and defeat, the best,” Rigondeaux said. “For years I’ve been seeking a marquee fight to show the world that I’m one of the top pound-for-pound fighters. I’ve called out several top opponents at different weight classes, but none of them had been willing to fight me until Lomachenko. I’m thrilled that I finally have a formidable opponent and a national platform with ESPN, so I can make a statement and transform the boxing landscape.”
A formidable opponent indeed, yet Rigondeaux does not hold Lomachenko in quite the high regard that some do in the boxing world. “While I respect Lomachenko, the reality is he’s never fought someone with my pedigree and skillset. The fighters he’s gone up against are inferior compared to the ones that I’ve faced throughout my career.”
Part of the intrigue surrounding the Lomachenko-rigondeaux fight is the size difference. Some feel that Lomachenko may be too big for Rigondeaux, but Guillermo has a hard time understanding that notion. “I keep hearing about analysts that believe Lomachenko’s size will give him an advantage in the fight,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t understand that logic because all of my opponents have been taller than me, yet I’ve remained undefeated. Donaire was much bigger and heavier than me in 2013, but I still recorded a unanimous decision victory. Regardless, I will continue to rely on my speed and my technical skills to atone for the difference in size. On December 9, I look forward to surprising the doubters and detractors once again.”
Rigondeaux tends to be a quiet individual outside the ring. But recently he has established a highly entertaining presence on social media – one might even speculate that his taunts on Twitter helped secure the Lomachenko fight. “Although I can be a bit more reserved in public, platforms like Twitter allow me to showcase my playful personality. At the same time, social media also gives me the opportunity to elevate my brand and dictate my message directly to the public, especially since things can get misconstrued in the media. My manager, Alex Bornote, and my team at Roc Nation have played a significant role in helping me navigate the world of social media.”
But aside from poking fun at his opponent, Guillermo loves interacting with his fans online. “It’s very important to engage with my fans via social media because, without them, I wouldn’t be in this position. I enjoy having a direct connection with my fans through Twitter – it’s refreshing to give them a sneak peek into my family life, training habits and thoughts on the world of sports. I’ve also been trying to do more Twitter Q&AS with my fans to show my appreciation for their support and continue cultivating my relationship with them over time.”
Rigondeaux recently posted a photo on social media of himself with his compatriot Erislandy Lara. Lara and Rigondeaux endured the traumatic experience of defecting from Cuba together in 2009. When asked what it means to him to still be in touch with Lara, Guillermo said: “It means the world because Erislandy is a dear friend. We’ve bonded through several shared experiences and challenges – we both uprooted our lives in Cuba to further our boxing careers, we both had to adapt to a new culture in the United States and we both endured our share of ups and downs as professional boxers. It’s a blessing to call him a friend because there are very few people in this world that can truly relate to our experiences.”
As Rigondeaux continues to diligently prepare for the Lomachenko fight with his trainer, Pedro Diaz of Mundo Boxing, he has one more message for his fans: “Thank you for all your support and, if you don’t already have a ticket, tune in on December 9 to see a fight for the ages!”
STANDOUT WIN: Rigondeaux fires a jab at Donaire during his best victory to date
TIME TO SHINE: Rigondeaux is ready to prove his elite-class credentials to the world