Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has put on thousands of fights in his 50-plus-year career, including some of the biggest and best in boxing history, so it takes a special kind of match to truly get him excited.
That is the case with the highly intriguing bout between junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and junior featherweight world titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is moving up two weight divisions for a fight that will pit a pair of two-time Olympic gold-medal winners for the first time. They also are arguably the two greatest amateur boxers in history and two of the most skilled fighters in the world.
Lomachenko, making the fourth defense of his 130-pound belt, and Rigondeaux are scheduled to meet on Dec. 9 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in the main event of a card titled “Solid Gold.” The card will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 9 p.m. ET, immediately following the network’s 2017 Heisman Trophy award show.
“The Lomachenko versus Rigondeaux title fight is a signature event in the sport of boxing. It matches the two greatest fighters in Olympic boxing facing off against each other,” Arum said Tuesday as the promotion began with a ticket presale. “Never before in boxing history have two boxers, each the winner of two Olympic gold medals, faced each other in a professional boxing match.”
During negotiations for the bout, the 85-year-old Arum said that if it could be finalized, he would consider it “a historic milestone in my professional career.”
As an amateur, Lomachenko was 396-1 and won Olympic gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012. Rigondeaux was 463-12 in the unpaid ranks and won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 for Cuba, before defecting and turning pro in 2009. In addition to their Olympic success, they also won two world amateur championships apiece.
“Regardless of weight class, Rigondeaux is ready to deliver an unforgettable performance,” said Roc Nation Sports promoter Michael Yormark.
Lomachenko and Rigondeaux have both wanted nothing more than to face significant opponents, and now they have such a fight to match their sublime skills against one another.
“It will be a big battle for boxing fans and boxing history,” Lomachenko said. “This battle will open our maximum potential. It will be the best New Year’s present for boxing fanatics. Trust me on this one.”
Egis Klimas, who manages Lomachenko, offered his take.
“I am excited about Vasyl stepping back in the ring before the year is over,” Klimas said. “It is a great fight for all boxing lovers and the fans from around the world who asked for it. It is a historic bout for boxing, where for the first time two boxers, two world champions, each holding two Olympic gold medals, will meet in the professional ring. I am looking forward to seeing it.”
Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs), 29, who fights out of Oxnard, California, won a featherweight world title in his third pro fight, tying the record for fewest bouts needed to win a world title. Then he moved up to junior lightweight and won another world title in his seventh pro fight — the record for fewest fights needed to win world titles in two weight classes.
Lomachenko is coming off a one-sided, seventh-round knockout of Colombian puncher Miguel Marriaga on Aug. 5 in an ESPN main event in Los Angeles.
Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs), 36, who fights out of Miami, won his first junior featherweight world title in his ninth professional fight in 2012.
Rigondeaux, whose signature win so far is a unanimous decision against then-reigning fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in 2013, defended his current title on June 17 on the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II undercard. However, the fight against interim titlist Moises Flores ended in a first-round no-decision when Rigondeaux knocked Flores out with a punch he fired a split second after the bell ended the round.
A rematch was ordered, but rather than face Flores again in a fight few would care about and one that would not pay him much, Rigondeaux opted for the bigger money and higher-profile fight in facing Lomachenko. Rigondeaux will move up from 122 pounds to 130 for the bout.
“I’m thrilled to be part of this historic fight on ESPN because I’ve had my eye on fighting Vasyl Lomachenko for a long time,” Rigondeaux said. “I’m thankful that Roc Nation Sports and Top Rank made this fight happen, and I can’t wait to make a statement on Dec. 9 in New York City. Weight classes don’t win fights — fighters do. And I look forward to delivering the best performance of my career, beating a fellow legendary Olympian in Lomachenko and solidifying my place as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of this era.”
The rap on Rigondeaux is that while he has elite skills, his fights have generally been boring, essentially getting him blackballed by HBO, which had no interest in televising his bouts because of their lack of action and entertainment value. However, Lomachenko is the kind of high-level opponent that could bring out the best in Rigondeaux.
“This fight against Vasyl Lomachenko is the marquee challenge that Guillermo has been coveting, and we’re grateful for Roc Nation Sports’ hard work in making this a reality,” said Alex Bornote, Rigondeaux’s manager. “Throughout Guillermo’s career, he has never backed down from any fighter or weight-class restriction, so we’re very excited to get to work. It’s going to be a battle, but Guillermo will make Cuba, Miami and all of his fans worldwide proud when he beats Lomachenko on Dec. 9.”
The rest of the card is still in the works, but one of the other televised bouts will feature blue-chip featherweight prospect Michael Conlan (4-0, 4 KOs), 25, the popular two-time Irish Olympian, who sold out the Theater at MSG for his pro debut in March.