By Robert Dominguez
They’ve barely got 27 pro bouts between them, but when Vasily Lomachenko takes on Guillermo Rigondeux on Dec. 9, yet another chapter in boxing history will be written at Madison Square Garden.
The Saturday night fight for Lomachenko’s WBO junior lightweight title at the Garden’s Theater marks the first time boxers who have each won two Olympic gold medals will meet in a professional ring.
Lomachenko, 27, of Ukraine, won his gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. He’s 9-1 with seven knockouts, but also holds a remarkable 396-1 record as an amateur.
In just his third pro fight, he won the WBO featherweight belt in 2014, then took the WBO junior lightweight title from Puerto Rican fighter Roman Martinez last year at The Theater in the Garden.
Rigondeaux, a Santiago de Cuba native a decade older than his opponent, won the gold at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He went on to post an impressive 463-12 amateur record fighting for Cuba’s national team until he defected in 2009 while in Mexico City and turned pro.
Both men are well aware of the historic nature of their fight — and how much fans have been clamoring for it. The 12-round bout, the main event of a seven-fight card promoted by Top Rank in association with Roc Nation, sold out in less than 48 hours when tickets went on sale a couple of months ago, a Top Rank spokesperson told the Daily News.
Fight fans who can’t make it to The Garden can catch all the action with live broadcasts on ESPN and the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes.
“This is the fight that the fans have been waiting for a very long time,” said Rigondeaux at an MSG press event Thursday.
“I’m ready to go, 100%. This is a fight between two-time Olympics champs and that has never been seen in history. I’m going to give it my all to come out victorious,” added the 17-0 Rigondeaux, who won the WBA super bantamweight title in 2012 and has defended it eight times.
“I came to New York to prove who I am,” said Lomachenko at the press event. “This is a major step into boxing history.”
It’s not just the fans who are buzzing about the highly-anticipated match between two of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world with rare Olympic Gold pedigrees.
The fight has also set a gold standard for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. The moment the final bell rings, the gloves worn by Lomachenko and Rigondeaux will be cut off and shipped directly to the museum, “the first time that gloves will go right from the boxers’ fists to the hands of the Hall of Fame in the ring immediately after the bout ends,” the Hall announced Thursday.
Robert Dominguez, a senior editor at the New York Daily News, is also the managing editor of Viva, The News’ Latino lifestyle magazine, and is the co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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