NEW YORK: Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomachenko will need to demonstrate plenty of patience when he squares off against Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux in a world title showdown on Saturday between two multiple Olympic gold medal winners.
The 29-year-old Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) will defend his World Boxing Organization junior lightweight belt against the unbeaten Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) when they meet at Madison Square Garden Theatre.
It is the first time two-time Olympic gold medal winners will fight each other.
“It’s going to be a great fight and it’s going to be a great historical fight that fans will forever look back on,” Rigondeaux said.
Lomachenko will have the size advantage, as the counterpuncher Rigondeaux will be moving up two weight classes for the 12-round fight.
Lomachenko could take that bulk and punching power to try to physically overwhelm the 37-year-old Rigondeaux, but their two styles should make for a technical fight rather than a slugfest.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the kind of fight everyone is waiting for,” Lomachenko said. “You know his style.”
“I need to chase him. I need to do this and not forget my defense because he will wait, wait, wait, and wait.”
It has been three years since anyone went the distance with Lomachenko, who won gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He has rocketed to the top of his weight class since turning pro in 2013, winning eight world championship fights in his first 10 professional contests.
“It is a historical bout and most importantly it is an interesting bout for me,” said Lomachenko. “A lot of time was spent to make this bout. For a while it was never happening and finally it happened.
“It is very, very interesting, and all of the boxing fans wanted to see the bout, and finally we can deliver it.”
Lomachenko lost his second pro fight to veteran Orlando Salido but then won a world title in his next bout by beating Gary Russell. He became a two-division champion by moving up in weight in just his seventh fight to beat Román Martínez.
A product of Cuba’s storied amateur programme, Rigondeaux won more than 450 amateur fights and, like his opponent, is a two-time Olympic gold medallist, having won gold in 2000 and 2004.
He is a champion at 122 pounds (55.3 kilogrammes), but will gain eight pounds (3.6 kilogrammes) to take on Lomachenko.
“I went up to 130 (59 kilogrammes) because it was the only way I could get this fight made,” Rigondeaux said. “I would rather it have been at a lower weight, but I want to show the world that I can do it by moving up two weight classes.”
Since turning pro in 2009, his biggest fight so far was a dismantling of Nonito Donaire in 2013.
His last fight, against Moises Flores, was ruled a no-contest after he inadvertently landed a fight-ending punch after the bell.