For the first time in professional boxing history, men who have each won two Olympic gold medals will fight each other as pros.
Vasyl Lomachenko, the WBO super featherweight champion and a 2008-2012 Olympic gold medalist, will defend his belt against Guillermo Rigondeaux, a 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medal winner, on Dec. 9 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in the main event of a card on ESPN, Top Rank president Todd duBoef told Yahoo Sports on Thursday.
The card will air immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation.
Rigondeaux, 36, is widely regarded as the best active defensive fighter in boxing. He will be moving up from super bantamweight, where he holds the WBA title, to face Lomachenko at super featherweight. Lomachenko is among the sport’s finest offensive fighters, so the bout is an intriguing match of styles. Rigondeaux is a sharp puncher when he throws his counter shots, while Lomachenko is so athletic that he has also proven to be very solid defensively despite his attacking style.
Lomachenko, 29, was 396-1 as an amateur, while Rigondeaux was 463-12 in the amateurs. That gives them a combined amateur record of 859-13. Rigondeaux is 17-0 with 11 knockouts as a pro and Lomachenko is 9-1 with seven KOs.
“Lomachenko really wanted the fight,” duBoef said. “He has a voracious appetite to fight the best, and to fight the guys who people think are the most difficult fighters. He likes to challenge himself and this is a fight he has talked to us about for a while.”
Top Rank founder and chairman Bob Arum was excited to finally get the deal done. The historic nature of the fight appealed to him.
There are only three men who have won three Olympic gold medals in boxing: Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon and Hungary’s Laszlo Papp. There are 13 men and one woman – Claressa Shields of the U.S. – who have won two. Four of the multiple gold-medal winners are active: Shields, Rigondeaux, Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.
“This is the first time to the best of my knowledge in the history of boxing that two guys who have won two Olympic gold medals are going to fight each other,” Arum said. “That’s a landmark. I’m being honest. I’m not saying I’m so happy to do this thing because it’s going to be the greatest fight since Ali-Frazier III. What intrigues me is that it is a legacy fight. It’s kind of like having done the last fight in old Yankee Stadium, [Muhammad] Ali-[Ken] Norton and then the first one in new Yankee Stadium with [Miguel] Cotto and [Yuri] Foreman. That’s a landmark and those are historic things to have under your belt.
“Given this is something that has never happened in boxing, when the historians write about boxing years and years from now, this is going to be a fight they mention.”