Lomachenko retains belt after Rigondeaux trainers halt the fight, citing hand injury

Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Boxing

NEW YORK -- Aware, active and attacking, Vasyl Lomachenko put the shine on the brilliant beams that flash from his two Olympic gold medals and super-featherweight belt Saturday night by stopping Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Like Lomachenko's past three opponents, Cuba's Rigondeaux stopped on the stool -- this time after six rounds -- complaining that he believes he fractured his left hand/wrist in the second round.

That, or he had given up hope after taking a frequent pounding from the bigger Lomachenko (10-1, eight knockouts), whose pressure reduced Rigondeaux (17-1) to ducking for cover and holding often.

At the time, Lomachenko had swept all six rounds on one scorecard, winning five on the others, and referee Steve Willis grew so tired of Rigondeaux's holding, he deducted one point from the recent super-bantamweight champion in the sixth round.

"I guess I should change my name to No-Mas-Chenko," Lomachenko said.

Lomachenko, 29, began increasing his pressure on Rigondeaux in the second round, using a double jab and precise power punches to swell up the right side of Rigondeaux's face near the eye. Rigondeaux showed reluctance to go toe-to-toe with the bigger man, ducking down rather than risk accepting the damage. Lomachenko pulled a page from Conor McGregor's book and promptly pounded Rigondeaux on the top of the head.

In the fifth, after Rigondeaux tried to hold before the bell, Lomachenko escaped and threw a punch while delivering a glare. The punishment extended into the sixth, leading to the one-point deduction for the holding as Lomachenko shimmied back to his corner before learning it was over.

Lomachenko, who doubled his foe's punching output in the final three rounds, was low key after the triumph before 5,102 at Madison Square Garden's Theater.

"He's a tough fighter, a king in boxing, but a king in his weight class," Loma-chenko said of Rigondeaux. "It's not a big win for me because of that."

Promoter Bob Arum said he'll consider a slew of former or current champions for Lomachenko's next fight, possibly in March, including lightweight champs Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia.

"I've never seen anything like this. He gets these guys, frustrates them, and they quit because they can't answer back," Arum said of Lomachenko. "You're seeing something very special. I've seen great fighters ... nothing like this. None of them."

Rigondeaux at first blamed the injury, but was then met by boos from the fans and changed his story.

"He's a very technical, quick, explosive fighter. He is an excellent boxer," Rigondeaux said.

His promoter, Dino Duva, credited Lomachenko for his talent, saying, "He frustrates them so bad they don't know what to do."

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Duva said Rigondeaux's hand pain worsened in the third round and he was hospitalized afterward for an examination.

"Where did he hurt his hand? He didn't hit him with a punch," Arum cracked after punch statistics showed Rigondeaux didn't land more than three punches in any round. "Where'd he hurt it, in the dressing room?"

The undercard included a convincing second-round technical-knockout victory by 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson of nearby Newark, N.J., against mismatched Oscar Mendoza (4-3) of Santa Maria, Calif.

"Everything I threw was landing," Stevenson (4-0, two KOs) said as Mendoza offered little resistance to the top prospect whose skill was sharpened by spending time in training camp with Lomachenko.

"There's been a lot of talk about me holding. I've never been a fighter who holds. I'm a fighter. I learned a lot (from Lomachenko). You still haven't seen the best of me."

Ireland's Michael Conlan could say the same thing after he experimented with a southpaw stance and cruised to victory by three 60-54 scores over Argentina's Luis Fernando Molina (4-4-1).

Earlier, Los Angeles-trained 2016 U.S. Olympian Mikaela Mayer improved to 4-0 with a majority decision victory over New York's Nydia Feliciano (9-9-3).

Puerto Rico's unbeaten super-featherweight Christopher Diaz knocked down replacement opponent Bryant Cruz in the first round with a power punch to the nose, and dropped him again in the second by battering him to the body, weakening the legs.

After a doctor's review, Cruz's legs went out on him 37 seconds into the third, as Diaz delivered a power shot and improved to 22-0.

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