Guillermo Rigondeaux has been stripped of his junior featherweight world title, even though he lost while challenging junior lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko on Dec. 9.
Rigondeaux moved up two weight classes for the much-anticipated bout with Lomachenko in New York — the first professional boxing match between two-time Olympic gold medalists. Rigondeaux went into that fight knowing that the WBA had issued a ruling ahead of time stating that should Rigondeaux win, he would have five days to decide whether to keep the 130-pound belt he would have won or return to the 122-pound division to defend that title.
Dino Duva of Roc Nation Sports, which promotes Rigondeaux, told ESPN that despite the ruling, the promotional company and sanctioning body were still in talks after the fight about whether Rigondeaux would be able to keep the junior featherweight title.
However, the WBA followed through on its initial ruling and stripped Rigondeaux, even though he did not lose in the junior featherweight division. When the new WBA rankings were released this week, Rigondeaux was nowhere to be found. He is no longer listed among the world titleholders and is no longer even ranked in any weight division.
Danny Roman, previously the organization’s “regular” junior featherweight titlist, has been elevated to its main titleholder and Moises Flores remains an interim titleholder.
“I think it’s very unfair,” Alex Bornote, Rigondeaux’s manager, told ESPN. “We fought at 130 pounds. What does that have to do with anything at 122 pounds, where Rigo was champion? They just had it in for us. His inactivity has totally screwed him. Rigo has been inactive and when you’re inactive the WBA is not getting any sanctioning fees, so they’ve had it in for us.”
Including the fight with Lomachenko, Rigondeaux has only fought four times since 2014.
“They put us in a bad position before the fight by giving us that kind of choice,” Bornote said. “We had to pay the WBA a [$15,000] fee to get a special permit to fight Lomachenko for his WBO title, and the WBA said we’d lose the [junior featherweight] belt if we lost he fight. So, in essence, we were fighting for both belts that night. But at that point we had already signed for the fight, so what are we gonna do? Was he not going to fight?”
Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs), 37, a Cuban defector fighting out Miami, was outclassed by Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) 29, of Ukraine. Rigondeaux landed only 15 total punches — and never more than three in any round — according to CompuBox punch statistics. Rigondeaux claimed to injure his left hand early in the bout and then quit on his stool after the sixth round. The loss was his first since a 2003 amateur fight.
“I didn’t think it would be such a horrible performance,” Bornote said. “It’s another nail in his coffin in his career. It’s the Rigo story. Never have I ever seen such a thing. He has no luck at all.
“He doesn’t feel all that great right now. He didn’t think the weight difference would be such a big deal, but Lomachenko is a very special talent, a great boxer. And Rigo also hurt his hand, so he was at a big disadvantage.”
Bornote said Rigondeaux would allow his hand — which was badly bruised but not broken, as the fighter originally thought — to heal and then would look to get back into the ring even though there are no solid plans. His contract with Roc Nation Sports is due to expire in the early summer.
“It was hard enough for Rigo to get a fight when he had a world title, so now imagine what it’s going to be like without a title. But he’s definitely going back to his weight class at 122 pounds or maybe 126 pounds,” Bornote said. “He’s really a natural 118-pounder, but in this market, with the opponents out there, we might have to also consider fighting at 126 pounds.
“I just don’t know what we’re going to do. Maybe we’ll find something in Europe for him. They liked him when he fought in U.K. [in 2016]. But we’ll try to get him back in the ring and wash that bad taste out of our mouth because that performance with Lomachenko was horrible. He knows it. Lomachenko was just too big, too fast and Rigo hurt his hand. It was a disaster for him. Lomachenko is special. Rigo doesn’t see anyone is going to beat [Lomachenko] in that weight class. He said Lomachenko is for real.”