Vasyl Lomachenko vs Guillermo Rigondeaux was one of the most anticipated boxing matches this year. It paired two of the most technically skilled fighters we have seen since the days of Willie Pep, Pernell Whitaker, and a prime Floyd Mayweather. Before the fight, many fight fans expressed my sentiment of excitement to see both of these men square off against each other. Both pugilists were so skilled that many boxing fans had a hard time picking the winner. The fight itself ended up being a one sided affair as Lomachenko proved why he is one of the top pound for pound fighters right now. Although Rigondeaux tried his best, he too was not exempt from the boxing adage that a good big man will always beat a good small man. What happened during and after the fight appalled me, and it had nothing to do with Rigondeaux retiring on his stool.
After the fight, boxing fans and experts did what they always do. They verbally assaulted and abused a fighter for understanding his limitations and making the decision that enough is enough. Words such as quitter and coward were thrown around to describe Rigondeaux’s character as a fighter. The reality is this, NO ONE WHO STEPS IN THAT RING SHOULD EVER BE CALLED A COWARD! It takes allot of heart and courage to get into that ring not knowing what the outcome of your life will be once that bell rings. We all know the terrible effects boxing can have on a fighter’s long term quality of living. The fact that these men continue to do it for a better life, makes them far from cowards. There is no better example of bravery than a fighter getting into that ring, risking his own life, for better opportunities for him and his family.
Guillermo Rigondeaux, just like Roberto Duran over 20 years ago, will be criticised for that decision and it is a shame. He is a two time olympic world champion and a multiple world champion at super bantamweight. This is a man who after defecting from Cuba once under the Fidel Castro regime, was told that he was banned from boxing for the Cuban team. What did this so called quitter do? He defected again two years later so he can go on and become a professional fighter. The fact that he is being chastised for deciding to not go on any further in a fight because of an injury is simply laughable and absurd.
Fight fans, including myself, are very passionate about the sport and rightly so. We live vicariously through our fighters because they represent something greater than being just a pro athlete. I can remember being an overweight kid with low self esteem watching Roy Jones get into that ring. I lived vicariously through him with his dazzling speed, punching power, and a physique that would put the Greek God Adonis to shame. Not once did the word coward enter my mind to describe him because I understood that was impossible. How could a man be a coward when he is participating in one of the most dangerous sports there is? That is when I knew that calling a fighter a coward is such an oxymoron it was preposterous to even think it. It is time that all of us fight fans eliminate the words coward and quitter when we describe fighters. The only cowards in boxing are the people who sit at home judging another person for something they would not do themselves.