Christmas arrives early for boxing fans tonight, as two of the best fighters of this generation are finally inside the square circle. Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux encapsulate everything that is magnificent about the sport, and their list of achievements in both amateur and professional are unmatched in modern boxing.
Make no mistake, this is as good as it is for the true connoisseurs of the fighting game. It's a match between Roger Federer / Rafael Nadal Grand Slam, a World Cup final and a Super Bowl all wrapped in 36 minutes of brilliant action. Yes, the super featherweight title of the WBO is at stake, but here we have a fight that goes beyond the belts, the money and the records. Instead, it is an examination of athletic prowess, intelligence and adaptability.
At 29, Lomachenko is the youngest man for eight years, he is taller, leaner and significantly more comfortable in the super featherweight division. The Ukrainian enjoyed an incredibly successful amateur record that produced hundreds of victories and a single defeat. Two Olympic gold medals and two world championship titles reflect his amateur mastery, while his professional career has been more successful.
Lomachenko's professional journey began in October 2013, where he beat José Ramírez, before trying to win a world title in his second fight. That mission failed after Orlando Salido used all the dirty tricks of the book to win a split decision, but imperturbable, Lomachenko has dominated all who have followed since.
Players like Gary Russell Jr., Nicholas Walters, Roman Martinez and Jason Sosa have been shot and outscored, with Lomachenko's speed and ability unparalleled against genuinely quality rivals. Once criticized for too many feints and little resentment, Lomachenko stopped his last six opponents, while his speed and cunning continue to improve.
So, with all those qualities, all the records, the titles and the physical attributes, why do some people give Guillermo Rigondeaux, 37, a chance to be inactive tonight? Actually, it's simple, because Rigondeaux was Vasyl Lomachenko before anyone had heard of the Eastern European enigma, and arguably it was even more impressive.
Unbeaten since 2003, Rigondeaux also won two Olympic gold medals and two AIBA World Championships, as well as seven Cuban national championships. After the amateur success that saw him intimidate all those who fought, the Cuban star deviated to the west in 2009, and began his professional career that resulted in 18 peculiar fights.
Guillermo Rigondeaux may be the oldest fighter, but he was once the Lomachenko of his time (Getty)
The Cuban has fought all over the world in the last eight years, from Miami Beach to Cardiff, passing through Osaka and Dublin, but with the exception of a legendary victory over Nonito Donaire in 2013, he has not yet faced the best of the better on a regular basis. There are many reasons for this, whether they are promotional issues, style criticisms or schedule conflicts, but the reality is that the key problem has always been Rigondeaux himself. A contrary attitude and a refusal to commit have cost him many millions, and although many at the top level have refused to sign a contract to fight him, the reward of a possible victory has never matched the risk.
The boxing world champions of Great Britain
And that's why we're here tonight. That's why after all these years, the super fight that many thought would never happen, comes. Nothing is conventional in boxing, and although this fight is as delicious as a piece of bacon wrapped around a chipolata, there are warnings for emotion. There is the age gap, plus the inactivity of Rigondeaux who has seen him fight only twice in 25 months. More importantly, however, is the weight.
Lomachenko is a comfortable super lightweight, while Rigondeaux is moving up in two weight classes. Any sudden increase in weight is risky, but climbing two for a big crash can often result in disaster. In the most recent example, Kell Brook jumped from welterweight to middleweight, and ended up with a broken orbital bone courtesy of Gennady Golovkin.
Vasyl Lomachenko will make an offer to take the throne of Guillermo Rigondeaux (Getty)
But let's leave statistics aside and celebrate art. We have two fighters with their own unique abilities that overlap in many ways. Defensively, both are incredibly difficult to hit, with reflexes and footwork that defy convention. Offensively, each one has power, although Lomachenko's is more strenuous, while Rigondeaux has the knockout in one fell swoop in his locker. However, movement is the attribute to be taken into account. Who will stay on for longer, and who will have the lapse of concentration that could define the fight?
In another letter tonight, James DeGale returns to action against Caleb Truax. DeGale spoke beforehand about his desire for an "easy fight" on his return to the ring. One where he could "look good." DeGale is a world champion, however, he will be competing in front of a half-full place and no one will care about the outcome by the time the fight ends.
James DeGale returns to action against Caleb Truax (Getty)
While it is unfair to compare a beautiful steak with a Rustlers burger, it makes events like Lomachenko / Rigondeaux seem even more important. This is the fight to set your alarm, the fight to focus, and the one that makes following this sport worthwhile.