Roy Jones Jr. calls Lomachenko-Rigondeaux best pro fight 'on paper' in history

When junior lightweight champion and rising star Vasyl Lomachenko defends his title on Saturday against Guillermo Rigondeaux, pairing the two most brilliant technical boxers in the sport today, there will be plenty of history at stake.

The 130-pound bout, which headlines the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET), will be the first match in boxing history between fighters who have each won two Olympic gold medals. And depending upon your preference, the winner will have a strong case to call himself the pound-for-pound best in the sport. 

So when it comes to properly addressing just how good of a fight this is on paper, future Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr. isn't willing to hold back his praise.

"I hate to say it, but I've got to be honest with you and tell it how I call it," Jones told CBS Sports' "In This Corner" Podcast last week. "To me, on paper, this is the best professional fight that has ever been made."

Jones' opinion carries extra weight when you consider he has no horse in the race. An expert analyst for HBO, where Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KOs) has fought the majority of his pro bouts, Jones won't be able to call the fight because promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank recently signed a four-year deal to move his fighters -- including Manny Pacquiao and pound-for-pound elites Lomachenko and Terence Crawford -- from HBO to ESPN.  

In this case, Jones' comments come off as simply real recognizing real. 

"You've got two guys that have two gold medals," Jones said. "We have enough of a hard time getting one guy and one other guy with a gold medal in the ring. We've got two guys with two gold medals. Almost one thousand amateur fights between them and probably a handful -- you can count on two hands -- how many [amateur] losses there have been between them. That is incredible."

When it comes to breaking down the fight, one thing Jones isn't willing to entertain is the idea that Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs), who is moving up two weight classes to 130 pounds, will be compromised by the weight.

"When you've got almost 1,000 amateur fights between them, weight shouldn't be a factor at all," Jones said. "I'll tell you why I think weight shouldn't be a factor: Rigondeaux punches so hard that he has broken two guys' eye sockets. He broken two eye sockets -- two! Two, let's get this right. Two eye sockets. 

"Do you know how powerful you have to be to be breaking eye sockets and jaws? He done broke two eye sockets and a jaw so do you think jumping weight classes makes a difference?"

Jones, 48, who remains an active fighter, knows a thing or two about dramatically moving up in weight. In 2003, he moved up from light heavyweight to outpoint John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title, becoming the first fight to debut at 154 pounds and go on to win a belt in the biggest division. 

"I gave a guy 30 pounds; I was basically 200 pounds and John Ruiz was basically 226 pounds," Jones said. "Do you think my punching power did not affect him at all? Yes, it did. So when you have punching power, weight ain't necessarily the issue. It's about strategy. Who is going to be smart enough to strategically out maneuver the other person and who can put their best punches in the best places?"

The fact that Lomachenko, a two-division champion who moved up from 126 pounds after being unable to draw top opponents, isn't a large fighter or big puncher himself should also help even the stakes, according to Jones. 

"Unlike [Orlando] Salido, Lomachenko is not a brawling type of guy," Jones said. "He's a straight up boxer and technician. He will not push you around and maul you and get in close and push you. No, he's not doing that! He's just going to try and put some hands on you. The only way weight would make a difference is if someone was a brawler and someone was a boxer. 

"When you've got two guys who are just trying to take each other's head off, weight is not a factor."

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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