As lead guitarist for Foo Fighters, Chris Shiflett knows how to energize an audience.
As a massive boxing fan, Shiflett knows he could set his most blistering riffs as a soundtrack to the action fighting style of Vasyl Lomachenko.
The Los Angeles-based rocker stopped by Lomachenko’s media day last week in Oxnard and showered some deep appreciation upon the super-featherweight world champion from Ukraine who will defend his World Boxing Organization belt Saturday night at Madison Square Garden’s Theater against fellow two-time Olympic gold-medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux.
“Lomachenko might be my favorite because he’s like the perfect antidote to the Mayweather era for me,” Shiflett told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve had these guys — Mayweather, Andre Ward, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara — all who are super talented, but terrible to watch.
“Floyd Mayweather did more damage to the sport of boxing than anything — beyond corruption, bad judging, all of that. When the biggest fight in history was a dud on the level that that one was ... that’s very damaging to a sport that I love.”
To keep Saturday’s ESPN-televised fight entertaining ,the 29-year-old Lomachenko (9-1, seven knockouts) has a sizable task.
Unbeaten Cuban Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) stands as the super-bantamweight world champion, but the 37-year-old also has bored fans to tears by relying on his defensive-minded, counter-punching style instead of pressing for a stoppage as Lomachenko does.
“This fight brings that” conversion to entertaining boxing “into focus, where you have this up-and-coming, super-exciting fighter against a guy who may be of equal talent, but had his moment to put on the big show and failed,” Shiflett said. “[Rigondeaux] has been kind of written off, and rightfully so. He’s a boring fighter.”
Currently on the road with Foo Fighters on a swing through the northwest United States, Shiflett says he’ll watch Saturday because of Lomachenko.
Shiflett, host of Spotify’s “Walking the Floor” podcast, briefly interviewed Lomachenko as part of this week’s edition that included an extended discussion with the fight’s veteran promoter, Bob Arum, at Arum’s Beverly Hills home.
“Arum was cool. He’s a pro, been at it a long time,” Shiflett said. “I pushed back a little. But he was very generous with his time.”
Shiflett usually interviews country musicians on his Americana-themed show, but he has talked previously to boxing trainers Robert Garcia and Freddie Roach, whose Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood lures fighters and celebrities.
“I first met Freddie in Las Vegas when I wasn’t living in L.A. [I] knew he had a gym and asked if I could come up. I didn’t even say I was in a band,” Shiflett said. “Sure enough, the tour goes through L.A., so I walked into the gym and he was sitting there behind his desk and says, ‘Hey, Chris, how ya doing?’
“What the … ? I loved interviewing him. He’s so open, and he answered all my stupid questions.”
Boxing “is not dead at all. It gets written off a lot by people as being barbaric or for not being as violent as MMA — the [stuff] that people tend to say. But it’s alive and well. And when you see this guy [Lomachenko] fight … he’s the most highly skilled guy out there now.
“He gets in the ring, throws a million punches, tries to hurt the guy he’s fighting and tries to put on a show and make it entertaining.
“He’s why you think there’s no reason that a guy like Floyd Mayweather couldn’t be doing that … that’s a choice a guy makes. [Mayweather] did it early in his career and he did it in getting [Conor] McGregor. … That was my favorite Mayweather fight of all time; him walking the guy down. It’s like, ‘Where’s that been?’ I get why he made the choice he did, but nobody on Earth ever needs to watch a Floyd Mayweather fight again. No one will say, ‘I can’t wait to watch the Floyd Mayweather highlight reel.”
The draw that boxing has long had on entertainers such as Shiflett, actors Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington and others is likely rooted in the appreciation of that common adrenaline rush gained by performing for the masses.
Shiflett and his band, fronted by singer and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, feel it in performing sets that include “Best of You,” “Times Like These” and “Everlong.”
“It’s why I understand why a guy like Roy Jones fights too long,” Shiflett said. “It might not be that he needs the money. It’s probably that he needs the fame, the adulation, the roar of that crowd. I’m a 46-year-old man — and I’m one of the younger guys in my band — but if someone told me I couldn’t do it anymore, it’d be like, ‘Damn.’ ... So I get it why these guys fight on too long.”