By: Sean Crose
He’s been one of the more skilled boxers in the world for almost the past ten years. He’s lost but one fight, and has knocked out more opponents than he hasn’t. He’s a multi-divisional world champion who has been completely avoided and badmouthed throughout his career, yet at forty years of age is still facing the best possible opposition out there. Finally, however, Guillermo Rigondeaux seems to be getting the respect he deserves. Look on social media and you’ll see him being written of as almost a kind of iconic warrior. Just five years ago, anyone making such an assertion would be laughed off the internet.
So what happened? How did a fighter so roundly derided for being boring become a respected elder lion of the sport (at least in some circles)? The passing of time has something to do with it, of course, but there’s also the fact that Rigondeaux has come back successfully from his lone humiliating defeat. After quitting on his stool against the walking skill set Vasyl Lomachenko (the fourth Lomachenko opponent to do so) Rigondeaux claimed he’d be back. And, sure enough, four years later, the guy is battling for a world title again.
Now, this Saturday night on Showtime, Rigondeaux will face the very challenging John Riel Casimero for the Filipino’s WBO bantamweight title. With an eight year age advantage, the thirty-two year old Casimero has every reason to be confident. He’s the younger fighter, a man perhaps just entering his prime with popular names like Donito Donaire, who Rigondeaux once handily bested, and Naoya Inoue on the horizon. Throw in the fact that Casimero’s won his last six bouts within the distance and it’s easy to see what kind of work Rigondeaux has cut out for him in Saturday’s bout.
The truth is that exciting opponents make Rigondeaux must see viewing. Some may complain about his slick, defense-friendly style (even though he’s knocked out two of his last three opponents), but the great Floyd Mayweather wasn’t exactly a knockout machine himself. The fighter called Money simply was able to showcase his incredible skill set against challenging competition. The highly avoided Rigondeaux never had that luxury. Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton, for instance, are deserving of all the respect they have – but they never faced Rigondeaux back when they could have. Put Rigondeaux against a name like Lomachenko or Casimero and people become interested.
Of course, there’s some validity to the criticism Rigondeaux has faced over the years. He isn’t known to try to work hard to promote his fights for an American audience, like Mayweather did. What’s more, with the wrong opponent, his battles are less than exciting. Then, of course, there’s the loss to Lomachenko. No one wants to see a fighter quit unless it’s a matter of personal safety. Duran was able to come back from the nightmare of “no mas,” though, proving boxing fans – surprisingly enough – can be a forgiving bunch.
Yet it’s worth noting that Rigondeaux has also had his supporters all along. They may have been drowned out by the critics, but they were there. As boxing writer Jack Sumner states on Twitter, Rigondeaux “deserved a better career than he’s had and (is) nowhere near as ‘boring’ a fighter as he’s made out to be.”
Sumner is certainly not alone in that assessment.