Will Rigondeaux clean house at junior featherweight in 2015?
Cuban-born Guillermo Rigondeaux will close out the year on Dec. 31 by defending his WBO and WBA junior featherweight titles against Hisashi Amagasa in Osaka, Japan. The card will also feature Katsunari Takayama going up against Go Odaira for the vacant IBF and WBO strawweight titles. The card will also see flyweights Kazuto Ioka and Jean Piero Perez square off in a scheduled 10-rounder.
This will be only the second time Rigondeaux steps into the ring this year, which is fairly routine for the former amateur star who has averaged two bouts a year over the last three years. Having had a long unpaid career (reportedly 475 bouts with only 12 losses), Rigondeaux turned pro late but showed his incredible skill set early on in 2009. By his third bout in September, he was fighting for the NABA junior featherweight title. Just four fights later in his seventh pro bout, he beat Ricardo Cordoba at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas to win the WBA interim title. Rigondeaux defeated Rico Ramos in his following bout to capture the full-fledged title before adding the WBO junior featherweight title to his collection when he beat popular Filipino Nonito Donaire over 12 rounds in New York three fights later. With the win, Rigondeaux would also earn the distinction of becoming THE RING champion. He then defended his straps twice over the next 15 months, beating former champion Joseph Agbeko in Atlantic City and Sod Kokietgym in Macau, China.
Now Rigondeaux looks to finish off the year and pick up his 15th professional victory. At the same time, he also wants to build toward some possible unification matches in the 2015 that could place him as the undisputed champion of the 122-pound division.
While there are other champions who hold belts and status in the division, getting them in the ring with “El Chacal” isn’t that easy. Fighters, always looking for a challenge, want to face off against him. However, promoters and managers aren’t relishing the thought of putting their fighters in with a boxer that Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach once called “probably the greatest talent I’ve even seen.”
Looking down the list at junior featherweight, there is undefeated United Kingdom banger Carl Frampton who holds the IBF title as well as unbeaten, California-based WBC king Leo Santa Cruz.
Either fighter would be a great second piece to the puzzle for Rigondeaux. While fight fans realize Guillermo is probably the best of the lot, he doesn’t sell tickets like UK favorite Frampton or Mexican-American star Santa Cruz. While those particular opponents could make it a big fight due to their pull at the gate, both would have to bring the fight of their lives to upset the crafty, slick and powerful Rigondeaux.
Santa Cruz recently told media he’s “aiming for WBA/WBO champ Guillermo Rigondeaux” when asked about his long-range plans in the division. While “Teremoto” would probably welcome the fight, Santa Cruz’s promoter will make sure he’s is well-compensated for his efforts because a night with Rigondeaux is as tough as it gets.
Ireland’s Frampton, who defends against American Chris Avalos in February of next year, is a huge star in European boxing. Avalos bailed on a proposed November bout with Rigondeaux to pursue a title shot with Frampton and while Frampton is no walk in the park, he may be the lesser of two evils for a title challenge.
Frampton also knows that in order to call himself “the man” at junior featherweight, he must face Rigondeaux. In a recent interview, “The Jackal” (incidentally, the English translation of Rigondeaux’s moniker, “El Chacal”) said, “Rigondeaux is a helluva fighter but although he’s been in against top opposition, he has been on the floor. The guys who had him down couldn’t finish him but those guys don’t punch as hard as me and I have a chance in any fight, providing I land cleanly. [Scott] Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz are opponents I’m interested in but, one day, I would definitely like to fight ‘Rigo.’”
Frampton is trained by Shane McGuigan and promoted by Shane’s father (and former world featherweight champion), Barry McGuigan. While Barry recognizes Rigo’s skill set, he also understands the game on the other side of the ropes and is in no rush to put Frampton into what McGuigan deems a high-risk/low-reward fight with the Cuban.
McGuigan recently told ESPN.co.uk, “We’re not interested in Rigondeaux. He brings no money and no TV. He can’t draw 500 Cubans in Miami and he’s awkward and negative.”
This also sounds like the stance of a good promoter who knows the vastly-talented Rigondeaux would more than likely perform a one-sided boxing clinic against Frampton.
There are some great bouts out there in the 122-pound waters for the fans. Whether the champions can line themselves up for some unification action in the coming year will remain to be seen. But if you want to call yourself the best in the junior featherweight division, you have to knock Guillermo Rigondeaux off the wall and that is no easy task. Hisashi Amagasa gets his shot on the final day of this year.
And if Rigondeaux retains his titles, look for him to attempt to get the other champions in his division into the ring in 2015. Frampton and Santa Cruz have talked the talk and if they walk the walk next year against Rigondeaux, fight fans can look forward to some great action at 122-pounds.