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Guillermo Rigondeaux: The Best Boxer You’ve Never Heard Of

Guillermo Rigondeaux giving Nonito Donaire a boxing lesson.

Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KO) has done more in 14 fights than many fighters do in their entire careers.  The Cuban exile, who won back-to-back Gold Medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games as an amateur, has received very little of the admiration that normally accompanies undefeated champions.   Some say it is because of his “boring” style.  Others say it is because of his nationality.  Whatever the reason, “Rigo” is not the household name he should be.

Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21 KO) was ranked in the top 5 pound-for-pound on most lists before he fought Rigondeaux.  He has just won the 2012 Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year award and was a mainstay on HBO.  Donaire was a media darling and was a considerable favorite going into his showdown with Rigondeaux.

In the years leading up to his bout with Rigo, Nonito criticized his eventual foe for not being a big enough name and not having enough fights under his belt, despite the fact that most considered Rigondeaux to be the most legitimate threat in his division.  When the two finally did share the squared circle, it was Donaire who looked like he had not had enough fights.

Rigondeaux took Donaire to Cuban boxing school from the opening bell.  He avoided the majority of the Filipino-American’s punches while landing hard shots of his own.  Aside from a knockdown that was produced by Donaire using a sneaky forearm to the eyes to blind Rigondeaux and land one of his only clean punches of the fight, the Cuban contolled the pace for 12 full rounds.  It was a boxing masterclass not often seen against such a high-level opponent as Donaire.  The most impressive aspect of this win for Rigondeaux was the fact that in just 12 pro fights, he ended Donaire’s 30-fight win streak.

Since the loss to Rigo, “The Filipino Flash” has looked like a shell of the fighter he was.  While he has won the two fights that have followed the schooling, he has looked lackluster and very gun-shy.  Rigondeaux has continued to dominate his competition and add on to his achievements.  Unfortunately for the Cuban, no one seems to care.

Casual boxing fans generally cannot appreciate defensive wizards who make opponents miss and land clean, effective counter-punches.  Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the best boxing talents of the last thirty years.  Unfortunately, he will never be a top-earner or a superstar.  He may not even fight on a major network again.  As a Spanish-speaking fighter, there is a language barrier that makes Rigondeaux hard to sell to American audiences.  As a Cuban, his built-in home fan base will never be as big as that of a Mexican fighter.  Rigondeaux is a better fighter than Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KO), but will never be as popular.  It is partially a nationality issue, and partially an issue of race.

Canelo, to be frank, is a Mexican who looks like a white boy.  He looks more like a “Sam McAllister” than a “Saul Alvarez”.  Rigondeaux is a Cuban who looks like a black guy.  Americans are more likely to embrace a “white” fighter than a “black” fighter.

If you have a chance, and are able to somehow track down the small channels Rigondeaux fights on, tune in.  You will witness a special boxing talent.  Not everyone may be able to enjoy his style, but it is worth watching.  Rigondeaux is like a great grappler in the UFC;  the style may not be what the casuals want to see, but hardcore fans can appreciate the level of craft.  Do yourself a favor and spend some time watching one of the best athletes of the last few decades do what they do best.

Think Rigo deserves some shine?  Disagree with our assessment?  Sound off below.