By Mike Coppinger
Guillermo Rigondeaux deserved better.
It’s really that simple.
In just his 12th pro fight, he defeated reigning Fighter of the Year Nonito Donaire in impressive fashion, rendering Donaire’s two-fisted attack anemic while making him look silly.
Was Rigondeaux catapulted to new fame? Did he receive greater exposure while receiving the riches that accompany it? No, quite the opposite.
For his latest bout, televised Saturday on tape delay on Spanish-language network UniMas of all places, Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs) was far from boring, as Bob Arum and HBO have suggested of the fighter. Rigo needed just one round to dispatch of Sod Kokietgym in Macau, China, though the conclusion came with some controversy. After a nasty clash of heads that left Kokietgym (63-3-1, 28 KOs) wobbled on the canvas, the fighters touched gloves before Rigo quickly threw a furious two-punch convo that put Kokietgym down and out. It wasn't anything like Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz, but Kokietgym clearly was taken by surprise. However, that was his fault. He failed to protect himself, and Rigondeaux did touch gloves.
Most importantly, this was the two-time Olympic gold medalist's last contracted bout with Top Rank. Arum has continuously bad-mouthed his own fighter publicly and it would be shocking if Rigondeaux re-upped with the Las Vegas-based outfit. It would be especially surprising since HBO isn't keen on airing the 122-pound champion’s bouts, and Top Rank is HBO's chief supplier of fights.
So where does he go from here? The most likely option is a jump across the street to Golden Boy. Showtime Sports honcho Stephen Espinoza has publicly stated he’s open to airing Rigo’s fights, a welcome sign for his future prospects. And Rigondeaux’s first-round KO should stymy talk of his non-pleasing style for now -- at least for a little bit.
“We are going to have a team meeting and weigh our options,” Rigondeaux’s manager Gary Hyde told BoxingScene.com, via email. “We want Rigo to be undisputed champion but it's going to be difficult because the IBF (Kiko Martinez) and WBC champions (Leo Santa Cruz) are scared to fight him.”
“(Abner) Mares and Santa Cruz are on our hit list so hopefully now that we are free agents we can make these fights.”
Mares and Santa Cruz are both promoted by Oscar De La Hoya and Co., and now that the company is open to doing business with Top Rank, there’s a lot of options for Rigo if signs with Golden Boy.
Rigondeaux, 33, told BoxingScene.com that he’s interested in fighting Vasyl Lomachenko, but “Top Rank will not risk losing another golden boy to me.”
The Cuban fighter has fought on HBO just twice (not counting PPV undercards), wins over Donaire and Joseph Agbeko. It was the Dec. 2012 bout with Agbeko that was the final straw for HBO, a boring 12-round decision win.
“HBO has their favorites and unfortunately Rigo isn't one of them,” Hyde said in frustration. “They like to make reference to the Agbeko fight. My attorney Patrick English asked numerous times to chose another opponent because we knew Agbeko wasn’t right. Both Top Rank and HBO ignored us and we saw what happened as soon as Agbeko felt Rigo's power. He just didn't want to throw. If the viewing numbers were the worst in the history of HBO, we will not accept the blame for this.
“Rigo is the fighter he fights, I am the manager, both top rank and HBO did absolutely nothing to promote and advertise the show. On the same night not far away Golden Boy promoted a top-level show which took a share of the viewers and spectators.”
It is a shame and a rarity that a network would shun a fighter the ilk of Rigondeaux. He’s an elite talent, and he deserves to have his fights seen on national television.
Rigondeaux is now free to sign with whomever he likes, and he told BoxingScene.com that Golden Boy is an option. Perhaps Showtime will right the wrong done by HBO and bring Rigondeaux back to premium cable.
Rigondeaux did himself a lot of favors with Saturday’s performance. If he keeps fighting like that, perhaps HBO will rethink their decision. Hyde had a parting message for the network.
“You will regret how you have closed the door on the fighter you fattened up for Donaire,” Hyde stated. “Instead of appreciating him you publicly insult him and his problem is he is too good. Rigo is a perfect example to every boxer in the world to every coach. Hit without being hit. It's the sweet science.”
Brighter days lie ahead for Rigondeaux. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger