by Cliff Rold
For any cult to grow, there needs to be a moment that can be pointed to as revelatory. It won’t be universally embraced. The skeptical will point to what flaws exist in the new tenets of the faith. For the cultists it will be more than enough to cry blasphemy.
One of boxing’s growing hardcore cults is the following surrounding WBA 122 lb. titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux. There is good reason for that. One of the great amateurs ever produced by the legendary Cuban program, Rigondeuax has shown off excellent timing, bursts of power, and crafty defense.
Only 11-0 with 8 stops as a professional, there are already some who wonder if he might be the best fighter at 122 lbs. Rigondeuax says he wants Nonito Donaire. The Cult of Rigo does too and many already holler that their man is being ducked.
The knockdown suffered against Ricardo Cordoba that sent Rigondeaux into a shell for most of the second half of their fight? The two times he was rocked by Robert Marroquin?
Surely these references can come only from a vile apostate.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having shaky moments and they do not disprove Rigondeaux’s overall potential. He’s got the goods. If he has some moments where he learns on the job, well, he’s going to have some moments where he learns on the job. No matter the amateur pedigree, the professional game is a different beast. Everyone has a learning curve.
Part of the curve is marrying potential and talent to fighters of greater name brand. In order to foster demand outside the halls of the Cult of Rigo, Rigondeaux needs a foe with the right combination of resume, style, name brand, and willingness.
Saturday night, that opponent might have emerged.
Vic Darchinyan, the 36-year old former Flyweight titlist and Jr. Bantamweight Champion, showed that he’s still got more than a little in the tank. Moving up for the night, and maybe longer, to 122 lbs., Darchinyan shook off a turbulent ninth round and finished a dominant decision over previously undefeated Orlando Luis Del Valle.
Rumors of Darchinyan’s demise have been hasty before. A loss to Nonito Donaire supposedly exposed him. He went on the best run of his career, at 115 lbs., instead, scoring knockout wins of Cristian Mijares and Jorge Arce. Losses to Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares meant he wasn’t big enough at Bantamweight.
He bounced back to retire Yonnhy Perez.
Now, after a bad loss to the super talented Anselmo Moreno and a narrow road loss to the better-than-U.S.-fans know Shinsuke Yamanaka, one wondered again if Darchinyan was done. We know after Del Valle that, while past his prime, Darchinyan can still go.
That’s good news for Rigondeaux if a fight can be made (and there are already some whispers in positive corners that it can). It’s a fight where Rigondeaux would be favored, but also one where he faces a more experienced fighter with enough power to, maybe, ask and answer the big question Rigondeaux’s career to date has raised.
If Darchinyan is going to stay at 122, this is a chance at one last belt. If Rigondeaux is going to get the biggest fights in his division, this is a makeable big fight to build towards the ultimate goal.
Break out the drum circle. Hand out the flowers. Offer some free stress tests.
But, above all, let’s see Rigondeuax-Darchinyan.
Report Card Picks 2012: 50-16
Jr. Featherweight: Despite winning a fight there, and the advocacy above, it’s remains to be seen if Darchinyan will remain seriously at 122 lbs. For now he remains rated, and bumped up a spot, at Bantamweight.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com