By Keith Idec
When Guillermo Rigondeaux enters the ring Saturday night in Las Vegas, he’ll fight for the first time in 11 months and just the third time in nearly 2½ years.
That type of inactivity isn’t ideal for a 36-year-old boxer, but the Cuban-born southpaw isn’t concerned rust will become a factor in his 122-pound title fight against Mexico’s Moises Flores on the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev undercard.
“It’s not the first time this has happened to me,” Rigondeaux told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “Something always seems to happen in my career, so I’m kind of used to these things. But I’ve had a great training camp and I’m ready and I know what I need to do in the ring. There’s always problems, always difficulties. It’s part of my career, so it kind of helps me get used to adversity.”
Rigondeaux last fought July 16, when he defeated England’s James Dickens (22-3, 7 KOs) by second-round knockout in Cardiff, Wales. Those were his only two rounds of action since he beat the Philippines’ Drian Francisco (29-4-1, 22 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 10-round fight in November 2015.
The 30-year-old Flores (25-0, 17 KOs, 1 NC) will end an even longer layoff when he challenges Rigondeaux for the WBA super bantamweight championship. Flores hasn’t fought since he defended the interim WBA super bantamweight title last June 11 against Paulus Ambunda (24-2, 10 KOs), whom Flores defeated by unanimous decision in Ambunda’s hometown of Windhoek, Namibia.
The Rigondeaux-Flores fight was supposed to take place February 25 in Frisco, Texas. It was pushed back nearly four more months because the main event of that card, Miguel Cotto-James Kirkland, was canceled when Kirkland reportedly suffered a broken nose in a sparring session.
Rigondeaux wants to fight three times per year, especially now that he is 36.
“A fighter doesn’t fight forever,” said Alex Bornote, Rigondeaux’s manager. “The more battles we can get him into before his time is up would be best. I feel he’s ready and he’s in his prime now. I believe he has another four or five years left in him. He hasn’t suffered a lot of abuse. People barely touch him in the ring. He’s never been knocked out. He’s in prime shape right now. Now is the time.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist didn’t turn pro until he was 28 and has boxed just 17 times in the eight years since he made his pro debut in May 2009. Japan’s Hisashi Amagasa (32-6-2, 20 KOs) dropped Rigondeaux twice in the seventh round of their December 2014 bout. Rigondeaux recovered, dropped Amagasa during the ninth round and made Amagasa quit following the 11th round.
Three fights earlier, Nonito Donaire dropped Rigondeaux during the 10th round of an April 2013 bout Rigondeaux won convincingly. Overall, however, Rigondeaux hasn’t participated in many damaging battles.
Bornote also is confident Rigondeaux can continue thriving at a high level because the Miami resident takes care of his body away from boxing.
“He’s in optimal shape,” Bornote said. “He’s not up all night. He’s not out in clubs. And I think what really is the difference and sets him apart from everybody is his training regimen. He really trains and takes care of his body. He doesn’t abuse himself. That gives a boxer extra lifespan.”
Rigondeaux-Flores will be the third of four fights broadcast by HBO Pay-Per-View from Mandalay Bay Events Center ($64.99 in HD; 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.