Guillermo Rigondeaux leads Team Cuba on ESPN
By Brandon Estrict, Doghouse Boxing (July 18, 2009)  
On last night’s Cuban showcase edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fight’s, Jr. Featherweight Prospect Guillermo Rigondeaux, and his fellow Jr. Middleweight countrymen, the heavily hyped Erislandy Lara and Yudel Johnson completed the sweep, all maintaining their unbeaten records in front of a Pro-Cuban crowd at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in the boxing capitol of the world, Las Vegas, NV.

Though Lara may be the most talked about of tonight’s trio, and may possibly have the greatest potential of
any Cuban including Yuriorkis Gamboa, it was Rigondeaux who put the exclamation point on things, flashing superior speed and athleticism in an uncompetitive Round 1 against a limited and grossly overmatched Robert Guillen, 4-3-2, before stopping him with a crushing counter-left body-shot that saw Guillen writhe in pain on the canvas before referee Kenny Bayless mercifully abandoned his count and waved the fight off near the end of the opening round. The shot landed right on the proverbial button, and the excruciating pain Guillen appeared to be in might have been enough cause more than a few stomach-aches amongst viewers. With the KO, the only one the Cuban fighters would produce on the card, Rigondeaux improves to 2-0 (2). With the lack of action, and the caliber of the opponent, there wasn’t much to judge or critique tonight, but here’s to hoping we see the man Teddy Atlas called, “The best Amatuer fighter I’ve ever seen,” matched a little tougher next time out.

Yudel Johnson, obviously the lesser of the three and possibly of all of the recent Cuban Championship hopefuls, did what had to be done, but little else in earning an easy 4 Round Unanimous Decision victory over Massachusetts product Justin Paulo, 1-1, who offered little resistance, and that’s being generous. Paulo did land a shot or two of his own, but they were more of the ‘get away from me’ variety and not thrown with bad intentions. Johnson, 2-0 (1), does have some raw talent, but appears to have a longer way to go than the rest of crew, and will unfortunately, for him, be held up to the standards set by everyone else. It isn’t exactly his fault, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Erislandy Lara, now 7-0 (4), took a step up in class tonight, taking on veteran Darnell Boone who is best known for dropping Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward in their encounter back in 2005 before going on to lose a 6 round decision, and also dropping decisions to guys like Jean Pascal, Curtis Stevenson and Brian Vera at Super-Middleweight. He has only been stopped once in his career, by Walid Smichet believe it or not, and made sure Lara wouldn’t become the 2nd man to get him out of there inside the distance by constantly retreating and holding on when Erislandy would get to close to him. In round number six, Lara appeared to have Boone in trouble courtesy of a sneaky straight left, and he attempted to go in for the finish with uppercuts and even a seldom used right-hook but Boone was able to make the final bell, losing all 6 rounds but receiving the consolation prize he came for of going the distance. Lara dominated the action throughout, coming forward and leading more than in past fights, and even going backwards for a short time in Round 5 in an effort to bait Boone out of his shell and open some counterpunching opportunities. Needless to say, Boone, 16-12-2 (6) didn’t take the bait, instead choosing to survive while making the fight as awkward and uncomfortable as possible for his younger, more talented but not as seasoned foe. For everything that Lara does well and as good as he may be right now, there are still a few things to take back to the gym from this performance. He may want to more consistently incorporate a right-hook into his arsenal. His high guard defensive style also leaves part of his body exposed and he sometimes lunges forward, overshooting his target and smothering his work.

All in all, it was another successful night for the up-and coming Cubans and boxing fans should look forward to seeing their respective careers’ progress. Two major players not on tonight’s card were Heavyweight Odlanier Solis, and Featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa will next be in action September 26 at Madison Square Garden against an as of now unnamed opponent. Make sure to visit Doghouse Boxing regularly in the near future for all the latest on all of these fighters.

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