Guillermo Rigondeaux is a Cuban born boxing savant who could possibly be the greatest amateur boxer of all time. His arrival in the United States was hailed by a small minority of hardcore boxing fans and the savvy promotional outfit Top Rank Boxing. Bob Arum, in a stroke of promotional genius, once again brought phenomenal talent from obscurity to the world stage in a professional prize ring. Guillermo Rigondeaux blasted through his early competition and quickly made a name for himself in the 122 pound division where Top Rank Star Nonito Donaire claimed championship supremacy. Nonito Donaire was by far the more well-known fighter and had the championship resume filled with spectacular knockouts to bolster his status to the top of some fans pound for pound list. As Rigondeaux stepped up his competition level, he began to show a brilliant mastery of the art of boxing that is almost lost in this era of microwaved fighters, rushed to championship status before they have a real grasp of the finer points of combat inside the ring. Guillermo Rigondeaux displayed the excellence of his championship pedigree fight after fight, all leading up to a fantastic showdown of the junior featherweight divisions best at Radio City Music Hall: Nonito Donaire vs Guillermo Rigondeaux on HBO.
Nonito Donaire was one of the darlings of the HBO and Top Rank franchise. Nonito loved fighting on a network that recognized his talent and HBO loved showcasing a fighter with the spectacular knockout power Nonito possesses. HBO and Nonito Donaire was a match made in heaven, but a boxing match is fought on a fiery perilous battlefield more akin to hell and Guillermo Rigondeaux is a fierce general. Guillermo Rigondeaux out thought, and out fought Nonito Donaire on the way to a comfortable decision, seemingly cementing his position of respect with a dominant performance in an intense boxing match that was generally appreciated by the boxing public: but there were others who were not so impressed. After a recent Top Rank card Bob Arum was asked about Rigondeaux’s future options and Arum described HBO’s response as “throwing up”. The immediate question that comes to mind is, “What motivation could Bob Arum have for publicly embarrassing one of his most dominant world champions?” Such comments give the perception that no one wants to see Rigondeaux fight and hurts Top Rank’s own position at the bargaining table. Was it a mistake by the usually brilliant Bob Arum to make such a statement? Why would HBO be hesitant to showcase a man considered one of the greatest amateurs of all time who was able to unify the junior featherweight division and beat a pound for pound player after only 12 fights? Could the network feel that way because he doesn’t get knockouts?
Rigondeaux has knocked out 8 of his 12 opponents and the fact that the question about Guillermo’s future fights keep getting asked shows there is indeed some interest in seeing him on television again, so where is the disconnect? Maybe there wasn’t any disconnect after all. Nonito Donaire vs Guillermo Rigondeaux was a legitimate super fight for the sport of boxing but was heading the way of other boxing super fights in the modern era: It almost didn’t happen. Nonito Donaire appeared happy to totally sidestep a fight with Rigondeaux to ask for a fight with Abner Mares he knew could never be made because their respective promotional outfits have refused to work with each other. To most fans eyes the maneuvers looked like a sophisticated duck of the challenge Rigondeaux posed and a grassroots campaign began to see these two mix it up. It is rare that the voice of the fans are heard but this time they were and the fans got the super fight they wanted and a fight in which HBO pushed Nonito to take when the fans voices became loud enough. All these recent events led Rigondeaux’s manager Gary Hyde, to publicly question if Top Rank is the right promotional company for them, and also questioned whether HBO was the right network. Does Bob Arum have such a cache of talent in his stable that he could afford to throw away a boxing master like Guillermo Rigondeaux? With the banishment of Golden Boy Promotions from the airwaves of HBO, does HBO feel like they can let a fighter go across the street to be promoted by their rival with the skill and built in audience that Guillermo Rigondeaux has? Time will tell but this writer thinks the fans will have a say in this again