The genius of Guillermo Rigondeaux depends on how you view the sport of boxing.

The fans that crave non-stop action with hardly any attention to defense despise Rigondeaux.

Cuba’s Rigondeaux, 37, is nearing the end of a career that seems destined to be cast as a boring waste of time, everything that’s wrong with the sport.

But isn’t it called the sweet science, an endeavor that requires mastery to balance intellect and movement?

Rigondeaux’s body of work has indeed been brilliant in its results: two Olympic gold medals and a 17-0 professional record with 11 knockouts. This success has led to the biggest fight of his career, Saturday night’s ESPN-televised showdown at Madison Square Garden’s Theater against fellow double gold-medalist Vasyl Lomachenko [9-1, seven KOs], with Lomachenko’s World Boxing Organization super-featherweight belt on the line.

“I know I really can’t affect people’s opinions about me and I don’t really dwell on it — [but] I went up to 130 [pounds] because it was the only way I could get this fight made,” Rigondeaux said through an interpreter recently. “I would rather it have been at a lower weight, but I want to show the world that I can do it by moving up two weight classes.

“The disconnect is between those who don’t appreciate what I do in the ring. You’re never going to make everybody agree on one thing — some like it, some don’t — but that’s just my ethic and that’s what I do.”

What Rigondeaux wants to show is that no man, even the well-distinguished, 29-year-old Lomachenko and his love for the attack, can solve the fighting riddler who is considered one of the hardest working boxers in the sport.

Several boxers and trainers are forecasting a Rigondeaux triumph because of his work ethic.

Skeptics, in many cases, are hopeful this is the end of Rigondeaux, who was the most popular boxer to ever defect from Cuba.

Guillermo Rigondeaux KO's Moises Flores but the fight was later declared no contest
Guillermo Rigondeaux KO’s Moises Flores but the fight was later declared no contest
What he found in remaining so true to his disciplined style is that American fans can’t tolerate the maddening spurts when absolutely nothing is happening in the ring. Something is happening, but it’s unseen to viewers because it’s occurring in the synapses of Rigondeaux’s brain. With constant observation and positioning he exploits an opponent’s slip, punishing him with powerful and precise snaps to the head and body.

Rigondeaux trainer Pedro Diaz, who’s worked with several Cuban fighters and world champions, said: “I believe boxing has its own art. Anybody can get in the ring and throw punches and go forward. The true boxer of quality and style is like Rigondeaux. You think, manage your technique every moment of the fight. Rigo knows how to fight all three distances and has all the characteristics of a great champion. You’ll see why his style is unique, a style of excellence.”

But the lack of physical activity proved too maddening for his former promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, so they parted ways with Arum devoting his salesmanship to Lomachenko, whom the promoter has referred to as boxing’s “Picasso” and his best talent since Muhammad Ali.

The absence of such vocal backing has resulted in just two bouts for Rigondeaux since 2015 — only three rounds of action, including a turn to aggression in what appeared to be a first-round knockout until a video replay showed his decisive punch landed one second after the bell was rung, resulting in a no-contest.

That’s how he’ll fight against Lomachenko, Rigondeaux promised.

“Of course. You’ll see fuego,” he said.

The rush to unleash that kind of thunderous blow is a point of debate in boxing circles. The quality of his opposition allowed it, argues one side, while the other, including Roc Nation Boxing executive Dino Duva, see it as Rigondeaux’s willingness in advanced age to give the people what they want.

So instead of waiting for the champion featherweights from Premier Boxing Champions — including Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares and Gary Russell Jr. — to express interest in a bout, Rigondeaux leaped to the ever-willing Lomachenko and the gold-medals selling point for his largest purse yet.

“This is what it takes to get the big fights. I am not worried at all,” Rigondeaux said.

A question about Rigondeaux taking the fight only to cash out brought Duva to intone, “When Rigo beats Lomachenko, all I ask is that you give him he credit he deserves. He’s been knocked around a lot, and a lot of it has been undeserving. Please give him the credit, because he is one of the all-time greats.”

Source: Lance Pugmire|| Contact Reporter