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‘Rigodon’ in the ring

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico | 4 Views

Top Rank’s Bob Arum was right all along: the Nonito Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux super bantamweight unification fight would go the distance. Arum, who has been in the boxing business for as long as Moses can remember, predicted that there would be no knockout simply because both skillful fighters would opt to engage in a tactical fight.

Well, the self-proclaimed legend and Hall-of-Famer, Cuba’s Rigondeaux overdid his tactical fight and showed a lot of fancy footwork and hand speed by running around all night long. Scott Christ of USA Today hit the proverbial nail on the head when he wrote in reference to Rigondeaux’s dazzling speed, “Some call it running. Others call it footwork. Whatever you want to call it, though, it’s not exciting to watch, particularly for casual fans, who, unlike those “purists,” apparently buy things like tickets and such”. No wonder, several rounds after the opening bell, the spectators at Radio City in New York were booing Rigondeaux’s hit and run style.

We were one of the many who found the fight uninteresting despite Rigondeaux’s skills honed by more than 300 fights as an amateur. To be sure, his boxing style is effective because he is now unified world champion after only 12 professional fights. As the great Chinese leader and reformist who pushed China towards the global market economy, Deng Xiaoping, exclaimed in 1961: “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. It’s a good cat so long as it catches mice”.’ In short, one should disregard the style or looks for as long as the job gets done.

Indeed Rigondeaux is getting the job of winning done, for now. But in boxing, winning is only half the problem for the sport remains, more than ever, a business that depends on a marketable product that has a defined market base and which satisfies the broadest of markets.

As things stand and in the view of many boxing promoters like Arum, Rigondeaux, may be good, may be skillful, may demonstrate a lot of boxing artistry, athleticism, defensive abilities, etc but will be a tough sell, unlike Donaire, simply because he (Rigondeaux) does not excite people inside and outside the ring.

As Christ says, “A marketable, charismatic star with a big fan base in the Philippines and US, Donaire isn’t hard to sell. But his conqueror this evening, (Rigondeaux) is, and Arum knows it. Rigondeaux, a 32-year old Cuban with a style that doesn’t please fans – be they rube fools or even the so-called “purists”, who apparently are a tiny portion of the audience that don’t pay for tickets or anything – has the 81-year old promoter a little unsure going forward.

Christ quoted Arum as saying: “….I’m probably going to have to do the best promoting job I’ve ever done…It was the exact opposite of the last two HBO fights we had. It was not a very engaging fight..When Rigondeaux stands and fights, the (expletive) has a lot of power and a lot of skill, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight. I had Donaire up by one point heading into the 11th, but clearly, Rigondeaux won the last two rounds. Clearly”.

Should Donaire go for a rematch? We wouldn’t give him that advice, if we’re asked. It’s not worth it. Let Rigondeaux engage a sucker who wants to be involved in a sleeper. We saw Rigondeaux fight Ricardo Cordoba in the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito for the WBC light middleweight belt at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on November 13, 2010, and, as far as I could tell, the hype behind him didn’t match his performance. I doubt if any sane promoter will take up Rigondeaux’s challenge that “he’ll fight anybody next (after Donaire)”.

Rigondeaux gave a post-fight lecture which is ironically correct, “Donaire’s an excellent fighter but you cannot win a fight with one shot.” The problem is he’s the one saying it for one can’t be a great fighter either by running around. If he continues fighting the way he does, Rigondeaux will be a champion for quite some time – an average champion, fighting average opponents and earning very average purses.

In many ways, watching the Solaire Open at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club (WWGCC) was more exciting and fulfilling than being subjected to Rigondeaux’s rigodon. Lin Wen-tang, 39, of Chinese Taipei found himself in deep trouble in the last two holes but miraculously managed to extricate himself from the trees to win by one stroke with a four-day total of three under, 285. Homegrown, 31-year old, EJ Marcelo emerged as the lowest amateur with a 306. He made the cut after the second day and outperformed a number of grizzled veterans.  Marcelo was champion of the President’s Cup in 2009, Club Champion in 2010 and a product of WWGCC’s youth program. We were delighted to award both Lin and Marcelo their well-deserved awards.

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