When two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux turned pro, many observers predicted big things because of his exceptional amateur success. No one could have guessed, however, that 12 fights into his career that he not only would be a two-belt titlist but that he would also be in the pound-for-pound conversation. That’s what comprehensively beating Nonito Donaire, a consensus top-three pound-for-pound entrant, will do for a fighter.
Saturday’s fight with former bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko represents Rigondeaux’s opportunity to consolidate his gains against a respected opponent. For Agbeko, it is a chance to regain what he lost two years ago against Abner Mares – a spot amongst the elite.
Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
Rigondeaux’s Breakthrough: Aside from a 10th round knockdown, Rigondeaux’s performance vs. Donaire was a technical and statistical masterpiece. His superlative skills slowed the pace to a comfortable level (33 punches per round for Rigondeaux, 29.3 for Donaire, far below the 60.3 junior featherweight norm), his defensive prowess limited “The Filipino Flash” to 23% overall, 13% jabs and 30% power and his counterpunching lifted Rigondeaux to 33% overall, 25% jabs and 41% power. Because the fight was waged on Rigondeaux’s cerebral terms, Donaire failed to impose his size, power and volume advantages.
Smart Bombs: Accuracy has been the key to Rigondeaux’s success, especially with his hardest punches. He landed 43% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts against Robert Marroquin (W 12), 49% against Teon Kennedy (KO 5) and 49% against Willie Casey (KO 1) along with 41% against Donaire. Although he struggled to find the target against Rico Ramos (35%), Rigondeaux closed the show most impressively by landing 63% of them in the sixth and final round.
Rigondeaux's low punch output magnifies the effect of his power displays. He averaged just 26 punches per round against Ramos, 41.6 against Kennedy, 39.2 versus Jose Angel Beranza (KO 7) and 33 against Donaire. The lone exception to this pattern was the Casey fight in which Rigondeaux unleashed 80 punches in 148 seconds (even less time when one considers the time spent counting two of the three knockdowns).
The Untouchable: While his one-punch power, especially lefts to the body, grabs the headlines his airtight defense in his last five fights is almost beyond belief. Consider:
Opponents Overall Conn. Pct. (jabs & power punches)
5 opponents conn. pct.: 16%- #1 among current championship caliber fighters. Opponents landed an avg. of 5 of 32 punches per round...#2 Mayweather -18% & Anselmo Moreno -18%
Junior featherweight average: 32% (19 of 60)
Layoff? What Layoff: Like fellow Ghanaians Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey, Agbeko seems to thrive when coming off long layoffs. Nearly 14 months after losing his IBF bantamweight title to Yohnny Perez, Agbeko went right back in with Perez and recaptured his belt via 12 round decision.
Fight one was one for the ages statistically, for Perez averaged 133.1 punches per round to Agbeko’s 113.4 and prevailed 531-528 in total connects and 423-349 in landed power shots. Their 1059 combined total punches landed is #1 in CompuBox's 28 yr. history, encompassing 5400-plus fights. Their 772 combined power shots landed ranks #4.
Agbeko was more accurate (39%-33% overall, 33%-24% jabs, 43%-37% power). But in the rematch, Agbeko managed to slow the pace somewhat (91.6 for Agbeko, 92.6 for Perez) but exploit every opening Perez gave him as he landed 41% overall, 35% jabs and 45% power en route to connect bulges of 446-289 overall, 146-48 jabs and 300-241 power. He limited Perez to 26% overall, 15% jabs and 30% power, pretty good defense against someone who launches 1,111 punches in 12 rounds. It was clear Agbeko learned his lessons from fight one and somehow managed to emerge a fresher and more effective competitor following a long hiatus.
Among current championship caliber fighters, Agbeko places in the top 3 in five of CompuBox's Categorical Leaders lists: Punches Landed per Round: 28-#2; Power Punches Landed per Round: 20- #2; Jabs Landed per Round: 8- #3; Total Punches Thrown per Round: 77- #2; Power Punches Thrown per Round: 51- #3.
This is Agbeko’s second fight since losing the Abner Mares rematch in December 2011 and he comes into the ring after a nearly nine-month break. History shows that he’ll be ready but at age 33 can he still summon the necessary energy?
Prediction: Agbeko will have the physical tools to at least try to impose a high-octane war on Rigondeaux, perhaps the only way he’ll be able to shake the Cuban’s rhythm. But not only is Rigondeaux a superlative technician, he also carries knockout drops in each hand. He’ll land enough bombs during the early exchanges to establish his respect and that respect may be shown by Agbeko slowing his pace. If that happens, Rigondeaux will have successfully laid the groundwork for a unanimous decision victory, which is what will happen.