by Michael Gluckstadt
Guillermo Rigondeaux put on a masterclass against Joseph Agbeko at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He darted in and out, dancing circles around his befuddled opponent, landing uppercuts Agbeko never saw coming. Rigondeaux didn't lose a round on any of the judges' cards in keeping his 122-pound title-- and he didn't lose a second of the fight.
When he fought for Cuba in the Olympics, Rigondeaux was regarded by some as the greatest amateur to ever fight. He brought all those skills to bear tonight, outthinking his Ghanian opponent at every turn. Like a great chess player, Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 KOs) set up several moves ahead of time. In the early rounds, "Rigo" kept Agbeko's right hand at bay with a probing jab, punished him with lightning-quick counters every time he came in, and artfully set up a punishing left uppercut to land just as Agbeko leaned into a crouch.
Figured out, Agbeko (29-5, 22 KOs) simply gave up. According to CompuBox figures, Agbeko landed 48 punches in the entire fight, four per round. "It was an easy fight for me," Rigondeaux said afterwards, "because Agbeko didn't come to fight." The crowd agreed with the sentiment, serenading the fighters with a smattering of boos, and one man simply shouting, "Boring!"
This isn't the first time Rigondeaux has a made a world class athlete look like he just came off the street, and he's been criticized in the past for not pressing the action more in his fights. If the aim is simply to win, there's no doubting Rigondeaux is one of the top talents in the sport. But as an entertainer, he left the Atlantic City crowd wanting more.
When Guillermo Rigondeaux, the champion at 122-pounds, stared across at his opponent, Joseph Agbeko, he didn't betray any emotion. Seconds passed, maybe minutes, and it could have been seasons before Rigondeaux would have flinched from his cold-eyed posture.
When the standoff at the weigh-in at Caesar's Atlantic City was finally broken up, Rigondeaux remained just as resolute. "Enough talk," he said. "Training camp is over. I'm ready to take care of business."
Rigondeaux is headlining Saturday's HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader, airing at 9:45 PM ET/PT from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The broadcast kicks off when middleweights Matthew Macklin and Lamar Russ square off in a 10-round contest.
Undefeated contender Glen Tapia will then meet seasoned veteran James Kirkland in a 10-round bout at a catchweight of 156 pounds.
Then, the feature event showcases Rigondeaux as he defends his titles against Agbeko in a match scheduled for 12 rounds.
Official Weights from Atlantic City:
Guillermo Rigondeaux: 121 lbs.
Joseph Agbeko: 121.6 lbs.
Glen Tapia: 156 lbs.
James Kirkland: 155.1 lbs.
Matthew Macklin: 159 lbs.
Lamar Russ: 159 lbs.
Join the conversation on Twitter: #RigoAgbeko
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:
Will three times be the charm for James Kirkland? He certainly hopes so.
Twice before the “Mandingo Warrior” has emerged from layoffs of more than two years. Following a one-round KO of Russell Jordan in November 2003, Kirkland returned in April 2006 with a three-round stoppage of 13-11-2 Manny Castillo. Exactly two years after stopping Joel Julio in six, Kirkland blasted out the 10-2 Jhon Berrio in two rounds. On Saturday, 21 months after a controversial DQ win over now-IBF junior middleweight king Carlos Molina, Kirkland begins again – this time against the 20-0 Glen Tapia. A tall order indeed.
With a victory, Tapia vaults himself into the 154-pound title conversation while for Kirkland, perhaps a rematch with Molina is on the horizon, a fight that fans hope will answer the questions the first match should have provided.
Statistical factors that may provide insights into the result include:
By Eric Raskin
It was supposed to be Guillermo Rigondeaux’s crowning moment, his chance to shout “I’m going to Disney World!” as confetti fell from the ceiling and the multitudes chanted his name. But when he cupped his hand around his ear, the Cuban master craftsman didn’t hear echoes of “Rig-on-deaux! Rig-on-deaux!” He heard boos. And then it got worse. He heard his own promoter declare him virtually un-promotable.
All Rigondeaux did on the night of April 13, 2013 was decisively outpoint Nonito Donaire, who came into the fight as high as number three on some people’s pound-for-pound lists and no lower than fifth on anyone’s. Donaire is arguably the best fighter who has lost a bout in 2013 (Juan Manuel Marquez being the only possible alternative choice), making Rigondeaux the fighter who beat the best fighter anybody beat this year. On top of that, he got off the canvas to do it and dominated the final round, usually sure indicators of guts and mettle and all those intangible qualities that fans prize.