Undercard Roundup: Rigondeaux Prevails Controversially, Bivol Decisively

Photos: Ed Mulholland

[Editor's note: On June 26, the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to change the Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Moises Flores result from a first-round KO victory for Rigondeaux to a no-contest.]

By Eric Raskin

One thing you can say about this Guillermo Rigondeaux fight: It wasn’t boring.

The much-maligned but magnificently talented Cuban fighter only spent three minutes in the ring with opponent Moises “Chucky” Flores in the co-feature to Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev II at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, and it took about twice that long for the officials to reach a verdict. When they did, it seemed they got it wildly wrong, awarding Rigondeaux a first-round knockout win that could easily have been a no-contest or a disqualification loss instead.

The slick southpaw Rigondeaux (18-0, 12 KOs) spent the first two minutes and 50 seconds or so of the fight making the gangly Flores (25-1, 17 KOs) miss without producing much offense of his own. But Rigondeaux finally scored with a big counter left hand late in the round, followed by an exchange that saw the Cuban hold Chucky with his right hand while striking him repeatedly with his left. Referee Vic Drakulich moved in to stop the illegal punching, and the bell sounded, ending the round. A moment later, Rigondeaux landed a left hand that was undoubtedly after the bell, and Flores went to the mat, seemingly with a dose of thespianism. Drakulich sent Rigondeaux to a neutral corner and appeared utterly puzzled about what to do. Whereas the reasonable options would have been to count a knockdown if he thought the punch came before the bell, or to give the Mexican five minutes to recover if he thought it came after, Drakulich instead stared blankly at Flores, didn’t count, tried to ask him if he was okay, didn’t get the desired response, and waved off the fight.

And then things really got weird.

While Rigondeaux, 36, celebrated what he thought was a KO win, Drakulich, Nevada commissioner Bob Bennett, and alternate ref Robert Byrd deliberated, watched replays, and even made a phone call. On and on it dragged, until finally they came to the conclusion, somehow, that the punch was thrown before the bell sounded.

On the one hand, if Flores, 30, was faking, maybe he got what he deserved. But either way, the punch clearly came after the bell. If Drakulich was reluctant—understandably—to take away Rigondeaux’s undefeated record that way, he could have called it a no-contest. Instead, he went with the one outcome that simply didn’t make any sense.

“It was only a matter of time,” Rigondeaux told HBO’s Max Kellerman afterward, suggesting that a knockout was coming against the apparently overmatched Flores sooner or later. Maybe so. But it hadn’t come in the three minutes that the fight lasted, even if the official record will suggest otherwise.

***

It may be the case that Cedric Agnew is a lesser fighter than he was three years ago when he was stopped in seven rounds by Sergey Kovalev, but even if that’s the case, light heavyweight prospect Dmitry Bivol looked every bit a future champion blowing through Agnew in half that time. The Russian advanced to 11-0 with 9 KOs by knocking the 31-year-old Chicago southpaw down in round one and patiently pummeling him until the end came one minute and 27 seconds into the fourth.

It was a potent left hook-straight right combination that hurt Agnew in the opening round, setting up another straight right that sent him pitching forward to the canvas. Three rounds later, a left hook ended matters when it caused Agnew (29-3, 15 KOs) to wince, indicate some sort of injury to his right eye, and turn away from Bivol. Referee Russell Mora, either taking that as a sign that Agnew wanted out or simply seizing an opportunity to stop a one-sided beatdown, waved it off immediately. But we got a good look at the 26-year-old Bivol before it was over, getting a sense of his excellent footwork and balance, stellar ability to cut off the ring, and piercing straight right hand. And his defense isn’t bad either; according to CompuBox, Agnew landed just 13 punches in 3½ rounds.

***

In the opening bout of the broadcast, undefeated middleweight Luis “Cuba” Arias extended his record to 18-0 with 9 KOs by hammering out a fifth-round stoppage of game but limited Arif Magomedov (18-2, 11 KOs) of Russia. The fighters seemed evenly matched for the first three minutes, but Arias began to separate himself in the second, landing hard bodyshots and looking for every opportunity to thread his right uppercut in between the Russian’s guard. Early in round five, the 27-year-old from Milwaukee hurt Magomedov with a vicious right hand to the jaw, paused, sized up his wounded prey, and put him down with an even bigger right hand. The 24-year-old Magomedov rose on extremely unsteady legs, and after a couple of follow-up punches caused more staggering and stumbling, referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight at the 1:16 mark just as Magomedov’s corner was throwing in the towel.