Junior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux made good on his prefight promise of delivering explosive fireworks against Hisashi Amagasa on New Year’s Eve in Osaka, Japan.
The undefeated southpaw from Cuba, who is the Transnational Rankings, Ring Magazine and WBA 122-pound champion, stopped Amagasa at the close of Round 11 in a thrilling title fight. Rigondeaux was down twice in Round 7, but scored a knockdown of his own in Round 9 on his way to the TKO 11 victory.
The bout started with Rigondeaux establishing his range against Ama, a lanky fighter over six inches taller than Rigondeaux. Rigo appeared to throw more punches through the first half of the fight, perhaps in an effort to win over fans, or maybe just because the longer reach of Ama forced him into it.
Whatever the case, Rigo stunned Ama in Round 5 with a hard left hand and unleashed a furious barrage of punches, but the tough former featherweight withstood the avalanche and made it through the round.
At the very end of Round 7, Ama caught Rigo in the center of the ring on a pivot and put him down to the canvas with a short right hand. Rigondeaux rose quickly but was down again seconds later. While the second knockdown appeared to be more a product of trying to hold on to Ama than anything else, Rigo was clearly in trouble as the round came to a close.
But Rigo reestablished control of the fight in Round 8 and dominated the action again until the fight was halted at the end of Round 11.
Ama was unable to come out of his corner for Round 12. His face was badly swollen and bruised from Rigo’s devastating jabs and precise power punches.
Rigondeaux, age 34, is one of the top fighters in the sport of boxing. His skill set is unparalleled among his junior featherweight peers, something that has kept most of the big names in the division from agreeing to fight him.
Just last week, popular pressure fighter Leo Santa Cruz, who holds the WBC belt, told Fight Hub TV’s Marcos Villegas that Rigondeaux wasn’t an interesting fight for him.
“Guillermo Rigondeaux, the people don’t like his style, and I don’t think that’d be an interesting fight,” said Santa Cruz. “I wanna give a great show and a great fight for the fans. I think against Mares is more likely [because of] his style and everything. They told me already that if everything goes well in this next fight, then they’ll try to make the fight against Mares.”
In reality, of course, Rigondeaux is absolutely the most interesting fight for Santa Cruz and vice versa.
First, Rigondeaux is the division’s lineal champion, a title he earned by dethroning Nonito Donaire in April 2013. A fight between Rigondeaux and Mares would further unify the division and establish the winner as the kind of champion who takes on all-comers.
Second, Santa Cruz possesses the kind of in-your-face style that would make the bout aesthetically pleasing for most fight fans. While Rigondeaux is a master pugilist, many fight fans and media members are far from in love with the classic Cuban style he employs which relies on minimizing risk through circular movement and precise punching.
In fact, Team Rigondeaux has found it tough sledding to land American television dates as of late exactly because he’s been labeled “boring” by the boxing public. And the mainstream boxing media hasn’t helped things. After Rigo’s win over Donaire, ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael and Yahoo’s Kevin Iole wrote columns berating the Cuban defector for his fighting style.
But excellence has its place in boxing, too. And consistently proving to be one of the two or three best fighters in the world, something Rigondeaux has done a solid job of over the last two years, should eventually bear him fruit.
Rigondeaux deserves big fights at 122 pounds. He’s the division’s true champion and one of boxing’s elite pound-for-pound stars. He deserves American television dates, too. While HBO may have moved on from televising the so-called Rigolution for buzzsaws like Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev, Showtime hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire as of late with their cards and could use a boost in the arm in 2015.
Rigondeaux’s thrilling win over Amagasa has given Santa Cruz and his handlers every reason to make the fight. Rigondeaux, the champion, showed he could entertain fans and win a great action fight, too. The knockdowns showed Rigo might be vulnerable to Santa Cruz’s particular style of volume punching and refuted Santa Cruz’s claim that the fight would not be interesting.
When asked via Twitter what happened to his claim earlier this year that Showtime would be interested in televising Rigondeaux’s fights should he become available, Stephen Espinoza indicated the interest was still there.
“Still interested, but opponent and date are always factors, too,” said Espinoza.
Santa Cruz would seem the right opponent, and Rigondeaux has already indicated he’d be ready as early as next month for a bout against Santa Cruz, so a date should be able to be agreed upon, too.
“I am very frustrated that the other world beltholders are running scared and won’t fight me,” Rigondeaux said via press release before the Amagasa win.
Fight fans should be frustrated with it, too.