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Roc Nation Sports Wants Rigo

BY Michael Woods ON August 18, 2014
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UPDATE: A source tells TSS that Roc Nation Sports will run their debut boxing promotion on Nov. 8. Site TBD. It's between NYC and DC; they have a promoter license in each region. I'd expect them to sign some blue-chip boxers in the next few weeks. To this point, they have operated in a "quality over quantity" mindset, so I'm guessing we see the same in the boxing sphere i.e. they won't be looking to sweep up all available players, but will build the boxing brand around the few and the proud....

This one could be game changer, folks. Roc Nation, the Jay-Z entity which promised bold intentions and a declaration to take market share in the sports agenting realm when it formed in 2013, will now seek to make a mark in the pro boxing sphere.

Roc Nation Sports, it was announced on ESPN.com, is dipping their toes, and feet and hands, and considerable experience and muscles in expert leveraging of personalities and buildings and all the aspects that can so impact fight promotion, into the sweetly scientific waters.

Michael Yormark, brother of Brett Yormark, CEO of the NBA Nets, and overseer of Barclays Center, the "It" arena in the world, which is located in Brooklyn, is president of Roc Nation, since March 2014.

"This is a highly serious business to us," he told ESPN.

RNS has signed bigwigs in baseball, football, basketball and we're told they are going to make a splash in the fight game realm. Gary Hyde, advisor to Cuban ace Guillermo Rigondeaux, has been working to get Rigo on board with RNS, which just announced the signing of fightgame vet David Itskowitch, who has worked for Lou DiBella, and then had a long stint with Golden Boy. He can handle all aspects of a promotion and the fighters' day to day needs, from grassroots to the most top level board-room chess matches. His duties could include helping figuring out an arc for Rigo, the 14-0 hitter who is seen as a top three pound for pounder on the planet. But…We're hearing that Hyde is still waiting for Caribe Promotions to see the value of hooking Rigo on with Roc Nation Sports.

Seems like a no brainer on my end. What's bad about having this powerful entity, with talent agency CAA able to bring a Hollywood flair and buzz to the mix, with so much skin in the game to make their splash a lasting one, touting Rigo as sweet science superstar? My guess is Caribe comes around, and sees that this move would be of benefit to them, seeing as how they aren't, unto themselves, a power player in the fight game.

As far as other shoes dropping, you can maybe get a hint of which fighters RNS might be targeting via social media clues. Have you seen boxers attending Jay Z shows of late? Might that be a hint as to what players will be wearing what unis in the near future?

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Comment on this article

Froggy says:

I am sure this is a dumb question, but who is Fiddy ?

Radam G says:

I am sure this is a dumb question, but who is Fiddy ?


The Hip Hop rapper Curtis Jackson known as 50 ¢ent [$¡¢]. He and Money May used to be tight. Holla!

Froggy says:

Thanks for the info RG !

stormcentre says:

Hopefully a good move for Rigo

The Commish says:

I am still wondering if Fiddy will continue to be involved in boxing promotion for much longer. Jay-Z seems totally committed to this venture with Roc Nation Sports. Bringing on the likes of Michael Yormark and David Iskowitch shows me that committment.


It will be interesting to see how many fighters Roc Nation signs, the calibre of fighter they sign. and how many shows they look to promote, as well as where those promotions will be. Will there be TV? For Jay-Z, that seems easy enough. He is respected by TV moguls who just may buy a Roc Nation event because Jay-Z will be involved.


With Yormark aboard, he's got the "in" with the Barclays Center, as his brother, Brett, is CEO of the NBA Nets as well as a top executive with Barclays.


Without doing a thing, Ron Nation has already become a power broker in the wild and wacky world of professional boxing.


-Randy G.

brownsugar says:

Even more significant than ROC Nation winning the purse bid over GB by $700, 000 to promote Quillin vs Kovalev...... is that the fight between Quillin and his most formidable challenger to date is actually going to happen.

Google Korobov vs (Krusher) Kovalev to witness one of the purest amateur boxing exhibitions of technique available on YouTube.

Korobov has had some stamina and focus issues during his long overdue slog through the professional ranks while earning the title shot... and in some ways he doesn't seem like the same fighter he was in the amateurs .

Its ironic because Korobov entered the pro ranks as highly regarded as Lomenchenko but it was Triple G came out of near obscurity to capture our most imaginations.

And Korobov still retains more boxing ability than Quillin has ever accumulated in his relatively far more brief amateur career .

Its a fight we all deserve and I hope Quillin can pull it off for the ol' red, white and blue.
Particularly because I want to see Quillin vs GGG.
BUT my money will be on the better schooled Korobov.

brownsugar says:

I am still wondering if Fiddy will continue to be involved in boxing promotion for much longer. Jay-Z seems totally committed to this venture with Roc Nation Sports. Bringing on the likes of Michael Yormark and David Iskowitch shows me that committment.


It will be interesting to see how many fighters Roc Nation signs, the calibre of fighter they sign. and how many shows they look to promote, as well as where those promotions will be. Will there be TV? For Jay-Z, that seems easy enough. He is respected by TV moguls who just may buy a Roc Nation event because Jay-Z will be involved.


With Yormark aboard, he's got the "in" with the Barclays Center, as his brother, Brett, is CEO of the NBA Nets as well as a top executive with Barclays.


Without doing a thing, Ron Nation has already become a power broker in the wild and wacky world of professional boxing.


-Randy G.


Interesting Intel Commish

MCM says:

If this goes through, look for Rigo to fight almost exclusively at the Barclays Center.

But does he have enough to be Barclays' first great star and so elevate the arena to the constellations of boxing history?

He's got fast hands and slippery shoulders, but if Donaire uses his chin and fights twelve rounds with the same strategy he fought with in R 11, could he take down Rigo in a future rematch? I think Rigo's small stature could betray him as it betrayed Gamboa against Crawford.

I like Rigo, but I could see him beaten.

Whatever happens in his career, it'll probably happen at Barclays.

The Commish says:

If this goes through, look for Rigo to fight almost exclusively at the Barclays Center.

But does he have enough to be Barclays' first great star and so elevate the arena to the constellations of boxing history?

He's got fast hands and slippery shoulders, but if Donaire uses his chin and fights twelve rounds with the same strategy he fought with in R 11, could he take down Rigo in a future rematch? I think Rigo's small stature could betray him as it betrayed Gamboa against Crawford.

I like Rigo, but I could see him beaten.

Whatever happens in his career, it'll probably happen at Barclays.


You can see Rigo beaten? By whom, MCM?

-Randy G.

The Shadow says:

You can see Rigo beaten? By whom, MCM?

-Randy G.


Nah. Rigo Ortiz doesn't lose to anyone under 135 ever. EVER.

I understand where MCM is coming from but the thing is this: Donaire can't sustain that aggression for a full round vs. Rigo, let alone a full fight.

Donaire just ran out like a madman, blew his load, caught Rigo slippin' in an unfamiliar situation.

Nevertheless, about a minute later, Rigo had turned the round back into the same hypnotic snake charmer exercise.

People are intrigued by the fact that Leo Santa Claus throws 176 punches per round.

Only thing is he won't against Rigo, not if he knows what's good for him.

Now, he may try the first round but once he gets a taste of that sharp nuclear/scalpel left hand delivered with the surgical precision of Cher's doctor -- not to mention with the impact of a 2x4 -- this dude Leo will put his gun back in his holster and try to survive just like Joseph Agbeko.

If he doesn't, he will get starched in three. He will realize this. So he won't.

We may start calling Rigo Johnny T. because it will be a reprise of "Get Leo."

Again, no one beats Rigo. Not Gamboa, not Lomachenko, not Garcia not Donaire.

The Commish says:

Nah. Rigo Ortiz doesn't lose to anyone under 135 ever. EVER.

I understand where MCM is coming from but the thing is this: Donaire can't sustain that aggression for a full round vs. Rigo, let alone a full fight.

Donaire just ran out like a madman, blew his load, caught Rigo slippin' in an unfamiliar situation.

Nevertheless, about a minute later, Rigo had turned the round back into the same hypnotic snake charmer exercise.

People are intrigued by the fact that Leo Santa Claus throws 176 punches per round.

Only thing is he won't against Rigo, not if he knows what's good for him.

Now, he may try the first round but once he gets a taste of that sharp nuclear/scalpel left hand delivered with the surgical precision of Cher's doctor -- not to mention with the impact of a 2x4 -- this dude Leo will put his gun back in his holster and try to survive just like Joseph Agbeko.

If he doesn't, he will get starched in three. He will realize this. So he won't.

We may start calling Rigo Johnny T. because it will be a reprise of "Get Leo."

Again, no one beats Rigo. Not Gamboa, not Lomachenko, not Garcia not Donaire.


I agree with you, Shadow, but I really would like to see two of history's greatest amateurs--Rigo & V-Lo--go head-to-head as professional world champions. A more intriguing matchup I cannot think of.

-Randy G.

The Shadow says:

I agree with you, Shadow, but I really would like to see two of history's greatest amateurs--Rigo & V-Lo--go head-to-head as professional world champions. A more intriguing matchup I cannot think of.

-Randy G.


I agree. On paper anyway.

But not in reality.

Like I've said in these here parts before, they will not let that guy within 10 miles of the Cuban for one single, simple reason:

If they ever square off Lomachenko will retire and become a Zumba trainer in Kiev.

He may not take a brutal beatdown, but the psychological damage will be catastrophical as well as permanent.

His team as well as his promoter know that.

But the thought is still extremely intriguing!

The two best amateurs of all time squaring off for the pro belts.

Unfortunately that's the only place it will take place -- in our minds.

The Commish says:

Funny, but when I mentioned Rigo as a Top-10 pound-for-pound fighter after his dominant victory over Nonito Donaire, my radio listeners--as well as my sidekick, Gerry Cooney--told me I was nuts. They said Rigo was as boring as boring could be. I didn't agree. I still don't.

He can slug, and do so bigtime. But when you can box the way he does, why slug???

$$$May boxes...plays defense...does the "Shoulder Roll"...covers up. Is he called boring? He is boxing's biggest attraction. What makes him so much more exciting than an artist like Rigo?

I think Roc Nation's going after Rigo was a brilliant move. They will make Top Rank grumble and talk to themselves, wondering why they didn't treat this incredible super-talent with any respect.

You haven't even seen the best of Willie Rigo.

Over the course of the next 12-18 months, you will.

-Randy G.

The Shadow says:

Funny, but when I mentioned Rigo as a Top-10 pound-for-pound fighter after his dominant victory over Nonito Donaire, my radio listeners--as well as my sidekick, Gerry Cooney--told me I was nuts. They said Rigo was as boring as boring could be. I didn't agree. I still don't.

He can slug, and do so bigtime. But when you can box the way he does, why slug???

$$$May boxes...plays defense...does the "Shoulder Roll"...covers up. Is he called boring? He is boxing's biggest attraction. What makes him so much more exciting than an artist like Rigo?

I think Roc Nation's going after Rigo was a brilliant move. They will make Top Rank grumble and talk to themselves, wondering why they didn't treat this incredible super-talent with any respect.

You haven't even seen the best of Willie Rigo.

Over the course of the next 12-18 months, you will.

-Randy G.


I absolutely agree.

It's just a bias to say he's boring. He doesn't run like Lara. He stands in front of you, boxes and moves. Just like Floyd. He's a counter puncher. Just like Floyd.

Rigo even fights behind the shoulder. Just like Floyd. So while he may not be Arturo Gatti, there is a definite contradiction there.

Randy, I had him a Top 10 P4P even before the Donaire (though lower Top 10 because I still had questions about whether theory and practice would align).

My eyes ain't lying. Those who disagreed with you, Commish, in the words of Mike Tyson, are just showing themselves to be "neophytes."

And I think the consensus is that now, with most reputable and knowledgeable analysts rating him anywhere from Top 5 to Top 2.

I consider Floyd Mayweather -- skill-for-skill, pound-for-pound -- one of the most gifted (not saying he's the greatest; different argument, different discussion), if not the most gifted, fighter of all time. That's how high I rate his skill set.

If you break down Mayweather's dimensions, he might be the most complete fighter ever. I don't think anyone in boxing history can outbox/out-think Mayweather.

Though I would favor Floyd due to physicality and greater knowledge of the pro game (ie. stealth filth) and superior inside fighting ability, I still think Rigo is competitive with him in a 12-round bout at welterweight.

In a six round fight with 10 oz gloves, Rigo edges him. In sparring with 16 oz gloves, he will embarrass him.

It's really a shame because back in the early 2000s, had Rigo been allowed to go pro as an Olympic gold medalist, we might have gotten to see that fight between two of the most naturally gifted fighters ever.

It's funny, in Cuba they consider him the best fighter that ever lived. Two-time Olympian champions bow before him.

I'm not even kidding.

That's all the endorsement I need.

This dude is the real deal. If Roc Nation gets him they may turn him into a star.

But let's not forget, Gamboa was one of the hottest guys out there when 50 got him. He was going to energize the urban audience supposedly and bring the BET demographics to boxing.

That didn't happen.

That said, Dave I. knows what the F he's doing. Though he's a capable business man and leader, 50 Cent was/is too hands on.

You need boxing guys running the show. And then again, what many don't know is that Rigo is a rapper.

This may be a ploy for Roc Nation to tap into the lucrative reggaeton market!

Primo Carnera for president.

stormcentre says:

Almost all, good comments in this thread.

Rigo is a smooth operator for sure, and only from a good defence can you have the best offence and choose where/when/how to take your mark down.

That's one reason why Rigo is a very cool boxer-technician.

oubobcat says:

It really should come as no surprise that Roc Nation is after Rigo. They need fighters and Rigo is a free agent. Despite his style, he is also considered by many (myself included) as a top pound for pound fighter. So why not try to make a relatively big splash with your first signing.

And it was mentioned earlier in this thread about Roc Nation winning the Quillin-Korobov purse bid. This is absolutely a huge statement by Roc Nation announcing to the boxing world that they are going to be major players. Though they have neither fighter, they made a very large bid to stage the fight. This shows they are serious about this sport and much more serious than say some other newer promoters recently who have tried to break through in the sport. Roc Nation is putting its money where its mouth is and doing what they have to do to stage events in the infancy stages of their boxing promoting days.

MCM says:

I don't disagree that Rigo looks unbeatable for now, and it makes perfect sense that Roc would identify him as the next best fighter in the game. I can't see him losing to anyone besides Donaire, and even then, I'd be surprised.

Surprised, but not shocked. Donaire's fight was strategically backward, and it made the disparity between the boxers appear wider than it really is; Donaire should have known this by R 3, and he must know it now. In a rematch, Donaire would come out bullying the smaller man, and make head-first sallies behind a chin which never quivered under Rigo's blows. Donaire proved he could send his man to the lona, Rigo didn't, and if Donaire can take the strings from Rigo and create some controlled chaos, I could see him standing over his man.

Rico's real good, but I need a Donaire rematch before anointing him unbeatable.

Froggy says:

I agree with what you said but don't think Donaire would have nearly the same chance at 122 as he might have at featherweight ! I would not mind seeing a rematch though, but I think they would both want to dictate the weight !

amayseng says:

Rigo is a phenom, but if he isn't challenged to where the best is brought out of him offensively, well then he will tank when it comes to making business cents. There is a reason TR let him go.

brownsugar says:

Rigo was labeled early and still hasn't completely shaken off the stigma.... His time will come. Hopefully Big Al will let Cruz unleash his volume punching offence against the least hittable boxer in the world according to compubox

stormcentre says:

There's no doubt Rigo is brilliant.

Rarely does all the prerequisites for a complete fighter/boxer come packaged as neatly and as efficiently as they are in Rigo.

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