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Rigondeaux: The Vastly Experienced Neophyte

Bernard Fernandez

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All right, fight fans, it’s pop quiz time. Your question for today:

Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux is … well, what,exactly?

A: A relative boxing neophyte, still a bit wet behind the ears and learning as he goes along.

B: So wise in the ways of the ring he should he should be sitting in a temple atop some snow-capped mountain, dispensing knowledge to visiting acolytes who seek to learn from the master.

C: Both of the above.

Determining the right answer is a conundrum, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Because there is no way of really knowing which one of the possible choices is the more accurate, at least until the night of April 13, when Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), the WBA super bantamweight champion, and Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs), the WBO junior featherweight titlist and 2012 Fighter of the Year, square off in a 122-pound unification showdown.

The much-anticipated matchup will be televised by HBO Championship Boxing from Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“Rigondeaux is a great fighter, but I believe that he still needs experience,” Donaire, noting the Cuban defector’s relatively skimpy professional resume, said at the press conference to announce the bout. A supremely confident Donaire – and why shouldn’t he be, having been named Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, ESPN, Yahoo!Sports, Sports Illustrated and several boxing web sites, including (along with co-winner Robert Guerrero) Thesweetscience.com – added that, “I don’t really make predictions, but if I can take the fight early, I’ll take the fight early.”

If that isn’t a prediction of a knockout, then ostriches soar high in the sky with eagles.

The 32-year-old Rigondeaux (seen above in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo, with Donaire, on the left) hears the whispered and not-so-whispered doubts about his legitimacy as a top-tier pro and he shrugs them off with a laugh or a bellow of outrage, depending on his mood at any given moment. How can anyone call a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000 and 2004), a fighter with a reputed amateur record of 400-12 record, remain something of a question mark simply because he now does his punching for pay instead of for trophies? Is the pro version of the pugilistic arts really that different from the amateur brand?

“At the end of the day, he’ll find out,” Rigondeaux said in response to Donaire’s suggestion that he is too lacking in pro experience to spoil the Filipino-born Donaire’s 2013 debut. “I’ll show him what I’m all about. Let Donaire keep thinking that. I’m going to give him an ass-whipping he won’t forget.”

There are, of course, quite a few highly accomplished amateur boxers who sparkled just as brightly as pros. There also are Olympic legends that flopped once the headgear came off, the computers were stowed away and the number of scheduled rounds increased. Even Rigondeaux acknowledges that comparing professional boxing to amateur boxing can be a tricky proposition.

“There is always a transition,” Rigondeaux said. “But based on my personal experience and my career, it’s a little different for me because I’m a seasoned veteran. I’ve been able to change a few things here and there. I haven’t had a problem making necessary adjustments. I think I’ve shown that.

“Look, all fights are different. All fighters are different. I’ve gotten better each step of the way since I turned pro. You just have to know who you’re fighting, (formulate) the proper strategy and to execute that strategy to the best of your ability. But you also have to be flexible enough to tweak your strategy when the occasion calls for it.”

Rigondeaux’s strategy in most fights has been to work at a controlled pace, to probe for weaknesses in his opponent’s defense and to counterpunch. It isn’t particularly frenetic or crowd-pleasing at all times, but when he does connect solidly, it often is with concussive force. He can methodically outbox the other guy from the get-go, seemingly headed to a points victory, when a properly placed shot ends matters with the suddenness of a striking viper.

Freddie Roach, who was then training Rigondeaux (his current trainer is Pedro Diaz), had this to say about “El Chacal’s” first-round stoppage of Adolfo Landeras on Feb. 5, 2010. “I went to sit down,” Roach laughed, “and the fight was over.”

But whether he concludes his night’s business quickly and brutally, or over time with precision craftsmanship, Rigondeaux usually makes a favorable impression on those who know and appreciate what they’re seeing. In defending his WBA super bantam title on a fifth-round technical knockout of Teon Kennedy last June 9 – a rout in which Rigondeaux floored the Philadelphian five times – the winner scored big with the HBO broadcast crew.

“This is gym work for Rigondeaux,” Max Kellerman said.

“I think (Rigondeaux) would be considered with the great Teofilo Stevenson as one of the greatest amateur boxers in history,” opined Emanuel Steward, who, sadly, has passed away since that telecast.

Stevenson, of course, is the benchmark against which almost all amateur boxers are assessed. The heavyweight wrecking machine is one of only three amateurs to have won three Olympic gold medals (in 1972, ’76 and ’80), a feat matched only by fellow Cuban Felix Savon and Hungary’s Laszlo Papp. Rigondeaux might have joined that highly exclusive club, but he was prohibited from participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by Cuban president Fidel Castro for having attempted to defect during the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“The Cuban athlete who deserts his delegation is like a soldier who deserts his unit in the midst of combat,” Castro said of Rigondeaux’s bid to slip away from his government’s control, also made by his teammate, Erislandy Lara.

Publicly chastened in their homeland but undeterred in their goal to find freedom, Lara escaped to Germany, then the United States, in 2008, Rigondeaux in 2009. Rigondeaux, who now resides in Miami, left behind a wife and a son.

“I’m surprised on one level because he left home at the end of January saying he was going to Santiago,” Rigondeaux’s wife, Farah Colina, told OTB Sports, referring to the eastern city that is Cuba’s second-largest. “But on another level, I think he was obligated to do this.”

Rigondeaux said his defection was spurred by a desire to provide better financial support for his relatives because, in Cuba, even celebrated Olympic champions live a virtual hand-to-mouth existence. “My family can and has benefitted from the money I am earning as a pro,” he said.

Part of the transition – making money, and potentially loads of it – can be the most difficult shift in lifestyles for Cubans who make it to this country and are allowed to remain in keeping with the “wet feet, dry land” policy instituted during the Clinton administration and which remains in effect today. Summed up, that policy dictates that political refugees who make it onto American soil are granted sanctuary; those picked up by the Coast Guard while still at sea can be returned to their countries of origin.

“When you come to America from Cuba, basically you coming from having nothing to having something,” Rigondeaux said. “It’s definitely a life-changer, and it can happen almost overnight. But you can’t let that alter the hard work, dedication and sacrifice you always have put into becoming the very best that you can be.

“I keep myself humble. I’m grateful for what I have now. Yes, people can change if they attain fame and money. It can raise issues. It can raise issues if you go from being rich to being poor, too. But whatever life gives you, you have to deal with it. And that is especially so for someone in my position. Being a champion means not going wild outside the ring. Being a champion means always retaining your focus.”

Come April 13, it will matter not how well Rigondeaux stacks up against Stevenson – who never attempted to defect – but only how he stacks up against Donaire, 30, who was a young boy when he and his family left their native Philippines to settle in San Leandro, Calif., in 1994. Should he upset the favored Donaire, he could fast-track himself to the sort of professional acclaim that previously has gone to such esteemed Cuban fighters as Kid Gavilan, Kid Chocolate, Benny Paret, Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ramos, Jose Napoles and Florentino Fernandez. Heck, he might already have matched one or two of those names, and the prevailing sentiment is that he is the best of the current Cuban pros, a group that includes Lara, Yuriokis Gamboa, Odlanier Solis, Alexei Collado and Joel Casamayor.

“One thing is for sure,” Rigondeaux said of the mission he is about to undertake. “I will be 100 percent ready when I enter the ring. I am preparing for this fight with all my effort, all my dedication, with the idea of giving the best performance of my career. Donaire had better be ready to do the same thing.

“But whether he is or isn’t, I will win. April 13 is going to be a big night for me. It will be a night of celebration. Everyone is going to be talking about that night for years to come because they are going to see something truly special.”

So what is the most likely answer to the question posed at the beginning of this story? Depends on whether you consider his late start and limited number of pro bouts – Rigondeaux won an “interim” world title in just his seventh outing, and a “regular” one in his ninth — to be a significant hindrance. History is all over the charts with those who took more or less the same path he has.

*Evander Holyfield won his first pro world title in just his 12th pro fight, a split decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the WBA cruiserweight championship in 1986. He went on to capture at least a version of the heavyweight crown a division-record four times.

*Pete Rademacher, a 1956 Olympic gold medalist, fought for the heavyweight title in his pro debut and was stopped in six rounds by champion Floyd Patterson. He finished 15-7-1, with six losses inside the distance.

*Davey Moore fought for the WBA junior middleweight title in just his ninth pro fight, winning it at age 22 on a sixth-round stoppage of Tadashi Mihara in 1982. Two bouts later, Moore’s relative inexperience was exposed when he lost on a savage, eight-round beatdown by Roberto Duran.

*Leon Spinks was 6-0-1 when, at 24, he shocked the world by outpointing Muhammad Ali for the WBA heavyweight championship in 1978. He was dethroned in a rematch seven months later and retired with a 26-17-3 record, nine of his defeats by knockout.

*Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov, the reigning WBA light heavyweight titlist, earned his strap in his 10th pro outing, on a split decision over the only man to have beaten him to date, Gabriel Campillo.

 

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Dan Parker Bashed the Bad Guys in Boxing and Earned a Ticket to the Hall of Fame

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-five years ago this month, sportswriter Dan Parker was formally ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category. Parker wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. He had been dead going on 30 years.

Dan Parker, who began his career in journalism as a court reporter in his native Waterbury, Connecticut, hired on with the New York Daily Mirror in 1924, was named sports editor two years later, and remained with the paper until it folded during a prolonged newspaper strike in 1963, a total of 39 years.

Parker has been underappreciated by historians of the sports page because he worked for a paper that didn’t make the cut when advances in microphotography allowed copies of old newspapers to be stored on microfilm. During this reporter’s days as a college student — and here I date myself – the only out-of-town papers archived in the school library were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and to cull something out of them for a term paper one had to commit to spending long hours manually scrolling through reels of microfilm on a clunky machine. The tabloids – and the Daily Mirror was a tabloid – were considered too lowbrow for serious research, and even today in the digital age, stuff by Dan Parker is hard to find if one doesn’t have the luxury of hunkering down for an extended stay in the periodicals section of the Library of Congress. His online omnibus consists entirely of scattered stories that were picked up by other newspapers and a few magazine pieces.

But among boxing writers, Dan Parker was a giant. He did more than anyone to cleanse the sport of the hoodlum element. The IBHOF electorate has come up with some curious choices in the non-participant category over the years, but in the case of Dan Parker they certainly got it right.

Parker was a big man, carrying about 240 pounds on his six-foot-four frame, but a man’s size is irrelevant when staring into the barrel of a gun and Parker was fearless when facing off with the goons that infested the fight racket. His best year, one might say, was 1955 when a story he authored for Bluebook magazine flowered into an award-winning, six-part series in the Mirror titled “They’re Murdering Boxing.” The series spawned an investigation that ultimately resulted in the imprisonment of Frankie Carbo, boxing’s so-called underworld czar, a man with a long rap sheet, and several of Carbo’s collaborators, most notably Philadelphia numbers baron Frank “Blinky” Palermo.

Parker’s friends urged him to lay off the hoodlums before something bad happened to him, but he ignored their counsel. “Everybody in boxing lived in fear of this enforcer (Frankie Carbo) but not Dan Parker. Nobody ever put enough heat on Parker to slow down his typewriter,” reminisced Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee.

Parker’s reputation as a reformer was well-established before he zeroed in on the machinations of Carbo and others of his ilk. In 1944, when a vacancy came up on the New York State Athletic Commission, Governor Thomas Dewey, who had made his reputation as a racket-busting District Attorney, offered the post to Parker.

It was easy money, but he declined. “What would I use for a punching bag if I were on the boxing commission myself?,” he said.

During a portion of Parker’s tenure with the paper, there were eight other New York dailies competing for readers. The Mirror was the paper of choice for well-informed boxing fans thanks in large part to Murray Lewin who came to be recognized as the city’s best fight prognosticator within the ranks of the newspaper writers. Lewin, the boxing beat writer, did the grunt work, attending all the little shows and writing up the summaries. Parker, as he freely admitted, was more interested in writing about sporting characters than about the games they played. And like his good buddy Damon Runyon, who wrote for the New York American (later the Journal-American), Parker was inevitably drawn to boxing and horseracing because that was where the most colorful characters were found.

Parker found time to write one book, a primer for novice horseplayers published in 1947 when horseracing was on the cusp of the boom that would lead it to becoming America’s top spectator sport (a distinction, needless to say, that wouldn’t last).

The book had a chapter on touts, one of Parker’s favorite subjects for his newspaper column. They were all charlatans, he wrote, an opinion that did not endear him to the bean-counters as they were forever cluttering up his sports section with ads from racetrack tipsters. Parker wasn’t afraid to make enemies on his own paper.

Believe it or not, but there were still folks back then who believed that professional wrestling was on the up-and-up. Parker educated them when he wrote a column that gave out all the winners on a show that hadn’t yet started.

The programs for the wrestling shows, which included the bout sheet, were published well in advance and then hidden away until they were needed. Parker procured a copy and from it was able to glean which wrestlers had won their preceding match.

“Dan was a shy, gentle, and kindly man with a quick sense of humor,” wrote New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley. But within his profession, he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The legendary Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward once likened him to Fearless Fosdick, a character in the L’il Abner comic strip who was a parody of Dick Tracy. Parker had a long-running feud with New York Daily News sportswriter Jimmy Powers which may have had something to do with Powers becoming a well-known radio commentator. In the eyes of the old guard, a true journalist didn’t do “electronic media.”

When Damon Runyon died from cancer of the larynx in 1946, several of his close friends, notably Parker and the famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell, a Daily Mirror colleague, got together and resolved to create a charity in Runyon’s memory. What resulted was a foundation that has raised millions for cancer research. Parker worked tirelessly on its behalf.

Daniel Francis “Dan” Parker died on May 20, 1967, at age 73. He was quite a guy.

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Ted Sares

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Bektemir Melikuziev, Freddie Roach, Edgar Berlanga, and Jaime Munguia are names that, one way or another, figured into Gabe Rosado’s stunning KO last Saturday night in El Paso. It overshadowed the impressive showing by Noaya “Monster” Inoue later that night in Las Vegas.

Rosado (26-13-1) is a well-documented bleeder and just might start spurting during the walk-in, but he is never, ever in a dull fight. The tougher-than-tough Philadelphian won Top Gore honors for his blood and guts TKO loss to Canadian middleweight star David Lemieux in 2014. The year before, he bled aplenty in his game but losing effort against Gennady Golovkin.

This time against Melikuziev, the unbeaten Uzbek, the fight ended in round three when the 35-year-old underdog beat the Eastern Euro fighter to the punch during an exchange of rights with Gabe’s landing first and sending the former amateur star into dreamland. The force of the blow was amplified by the younger and faster man coming forward with caution to the wind. And this time, there was no bloodletting.

The knockout should be a contender for KO of the Year. In fact, it was reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez’s explosive knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their final match.

Once again, Rosado (who is now trained by Freddie Roach) has revived his career and can count on at least one last decent payday. While many think Jaime Munguia would be a solid next fight, the thinking here is that Rosado could get carved up by the undefeated Tijuana veteran who has won 30 of his 37 fights by KO. Munguia is just too good.

The Catch 22

Rosado is an all-action fighter but scar tissue and his propensity to bleed is his worst enemy. It has cost him in the past. For such an offensive-minded fighter as Gabe, he is trapped in a terrible catch-22. If he can get the lead early and the bleeding is stemmed within reasonable limits, he can be a force, but not against the likes of Munguia.

If not Munguia, then who?  Here is one suggestion: How about “The Chosen One,” Edgar Berlanga (17-0) whose first round KO streak recently came to an end. Brooklyn vs. Philadelphia would be a nice added touch –not to mention the Puerto Rican factor. Could Rosado expose Berlanga as someone without enough experience, aka rounds? Would Gabe show that Berlanga is more Tyson Brunson that Edwin Valero?

Let’s make it happen!

Ted Sares enjoys researching and writing about boxing. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Master-class. He can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD Farias

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD  Farias

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank was at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 19, for the second of their three June shows. In the headliner, WBA/IBF world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue lived up to his nickname with a vicious third round stoppage of Filipino import Michael Dasmarinas.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) had his opponent fighting off his back foot from the opening bell. He knocked down Dasmarinas in the second with a left hook to the liver and twice more in the third round before referee Russell Mora waived it off. The official time was 2:45.

Dasmarinas brought a 30-2-1 record and hadn’t lost since 2014. But he was no match for the “Monster” who looks younger than his 28 years. Those body shots landed with a thud that could be heard in the far reaches of the arena. This kid is really good.

Mikaela Mayer continues to improve as she showed tonight in the first defense of her WBO world super featherweight title. Mayer 15-0 (5) turned away Argentina’s Erica Farias (26-5) with a 10-round unanimous decision in a fight that was frankly rather monotonous.

Mayer won by scores of 97-93 and 98-92 twice. Farias, who landed the best punch of the fight, didn’t have the taller Mayer’s physical equipment but yet landed the best punch of the fight. Her only setbacks have come on the road against elite opponents—Cecilia Braekhus, Delfine Person, Jessica McCaskill (twice) and now Mikaela Mayer.

The opener on the ESPN portion of the show was a lusty 10-round welterweight affair between Ghana native Isaac Dogboe and Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez. Dogboe, whose only losses came at the hands of Emanuel Navarette in world title fights, improved to 22-2 by dint of a majority decision that could have easily gone the other way. Dave Moretti had it a draw but was overruled (97-93 and 96-94).

Lopez, one of two fighting sons of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist, did his best work late, particularly in the eighth round. With the loss, his record declines to 15-3.

Other Bouts

Monterrey, Mexico super lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Olympian, was extended the distance for the first time in his career but won a wide 8-round decision over Guadalajara’s Salvador Briceno

Delgado won by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice while advancing his record to 12-0. Delgado’s best round was the eighth, but Briceno (17-7) weathered the storm. Briceno is 5-6 in his last 11, but has been matched tough. The six fighters to beat him, including Delgado, were a combined 78-3 at the time that he fought them.

Vista, California lightweight Eric Puente has yet to score a KO but he is undefeated in six starts after winning a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Antonio Meza (7-6). Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, knocked Meza down early into the fight with a sweeping left and was the aggressor throughout. The judges had it 57-56 and 58-55 twice.

Puerto Rican super lightweight Omar Rosario improved to 4-0 (2) with a fourth-round stoppage of Reno, Nevada’s Wilfred “JJ” Moreno (3-1) The official time was 0:47.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Result-from-Europe-Dubois-Blasts-Out-Dinu-Kabayel-UD-12-Johnson
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Results from Europe: Dubois Blasts Out Dinu; Kabayel UD 12 Johnson

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