Guillermo Rigondeaux: Five Fights That Helped Define "The Jackal"

A look back at the five greatest bouts in the legendary career of Guillermo Rigondeaux, ahead of his world title eliminator against Julio Ceja Sunday night on FOX.

Guillermo Rigondeaux has been one of the most-avoided boxers for a reason.

“The Jackal’s” ridiculous hand and foot speed and sublime skillset, honed in the Cuban amateur system, has made him virtually impossible to hit, let alone beat. Hence his professional resume: two-time super bantamweight champion and a record of 18-1, with 12 knockouts.

However, Rigondeaux is now at a crossroads as he prepares to face former 122-pound titleholder Julio Ceja (32-3, 28 KOs) in a WBC title eliminator on the Jermell Charlo-Jorge Cota card Sunday in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay, live on PBC on FOX and FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

Rigondeaux will be 39 in September, an age when it typically becomes difficult to keep pace with younger fighters. And he’s only two fights removed from his ill-fated decision to move up two divisions to face Vasyl Lomachenko, who dominated and then stopped him in six rounds in December 2017, after which he took more than a year off from boxing and then returned to a more natural weight.

Is Rigondeaux still the fighter who made so many of his opponents look foolish before the Lomachenko fight?

If he is, Ceja could be in trouble. Because when Rigondeaux was good, he was really good. As his former trainer Freddie Roach once said of him, “He’s one of the greatest talents I’ve ever seen … probably the greatest talent.”

Here are five fights that have helped define the professional version of Rigondeaux, in chronological order:

RICARDO CORDOBA

Date: November 13, 2010

Location: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Result: SD (117-109, 114-112, 112-114)

Records: Rigondeaux 6-0 (5 KOs), Cordoba 37-2-2 (23 KOs)

At stake: Interim WBA World Super Bantamweight Title

Summary: Most experts believed Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic champion, could be competitive with most, if not all fighters in his weight class because of his amateur pedigree but they couldn’t be certain. Cordoba represented his first real pro test. The Panamanian former world title challenger was an excellent, seasoned boxer, which made him a legitimate threat to an opponent with only six pro fights. Rigondeaux handled the challenge admirably. He followed the blueprint that served as the foundation of his career – hit and not be hit, punch accurately and move quickly. Cordoba landed only 15% of his punches, according to CompuBox.

"I trained very hard for this fight,” Rigondeaux said. “I was prepared for 12 rounds. It was my first title fight and I was ready. I gave him a boxing lesson.”

He was well on his way to a successful pro career.

Fast fact: The Rigondeaux-Cordoba fight took place on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard in front of 40, 154 at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

RICO RAMOS

Date: January 20, 2012

Location: Palms Casino & Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

Result: KO 6 (1:29)

Records: Rigondeaux 8-0 (6 KOs), Ramos 20-0 (11 KOs)

At stake: Ramos’ WBA World Super Bantamweight Title

Summary: Rigondeaux had fought only eight times as a professional when he challenged unbeaten WBA super bantamweight titleholder Rico Ramos at the Palms Casino & Resort in Las Vegas. Ramos’ career as an elite fighter fizzled after this fight but at the time, he was one of the top 122-pounders in the world. And the Cuban star made him look inept. He controlled the fight from the opening bell and hurt his overmatched opponent numerous times, dropping him in the first and ending the fight with a vicious left hook to the body that put a beaten Ramos on his back in the sixth. He never even tried to get up, giving the winner a major title in the fewest number of fights in history.

It was a strong statement by Rigondeaux—perhaps too strong. If prospective opponents were leery to face him before, they would be more so now.

Fast fact: Ramos landed only 15 punches (out of 114 thrown) in five-plus rounds, according to CompuBox, underscoring Rigondeaux’s defensive skills.

NONITO DONAIRE

Date: April 4, 2013

Location: Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York

Result: UD (116-111, 115-112, 114-113)

Records: Rigondeaux 11-0 (8 KOs), Donaire 31-1 (20 KOs)

At stake: Rigondeaux’s WBA and Donaire’s WBO World Super Bantamweight Titles

Summary: To understand the magnitude of this victory one should consider the stature of Donaire at the time. “The Filipino Flash” was one of the hottest fighters in the world, having been named the 2012 Fighter of the Year after a series of impressive victories over top-tier opponents and a member of the pound-for-pound club. Rigondeaux clearly wasn’t impressed. He frustrated Donaire from beginning to end with what the loser afterward called “beautiful boxing,” meaning Rigondeaux put on another defensive clinic and landed more than enough precise punches to win a unanimous decision, unify two 122-pound titles and become a pound-for-pounder.

Donaire scored a flash knockdown in the 10th round but it was the Filipino-American who finished the fight with a badly swollen right eye and no clue how to cope with the Cuban’s otherworldly skillset.

Said Rigondeaux: "I made him look the way he looked, which was bad, and I looked great.”

Indeed.

Fast fact: Donaire hasn’t been the same since he met Rigondeaux but has a chance to make an enormous statement: He faces pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue later this year.

JOSEPH AGBEKO

Date: December 7, 2013

Location: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Result: UD (120-108, 120-108, 120-108)

Records: Rigondeaux 12-0 (8 KOs), Agbeko 29-4 (22 KOs)

At stake: Rigondeaux’s WBA and WBO World Super Bantamweight Titles

Summary: Rigondeaux’s victory over Agbeko wasn’t the least bit surprising. The two-time bantamweight titleholder from Ghana was a proven commodity but he was moving up in weight and had endured a series of frustrating setbacks in recent fights. It was the way Rigondeaux handled him that stood out. The champion completely neutralized the challenger, who retreated to a defensive posture once he realized he was in over his head. That allowed Rigondeaux to dominate virtually every second of every round, resulting in shutout scores on all three cards. Remember: Agbeko only a few years earlier was one of the most-feared little men in boxing. And Rigondeaux embarrassed him.

“He's very fast and he's got great footwork," said Agbeko.

Ya think?

Fast fact: Agbeko threw only 29 punches per round, according to CompuBox.

JAMES DICKENS

Date: July 17, 2016

Location: Ice Arena, Cardiff, Wales

Result: KO 2 (retired after the second round)

Records: Rigondeaux 16-0 (10 KOs), Dickens 22-1 (7 KOs)

At stake: Rigondeaux’s WBA super bantamweight title

Summary: Of course, most people point to Rigondeaux’s unusual quickness and sublime skills as the primary tools that have made him one of the best pure boxers of his era. Some opponents will add that his punches can do damage. “Jazza” Dickens is one of them. The Liverpudlian, who was and remains a very good boxer, didn’t have much of a chance to demonstrate his ability because of a vicious left that caused a double dislocation of his jaw and rendered him unable to continue after the second round. Was it a fluke punch that just happened to land in the wrong spot? Or was it evidence that a boxing wizard could also crack? Let’s say it was combination of both.

Fast fact: Rigondeaux also displayed his power when he stopped Moises Flores with a single left in the final moments of the first round of his subsequent fight but officials later ruled the punch landed after the bell. Thus, the fight became a no-contest.

For a closer look at Guillermo Rigondeaux, check out his fighter page.

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