When Andre Ward rematches with Sergey Kovalev this weekend in Las Vegas, status as the sport’s top pound-for-pound star will be on the line. On the undercard for this superfight, undefeated super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux will face unbeaten Moises Flores. Under better circumstances, Rigo might be vying for top pound-for-pound status at this point in his career.
The Cuban standout has been one of the sport’s most avoided fighters. His defensive brilliance makes him nearly impossible to defeat, but his safety first style is less than thrilling to the average fight fan. The combination has put Rigondeaux on the outside looking in for most of the past four years.
Rigo’s status as a truly elite fighter was established in April 2013. That is when the two-time Olympic gold medalist faced Nonito Donaire, the 2012 Fighter of the Year and a universal top-five on pound-for-pound lists. At the time, Rigo has just 11 professional bouts. The explosive Donaire seemed like a major step up.
Instead, Rigondeaux gave him a boxing lesson. It is true that the countless writers ranking Donaire so highly (I was one of them) were probably over-valuing him. But the Filipino Flash also had a string of highlight reel KOs over genuine top contenders.
Ironically, the win that established Rigo’s pound-for-pound creds also tagged him with a reputation as a “boring” fighter. For me, Rigo’s virtuoso performance over Donaire was breathtaking. And Donaire’s face was certainly well swelled, despite Rigo’s supposed lack of offense.
But the attitude toward Rigondeaux was set–he was too tough to beat and not exciting enough to lure opponents with the promise of a big payday. So he has languished since in less than meaningful fights.
His bout this weekend with Flores is the most meaningful fight he has had since Donaire. Flores hasn’t exactly defeated a murderer’s row, but he’s a legitimate contender and will come forward with aggression. He could provide a showcase for Rigo to shine.