Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Give Rigondeaux his due



What did Guillermo Rigondeaux do to deserve this? Why is he stuck wondering why?

He not only defeated one of the best fighters in the world, but did so in easy fashion.

He upset the odds, earned the boxing world’s recognition as THE 122-pound champ, and put himself on the map with his schooling of Nonito Donaire on HBO, fulfilling the dream he envisioned while he plotted his escape from Cuba.

At least that’s seemingly what happened.

More than four months after the greatest victory of his short professional career, one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time curiously finds himself on the outside looking in.

Rigondeaux has no fight scheduled and his manager, Gary Hyde, says nothing is in the works with the fall schedule filling up.

How could this happen after Rigondeaux scored such a great victory? I mean, this is prizefighting after all.

Though HBO Sports refused to comment, saying they don’t speak on fights that aren’t made, Rigondeaux’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, says that the network is boycotting Rigondeaux due to what they deem an unentertaining fighting style.

Rigondeaux didn’t just defeat Donaire, one of the best fighters in the world. Rigondeaux outclassed Donaire and made him look downright silly at times. He busted open his eye and hurt Donaire. Did the fight conjure images of Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward? Of course not. And I can see how it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing fight – Rigondeaux is known for stinking it out.

But there have been plenty of boring fighters on the network recently, mainly Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. HBO didn’t turn their heads when they elected to face each other, but instead threw a seven-figure licensing fee at the matchup. They’ve had Dawson on HBO over and over in terrible fights. Now they are drawing a line in the sand?

Donaire also has been in his fair share of ugly fights. He’s had boring HBO appearances, with loud, boisterous booing throughout against Jeffrey Mathebula, Omar Narvaez, Toshiaki Nishioka and Wilfredo Vazquez, to name a few.

The blame was always on the opponent, who’s the common denominator there?

And of course, there’s Nonito with a fall fight slated for November on HBO (possibly a rematch against Vic Darchinyan), even though he was the loser. Make no mistake, Donaire belongs back on the network, but so does the two-time Olympic gold medalist.

The middle rounds were particularly boring, but Donaire, who felt Rigondeaux’s power in the first round and didn’t want to engage afterward, deserves equal blame. The late rounds were pretty good, featuring a hard knockdown scored by Donaire and some good exchanges. And then there was the 12th, where Rigo closed Donaire’s left eye, causing the Filipino to plant his left glove to his face in an attempt to shield the wound.

The performance from Rigondeaux shouldn’t be cause for derision from the media and HBO, but celebration.

Rigondeaux should have been immediately set up with a big HBO fight for the fall. If he’s in another boring fight, maybe then you consider his status on the network. But this isn’t the way to reward a performance like that. It’s downright sad.

Rigondeaux has two fights left on his contract with Top Rank, according to Hyde, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rigondeaux finds a home with Golden Boy upon the deal’s expiration. Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza repeatedly has stated via Twitter that he would welcome Rigondeaux to the network.

I suspect Rigondeaux will garner a fight on HBO sooner than later, but by then the damage might already be done, his momentum killed.

Here’s hoping HBO warms up to Rigondeaux and gets him a fight for the fall.

Maybe next year, one of the best in the world might even be invited to HBO’s vaunted “Night of Champions” dinner.


  • According to multiple reports, Richard Schaefer is considering a fight between Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero for Nov. 2. I think that’s a great fight, sign me up. A true 50-50 fight. And it’s a can’t-miss fight in terms of action.

  • Schaefer told me Thursday that the rumored Sugar Shane Mosley-Anthony Mundine fight is close for November in Australia. I know Mosley is past it, but I’d be surprised if he lost to Mundine. Mosley won’t have to kill himself to make weight, fighting at 154, and he might even knock Mundine out.

Am I the only one intrigued by David Haye versus Tyson Fury? I don’t expect it to be competitive (I’m going with Haye by mid-round KO), but the fight should be fun while it lasts.

Photo: Chris Farina-Top Rank

Mike Coppinger is a boxing contributor for USA TODAY Sports. He’s a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a regular contributor to RingTV. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger or write to him at [email protected]