You have to feel sorry for Guillermo Rigondeaux. Last spring at Radio City Music Hall, he met and defeated a man widely recognized as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. The Cuban pugilist’s victory over Nonito Donaire of the Philippines should have been a crowning achievement.
Instead, it was met with derision by those who would seemingly snag failure out of the jaws of victory. Rigondeaux was indeed masterful against Donaire, but apparently he made the HBO brass nervous. It seems they felt he wasn’t exciting enough.
In fact, Rigondeaux proved to be so much of a concern for the powers that be at HBO that it’s said they almost refused to showcase the man. Try wrapping your head around it: the guy who beat the best was nearly punished for not beating the best in a way that corporate marketing might approve of.
Scared yet? Well, hold in those screams of terror, because the worst may be yet to come. Word has arrived that Rigondeaux may not only have to win his fight this weekend against Joseph Agbeko, he may have to win it in a market pleasing fashion if he hopes to stay in the spotlight. In other words, the man must avoid doing what he did so successfully against one of the world’s best if he cares a lick about his future.
When it comes to the sport of boxing, such demands can have profound consequences. Life altering consequences. Life ENDING consequences. It’s that serious. Still, it would be wrong to just go the easy route and vilify HBO. Boxing is a business, after all ,and people pay to see a product. The honchos over at HBO are most likely simply trying to do right by their families – just like the rest of us.
Yet they might be making a mistake here if they decide to no longer feature Rigondeaux. Why? Because a fighter doesn’t have to always be exciting in order to generate a massive cash flow. Floyd Mayweather isn’t just the highest paid boxer in the world, he’s the highest paid athlete in the world. Bar none. That’s not hyperbole, either. No athlete on the planet is earning what Mayweather does right now.
And Mayweather doesn’t get hit. That’s the secret to his success – not getting hit. The man hasn’t scored a knockout since he dropped Victor Ortiz four fights ago, yet he breaks records on pay per view. Mayweather has even gone so far as to tell British broadcasters his main contribution to boxing is that he’s proven you don’t need to take punches in order to be successful.
Think Money is the exception to the rule? Consider this – Manny Pacquiao has once again proven himself to be one of the most popular participants in the sport. And he hasn’t stopped anyone since he bested Miguel Cotto. What’s more, Pacquiao’s last performance in Macau gave every indication that he may no longer choose to be a big finisher. Does anyone think fans will suddenly lose interest in the man if he continues to go the distance in his matches?
To further the argument, take a look at Wladimir Klitschko. The guy is a veritable knockout machine. He’s owned the heavyweight division for what seems like forever. And yet, to Americans at least, he’s as boring as they come. If Mayweather has proven that not getting hit can make a fighter popular, Klitschko has proven that even knockout artists can still seem lifeless.
So it may be wise for HBO to think long and hard before showing Rigondeaux the door – provided he wins this weekend. Unfortunately, however, Rigondeaux may not force HBO to choose. His trainer has indicated that the super bantamweight will do what is wished of him and become “exciting” for fans this Saturday. If that’s true, it’s too bad.
For Rigondeaux has a bright future ahead of him, a very bright future, if he just keeps doing what comes organically. Sure, he can go for the knockout if the opportunity presents itself, but if it doesn’t, so what? He’ll still be as dominant as before. And dominant fighters can’t be overlooked forever, not if other promising fighters don’t want to be accused of cowardice.