By Ivan G. Goldman
Unusually blunt Bob Arum pays a publicist to distribute articles about his fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux that are less than flattering. Fred Sternburg, an independent public relations specialist who works for Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, has been distributing stories on Facebook and Twitter that condemn Rigondeaux as a boring fighter who didn’t help his career much by defeating popular Nonito Donaire.
Photo; Chris Farina/Top Rank
Arum himself is clearly wedded to the idea that he can’t make much money with the defensive-minded, undefeated Cuban defector. You could argue that Arum and Sternburg deserve credit for their open-minded stance, but Rigondeaux may not feel that way.
One of the articles, by Yahoo Sports’s Kevin Iole, states, “Floyd Mayweather Jr., one of the great defensive combatants in recent history, fights defensively like Rigondeaux and makes his opponent miss, but Mayweather brings the added element of landing clean, counter punches.”
Yet Rigondeaux’s clean, lightning counterpunches, looking very much like Mayweather’s slick shots, were dazzling. Clearly Donaire had never seen anything like them, and it left him confused. Worse, Donaire just didn’t see those shots coming at him.
Iole also quoted Arum himself denigrating both the fight and Rigondeaux’s style. “It was not a very engaging fight. … When Rigondeaux stands and fights, the [expletive] has a lot of power and a lot of skill, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight.”
The headline of the negative Iole story? “The Loss Column: Beating Nonito Donaire Won’t Do Much for Guillermo Rigondeaux’s Popularity.” Sternburg is often balanced in his distribution of articles and includes unflattering assessments of Top Rank fighters. But there have been exceptions. When Antonio Margarito was caught with plaster loads n his wraps, Top Rank pretty much ignored articles pointing out it was very unlikely that the fighter knew nothing about it.
But Margarito had a big following. Rigondeaux, who extended his contract with Top Rank, last year, doesn’t. It’s not clear just when the contract runs out.
Another recent article distributed by Sternburg, from ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, was headlined “Rigondeaux Bores, but Bests Donaire.”
Rafael called it “a tight, but often boring, unanimous decision.” Rafael wrote that Rigondeaux spent “long chunks of the fight going backward. It wasn’t fun to watch, but it was quite effective — while drawing regular booing from the crowd.” Rafael also quoted Arum saying that Rigondeaux, 32, did too much “running.”
The Rafael article ended with this less than enthusiastic quote from Arum: “I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I have to look for someone to fight him. He’s one of the best defensive fighters I’ve ever seen, but it’s not a very pleasing style. He’s a very good fighter, but it’s not pleasing, so we will have to see.”
Arum has complained in the past that it’s a tough job promoting Cuban fighters in the U.S. “Cuban Olympic champions can’t sell out the front row of a dancehall in Miami,” he once said. Black Cuban fighters, he said, get virtually no support from white Cuban-Amereicans or African-Americans. Although Arum, 81, has never showed even a trace of senility, advancing age has made him more frank in his observations.
It’s a fact that up until now Cuban defectors have received little support from U.S. fans. They come into the game with amateur styles that make them less than attractive to average fans. If Rigondeaux fought balls-to-the-wall like, for example, Brandon Rios, he’d be less effective but more popular. His career could also suffer longevity trouble. Some people, said writer Jack Kerouac, are like Roman candles. They burn bright, but they can’t last long.
Truly knowledgeable fans tend to be appreciative of Rigondeaux’s deft moves and stellar ability to slip punches. Enter virtually any boxing gym in America and ask trainers and fighters what they think of him and most would be awed by his talent. He now owns two junior featherweight alphabet titles and is undisputedly at the top of his division. If he wants to pursue Donaire again, or go after Abner Mares, another popular junior featherweight, he’ll have to chase both of them up to featherweight. He’ll also have to do it with a less than enthusiastic promoter.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE