Guillermo Rigondeaux: A champion in and out of the ring
By Bob Treiger
WBA Interim Super Bantamweight champion Guillermo ‘El Chacal’ Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), arguably the greatest amateur boxer of all time, retained his world title last Saturday night by beating previously undefeated hometown favorite and former European champion, Willie ‘Big Bang” Casey (11-1, 7 KOs), in impressive fashion at City West Convention Center in Dublin.
The Guillermo-Casey title fight featured a pair of undefeated boxers headlining a show promoted by Top Rank, Nowhere 2 Hyde Promotions and Dolphil Promotions. Nowhere 2 Hyde Promotions is owned and operated by Gary Hyde, who has managed Rigondeaux since he defected from Cuba in 2007.
‘Rigo’ entered the ring to roar of 4,200 fans loudly booing him, but the talented foreigner calmly pranced around the ring during the pre-fight announcements, and boldly made the executioner sign to the angry, partisan crowd.
At the sounding of the first bell, Casey headed straight at “Rigo,” expecting him to retreat, but Guillermo took a half-step back and countered with a furious combination. Casey instantly felt his opponent’s amazing power and less than one minute later the rugged Irishman was stopped in his tracks by Rigondeaux’ signature punch — left cross to the liver.
The writing was on the wall as Casey started running scared, attempting to survive the onslaught. ‘Rigo’ is known as a great finisher and he went right after his soon-to-be eighth pro victim, catching Casey with a perfectly delivered uppercut that dropped Casey for the first time in his pro career. The extremely confident ‘Rigo’ strolled over to the neutral corner with one arm raised, signaling his impending victory. Casey rose and ran for cover with ‘Rigo’ closing in to finish the show.
Rigondeaux’ all-out attack, particularly a devastating combination, sent Willie flying across the ring, and down again. This time a dazed Casey rose on very unsteady legs and as the action was about to resume, veteran referee Stanley Christodoulou warned Willie that he would stop the fight if Casey was floored again. “Rigo” immediately jumped all over an overwhelmed and outclassed Casey, who stumbled forward and was going down but was saved further embarrassment by the referee officially who halted the action at 2:38 of the opening round. ‘Rigo” had successfully silenced the crowd with assassin-like results in his first Interim WBA title defense.
Much had been written about both fighters leading up to the March 19th showdown regarding their respective records professional and amateur, home countries, families and much more. What hadn’t been reported written about them, though, was the Cuban boxer’s many links to Ireland, as well as his humanitarian nature. Hyde, who hails from Cork, had been instrumental in bringing a number of Cuban fighters to Ireland, including Rigondeaux, to start their professional boxing careers.
“Rigondeaux defending his world title in Ireland was like a dream come true for me,” Hyde explained. “I managed Rigondeaux since 2007, when in Cuba he signed a managerial contract with me, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the great Cuban fighter managed to defect from Cuba to the United States in order to begin his professional career.”
In January of 2010, while preparing for his fifth pro fight versus Adolfo Landeros, a devastating earthquake hit the Island of Haiti. ‘Rigo’ told Hyde he wanted to donate the purse for that fight to Haitian relief efforts. Hyde contacted Dr. Mick Molloy, a medical officer with the Boxing Union of Ireland, who was at that time working in Boston at the Division of Disaster Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, which is associated with the Harvard Medical School network.
Dr. Molloy engaged in a number of trips to Haiti as a member of the disaster medical team from the International Centre for Disaster Resilience (ICDR), operated by prominent members of the Disaster Medicine section at Harvard Medical School, Dr Greg Ciottone and Dr Robert Macy.
Dr. Molloy spent more than a year in Boston specializing in disaster Medicine and returned to Ireland to finish his training in emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital.
The first time Dr. Molloy and ‘Rigo’ actually met, however, was during the Rigondeaux-Casey fight week in Dublin and Dr. Molloy thanked him profusely for his donation to the Boston Children’s Foundation (BCF) and International Centre for Disaster Resilience (ICDR), which funded a six-member team for its initial mission to Haiti in January of 2010.
In addition to being a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, the 29-year-old Rigondeaux also was a 7-time Cuban national champion who captured a pair of World Championship titles, including his 2001triumph in Belfast, during an incredible 243-4 amateur career.
“Rigo” made his pro debut May 22, 2009, capturing the NABA super bantamweight title in his third fight as a pro, and last November in only his seventh fight he won a unanimous 12-round decision against Ricardo Cordoba (37-2-2) to become the WBA Interim 122-pound division champion.
The multi-talented southpaw, now fighting out of Miami, has been trained by Ronnie Shields for his past three fights. Rigondeaux is The Ring’s # 6 rated super bantamweight.