Championship Fight: A Great Battle Is Upon Us
Imagine in a country like Cuba if Fidel Castro had publicly called you out as the country's biggest Judas.
Castro did just that the moment he heard of Rigondeaux's attempt at defecting to Brazil in the summer of 2007.
Rigondeaux would not be permitted to fight for his country ever again. His house was put under surveillance. Anyone associated with the most prestigious boxing machine in the world was forbidden from even being seen near Rigondeaux.
I met him in Havana shortly after that attempted escape.
He came over said hello and I asked him about the gold covering his front teeth.
He smiled and cryptically explained that he'd melted the gold from his two Olympic medals into his mouth.
Freddie Roach once said of Guillermo Rigondeaux, "He's the most talented guy I've ever worked with. I've never seen a better counterpuncher with such tools in my life. He reminds me of first seeing Pacquiao."
Roach told me this on camera at Wildcard in Los Angeles while they were still working together back in 2010.
A lot has changed since. Some of it good, some of it bad.
Rigondeaux abandoned Roach and fought on to win the interim title against Ricardo Cordoba with Ronnie Shields at his side.
Shield's compared Rigondeaux's footwork to Muhammad Ali.
Now Shields is gone too.
You will hear over and over about how Rigondeaux possesses one of the finest amateur pedigrees a boxer has ever had. Twice he's won over a hundred fights without a defeat.
Keep this in mind if you watch him Friday night from Las Vegas: this is also someone who sacrificed ever seeing his home, country, parents, wife and child ever again for a chance at tasting his dream.
When Rigondeaux stepped into a smuggler's boat at 29 years old in order to essentially shipwreck into the American Dream, within the first year his father would disown him for his lack of loyalty to Fidel Castro and his mother would be dead.
But Rigondeaux kept on winning. He had to.
While the money Rigondeaux makes in America, in some way, amounts to little more than diamonds on a deserted island, he is still sending money back home to his wife and two children in Havana. I interviewed them last May. Rigondeaux's son, Guillermo Jr., brought out a poster of his father and held it aloft as his mother smiled and wiped away tears.
Many boxing fans outside of Cuba have never appreciated the Cuban style. It's too safe. They don't risk enough.
There isn't much human cargo more valuable on earth than Cuban athletes. They step into a boat with a C.O.D. ransom hanging over there heads and a gun to their temple that has never meant cash on delivery but only cash or death.
Rigondeaux pushed his chips in with his life and took that shot.
You'll hear this and that criticism of Cuban Olympic champions, but trust me, when Rigondeaux shadowboxed, Wildcard gym on the whole stopped and took notice. Boxers understand just how good this guy is the moment he moves around a ring.
And that's without knowing anything of what this mysterious legend went through to arrive in America.
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