Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Guillermo Rigondeaux will return to the ring for the first time since dominating Nonito Donaire in April.
    Guillermo Rigondeaux will return to the ring for the first time since dominating Nonito Donaire in April.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko will take place on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and the WBA and WBO super bantamweight titles will be on the line. It will be the first fight back for Rigo since defeating Nonito Donaire in April, and for Agbeko, will represent only his second fight since 2011.

    Rigondeaux didn't just beat Donaire in April, he embarrassed him. It was a brilliant tactical performance, with a strong emphasis on defense and counterpunching, but it didn't win him many fans. He'll be looking to justify his continued investment to the HBO suits on Saturday night with a big performance.

    Agbeko is a former two-time bantamweight champion, but he has only won one fight since 2010. He's been relatively inactive of late—this is just his second fight since dropping a decision to Abner Mares in 2011—and will be a massive underdog when he walks into the ring.

    All the knowledge you need for this fight is contained within. This is your complete preview and prediction for Rigondeaux vs. Agbeko!

Tale of the Tape

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    Joseph Agbeko is a former two-time bantamweight world champion.
    Joseph Agbeko is a former two-time bantamweight world champion.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The first thing that sticks out—for both fighters—is that they're both coming off relatively long layoffs. Guillermo Rigondeaux hasn't fought in just a shade under eight months, and Joseph Agbeko isn't far behind at over eight-and-a-half months outside the ring.

    Rigondeaux has underrated punching power. He obviously fought a very defense-oriented fight against Nonito Donaire, but that had more to do with his opponent's power than his lack of it.

    Agbeko, on the other hand, has solid power, but he hasn't stopped an opponent since way back in 2007.

    Styles make fights, and Rigo is a tricky southpaw who is eminently hard to hit. He may be less experienced, at least in terms of rounds fought as a professional, but his extensive amateur background dwarfs pretty much anyone in terms of overall experience level in the ring.


    Guillermo Rigondeaux

    12-0, 8 KO


    Joseph Agbeko

    29-4, 22 KO


    Weight121.5 (Last Fight)118 (Last Fight)
    HometownSantiago de Cuba, CubaAccra, Ghana
    Rounds Boxed71198
    Last FightUD 12 Nonito Donaire (4/13/13)UD 12 Luis Melendez (3/22/13)

Main Storylines

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    Rigo needs a big performance on Saturday night.
    Rigo needs a big performance on Saturday night.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux is an extremely intelligent guy, and he's heard all the criticism and consternation that's come his way in the wake of his dominant victory over Nonito Donaire this past April. While it was a win, and a convincing one at that, the fight was—to be frank—a bit of a bust, and a lot of that falls on the Cuban's shoulders. 

    In the ring, after the fight, he didn't seem too troubled by the fans' lack of satisfaction, but that tune might have changed now. HBO was extremely reluctant—and then some—to put him back on the air and had previously shown no interest in this fight.

    You can call it unfair, and it probably is, but there's a reason Donaire got a big fight before the man who beat him. Rigo needs to do something impressive in this fight in order to convince HBO that he's worth its time and money.

    Joseph Agbeko is probably best known for his two fights with Abner Mares, the first of which was overshadowed by a ridiculously incompetent performance by referee Russell Mora. Mares frequently focused his attack below Agbeko's beltline, and not only did he not have a point taken, but he was also credited with a knockdown in the 11th round on a blatantly low punch.

    A former two-time bantamweight champion, Agbeko will be making his first attempt at a world championship at 122 pounds. He's a massive underdog, but he's tough, durable and can crack, so the fight has the potential for excitement.

    Agbeko also probably knows this could be his last shot—age is creeping up and he's been inactive—so he has to make the best of it.


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    Agbeko is powerful and very awkward.
    Agbeko is powerful and very awkward.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux is a defensive wizard in the ring. It's a testament to how good he is that he's frequently mentioned—alongside Floyd Mayweather Jr.—as possibly the best defensive fighter in the sport.

    A lot of that has to do with his extensive amateur background. Rigo won two Olympic gold medals for his native Cuba—in 2000 and 2004—before defecting, and that explains why his defensive acumen is so strong. If you get hit more than your opponent in the amateurs—regardless of power—you lose the fight. That's something that seldom happened to him before jumping ship and has yet to happen as a pro.

    Rigo is a lethal counterpuncher with underrated power, and he has the ability to really fight when he stands in there with his opponent. That's what makes him so dangerous. He can box and he can fight.

    Joseph Agbeko has been in the ring with a very high level of talent throughout his career. Between 2009 and 2011, he had a dizzying stretch in which he faced Vic Darchinyan, Yohnny Perez twice and then Abner Mares twice. So he knows what it's like to be in there with a world-class fighter.

    The 33-year-old Ghana native is a strong fighter who comes at his opponent from all sorts of weird angles. It's really quite amazing how many of his wide, looping shots find a home on his opponent, given that many of them seem to have no business landing. 

    Agbeko moves around the ring well and has shown solid footwork and power during his career. He can box and he can fight, and he's slightly longer than Rigo, which could provide an advantage.


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    Rigo hasn't demonstrated many weaknesses in the ring.
    Rigo hasn't demonstrated many weaknesses in the ring.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux probably has some weaknesses, but he hasn't shown many of them since turning professional. It's really hard to pick out any specific flaws in his game.

    Before his fight with Donaire, the tried-and-true criticism was that for all his hype and obviously phenomenal talents, he had never beaten another world-class fighter. Against the Filipino Flash, not only did he beat an elite fighter, but he also dominated him. And it's still unclear whether Donaire will ever be the same.

    Rigo's biggest weakness is his sometimes unexciting style. And that's meant from a marketing and not a boxing standpoint. He often fights too cautious and with too technical a style to attract fans. That's why he waited so long for this fight and why HBO was reluctant to televise it.

    Joseph Agbeko is the same age as his opponent, but it would seem that he's likely past his best, while Rigo is just coming into his.

    In his day, the former bantamweight champion was as tough as they come and might've had just the style to give Rigondeaux more than his share of struggles. 

    But it's probably not fair to expect the best version of Agbeko to be the one that shows up on Saturday night. He's the older fighter—not in the literal sense but in the sense of having been through many wars inside the ring—and has only scored one victory in the last three years against a lightly regarded foe.

Guillermo Rigondeaux Will Win If...

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    Rigo should be patient and exploit Agbeko's wide, looping shots.
    Rigo should be patient and exploit Agbeko's wide, looping shots.Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux's strategy for winning is pretty simple. Hit and don't get hit in return. It doesn't always make for excitement, but it's helped lead him to an undefeated record as a professional and only a few defeats as an amateur. 

    Against a fighter like Joseph Agbeko, who is tough and durable but wings his punches, the smart bet would be for Rigo to sit in the pocket and pick him off with sharp, crisp counters. He's extremely precise with his punches, and his hands are lightning-quick and without a doubt the fastest Agbeko has ever seen in a boxing ring.

    The question becomes: Will he be content to win another fight that way, given the difficulty he had securing a follow-up to his demolition of Nonito Donaire?

    Expect Agbeko to come forward and throw more punches than the Filipino Flash did, and that should give Rigo a ton of openings as the counterpuncher. If he's as precise and defensively aware as always, he will win the fight and should look better in doing it.

Joseph Agbeko Will Win If...

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    Agbeko, in his prime, might have had what it takes to upset Rigo.
    Agbeko, in his prime, might have had what it takes to upset Rigo.Al Bello/Getty Images

    A prime version of Joseph Agbeko might've presented the type of stylistic challenges that could've given Guillermo Rigondeaux trouble. But at 33 years old, and with a few wars and inactivity in his rearview mirror, it's difficult to see how he pulls off the upset on Saturday night. 

    Agbeko is a very physical fighter, and he is able to box at range or attack in close. He's been extremely durable—against some big punchers—in his career and could still present more than a couple of tough rounds for his Cuban foe.

    His best chance of victory, however, might come by eschewing the boxer and attempting to brawl with Rigondeaux. We all know that in a pure boxing match, there are few in the world who can compete with Rigo, but in a brawl, it could be a more competitive affair.

    Rigondeaux has been hurt in his career and was felled by Donaire late in their fight. If Agbeko can make him feel his power and avoid getting shredded with counters, he could pull off a shocker.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Rigondeaux is just too good at this stage for Agbeko.
    Rigondeaux is just too good at this stage for Agbeko.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Guillermo Rigondeaux is a master tactician. He has blazing hands, throws sharp counters and is nearly impossible to hit. All of that bodes very badly for Joseph Agbeko.

    Agbeko is one of those fighters who was highly underrated in his day. He fought a string of world-class opponents back-to-back between 2009 and 2011, and he can make a compelling case for why he should hold a victory over Abner Mares in their first bout. 

    It's virtually impossible to argue that he's at, or near, that level anymore, but he's still tough, durable and will come to fight.

    Rigondeaux will win this fight, and he'll do it by making Agbeko miss and making him pay. The Ghanaian throws powerful punches, but they're often looping, and that should give Rigo plenty of opportunities to counter with hard shots.

    Many of the rounds will be very physical, and Rigo will get hit more than he did against Donaire.

    Don't expect a knockout in this fight, but do expect one that is a little closer than many will expect.

    Rigondeaux wins a convincing, but somewhat closer than expected, unanimous decision.

    Rigondeaux UD 12 Agbeko (116-112/117-111)