Guillermo "El Chacal" Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KO) is one of the five best fighters in the world. However, as popularity goes, he's probably ranked somewhere between 50 and 75. There are a lot of reasons someone so talented could still dwell in relative obscurity in the sport.
Language and style are just two of the culprits. HBO is hoping to have the 33-year-old Cuban become one of the sport's most well-known commodities.
Defeating tough and rugged former champion Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko (29-4, 22 KO) is the next step in the process. Rigondeaux will defend his WBA and WBO super bantamweight titles against Agbeko on Saturday in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall.
In April, he dismantled former champion Nonito Donaire to earn the titles he'll defend on Saturday night. He won a unanimous decision in a fight that shouldn't have even been scored as closely as it was. One judge only gave Rigondeaux a one-point advantage, but it was a dominating performance that should have left no doubt who the winner was.
Agbeko loss back-to-back decisions to former champion Abner Mares in 2011. He took a year off and returned in March with a unanimous decision win over Luis Melendez. The 33-year-old Ghanaian is looking to solve the riddle that is Rigondeaux.
The bout appears to have a rematch clause included should Rigondeaux lose. Agbeko took to Twitter to address it and to show how confident he is he'll beat the champion.
The fight is the main event of a HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader. Before Rigondeaux and Agbeko do business, James Kirkland will take on undefeated Glen Tapia. In the first fight of the night, middleweight contender Matthew Macklin will face Lamar Russ.
Here's how you can watch the action.
When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 9:45 pm ET
Where: Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Book on Rigondeaux and Agbeko
Getting to Know Rigo
He is as skilled and sharp as any fighter in the world. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is probably the only superior fighter from a pure skills standpoint, and the gap isn't large; El Chacal is that good. Despite his lack of professional bouts, Rigondeaux's wealth of amateur experience prepared him to chase and capture world titles.
While his in-ring skills don't need to be sold, his overall packaging as a star isn't overly appealing to casual fans. He's a counter puncher with some power, but not earth-shattering pop.
He's extremely cerebral, which is great in most instances; but in boxing, it can make for what many would regard as a boring fight. Lastly, Rigondeaux speaks little-to-no English. If you wrap all of that up, it makes for a difficult sell to the American boxing fan. Rigondeaux's promoter, Bob Arum told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix: "Out of all the elite fighters I've worked with. I can't think of one more difficult to promote."
Were he from a country that he felt comfortable remaining in, Rigondeaux is the type of fighter who would have probably spent his entire career fighting on his own shores. If you're looking for Rigondeaux to change his style in an effort to please the masses, don't bet on it.
He said this to Mannix through a translator when asked about the lack of buzz he created after easily defeating Donaire:
"It was a clear win. I beat the hell out of him. The public doesn't understand that the art of boxing is to hit without being hit. They want to see a bar fight or a brawl; go to the local pub."
Looking to Make Ghana Proud
Agbeko is a proud Ghanaian who will have his country behind him when he takes the ring against Rigondeaux. Ghana Web (h/t Ghana Sports International) reported that Ghana's Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah wished Agbeko well in his efforts on Saturday.
Likewise, Ebenezer Zor of Spy Ghana has written that Agbeko is set to make his country proud.
The challenger recently signed with Mayweather's The Money Team management company. He has quickly adopted his new brand's swag level. It remains to be seen whether he can demonstrate the same level of in-ring prowess as Mayweather himself.
Numbers can be deceiving, and Rigondeaux's professional fight total is a good example. Though he's had just 12 pro fights, Rigondeaux is said to have competed in over 400 amateur fights, per BoxRec.com. It appeared Donaire took El Chacal lightly because of his lack of professional experience. He soon found out 11 was just a number and not indicative of the challenge he'd face.
Agbeko isn't likely to make the same mistake, nor should the public. Rigondeaux is for real. If fans want to see one of the most skilled fighters you'll ever come across, they best tune in to see Rigondeaux whenever they can.
4 Years and 7 Fights
Agbeko was once a knockout machine. He won 19 of his first 21 fights by stoppage, but it's been a while since he stopped an opponent. His nickname is King Kong, but his recent fights have been devoid of the punching power you'd normally associate with that moniker.
The last time he won by stoppage was against Luis Alberto Perez in Sept. 2009. The doctor advised the fight be stopped after Agbeko opened a nasty cut under Perez's eye.
If Agbeko is going to have a chance to beat Rigondeaux, he'll need to find some of the punching power he showed earlier in his career. His chances of outboxing him are slim.
Title Bout Championship Boxing Simulation
In using Pisd's Title Bout Championship Boxing to simulate this matchup 100 times, El Chacal was the winner the vast majority of the simulations.
He won 84 percent of the simulations. The champion scored a KO victory 24 percent of the time. Agbeko pulled out a win just 12 percent of the time, but he did win by KO in all but three of those bouts. There were four simulated bouts that ended in a draw.
Agbeko is no stiff. He's a rugged fighter who wants to bang and exchange in close quarters. He throws sharp, quick and powerful counters, but his hand speed is inferior to Rigondeaux's. In the end, that will be the difference in the fight.
Rigondeaux possesses a lethal mixture of punching accuracy, speed and surprising power. Season that with uncanny defensive instincts, and you have a man that seems destined to remain champion for a while.
El Chacal will retain his title with a 10th-round TKO win. Agbeko has never been stopped in his career, and I don't think Rigondeaux will put him down for the count. However, it wouldn't surprise me to see the doctor or corner call an end to a bout Agbeko no longer has a chance to win.
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