Let’s say you’re Guillermo Rigondeaux.
You reached Saturday with consensus acclaim—not to mention a pair of gaudy title belts—cementing your place as the world’s best 122-pound boxer. But something important was missing.
Neither your promoter nor your TV network saw your drawing power, and the majority of words written heading into a stay-busy defense against Sod Kokietgym focused less on your preeminence and more on the chasm between your skills and the sensibilities of mainstream boxing fans.
The lack of appreciation was so vast, in fact, that your fight was relegated to undercard support beneath two others, with neither a championship nor a pound-for-pound mention between them.
What you needed most, it seemed, was a game-changer.
And what do you know? Over the course of 104 otherwise forgettable seconds, it arrived.
By the time Lupe Contreras wrapped up the official proclamation of Rigondeaux’s first-round erasure of a 37-year-old Thai who’d not lost in eight years, the chatter surrounding the still-unbeaten Cuban-born champion (now 14-0 with nine knockouts, incidentally) had turned from flaccid to ferocious.
Oh sure, a lot of it centered on the borderline nature of the winner’s KO blow—a laser-guided left hand that came an instant after a post-headbutt glove touch—but, in reality, that was beside the point.
In a no-publicity-is-bad-publicity world, he had clearly become the center of attention.
While some dissected the replay with Zapruder zeal and branded Rigondeaux a Floyd Mayweather-level spoiled sport, others defended the usually ignored fighter's approach by playing the “protect yourself at all times” card and pointing to the fact that he did make the gesture before pulling the trigger.
There was no initial indication of Rigondeaux’s mindset amid the controversy, but if it indeed was intended as a wrestling-style heel turn—in which a fan favorite makes an abrupt change to the dark side—it was carried out on the high level established when Hulk Hogan went “Hollywood” 18 years ago.
Previously moribund television ratings soared for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling organization after the veteran hero made his switch, and it’s not inconceivable to think the buzz surrounding Rigondeaux after Saturday will make his next appearance a must-see proposition, too.
The big question now is simple: On whose air will it be broadcast?
Much was made during the pre-Kokietgym run-up that the fight was the last on Rigondeaux’s contract with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization, and the combination of his impending free agency and renewed name recognition makes it a prime time to investigate other promotional opportunities.
In fact, Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza told Bleacher Report’s Kelsey McCarson in April that his network would be interested in working with Rigondeaux. Well, the most celebrated name on Rigondeaux’s pre-Saturday hit list—WBC 122-pound champ Leo Santa Cruz—works with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, and his last fight was on a Showtime pay-per-view show in March.
If logic dictates, those phone calls will come by mid-Monday. And if all it took was a walk on the wild side to get them made, all indications would point to there being just one more question left to answer.
Whatcha gonna do, super bantamweights…when the Rigolution runs wild on you?
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