Cuban boxing sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux will step into the ring against fringe contender Drian Francisco in a junior featherweight bout set to take place on the undercard of the Canelo Álvarez vs. Miguel Cotto this Saturday, November 21st. The return breaks a near yearlong stretch of inactivity from the ring, his last bout being against Hisashi Amagasa back on New Years Eve of 2014. The fight came to fruition after Rigondeaux signed a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, who will be co-promoting the fighter alongside Caribe Promotions.
"I'd like to thank Roc Nation Sports, as well as Golden Boy Promotions, Miguel Cotto Promotions, Canelo Promotions, HBO, and Caribe Promotions for giving me the opportunity to be on one of the most anticipated pay-per-view cards of the year," Rigondeaux said in an interview. "This is a great platform to take my career to the next level, and to showcase my talents on the big stage."
Since the layoff, the former Olympic champ has had both his WBO and IBF super bantamweight titles stripped due to inactivity, and Saturday night’s bout will be a non-title matchup set for 10 rounds. Rigondeaux will be filling in for former super-middleweight champion Andre Ward, who last week pulled out of the card due to a knee injury. It’s been reported that Ward has also vacated his post as WBA champ, presumably to set up a highly anticipated matchup against recognized light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
What is peculiar is that Rigondeaux won’t be directly filling in for Ward’s bout, and will instead be appearing third on the pay-per-view; the co-main event will feature junior lightweight titlist Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22KOs) defending his WBC stake against #1 contender Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, 16 KOs).
Rigondeaux is not only the best fighter in his super bantamweight division, but also perhaps the best fighter in boxing period. While his meager 15-0, 10KO record may not sound like much, there is an illustrious 475-12 amateur record and two Olympic gold medal run behind his professional numbers. Perhaps the only fighter to match that level of amateur pedigree is the fast-rising Ukrainian star Vasyl Lomachenko, and anyone who has seen either guy fight will know that a potential showdown between the two would be dream matchup for the boxing purist. It’s a shame that promotional hang-ups have slowed progress from the bout from happening and has also taken a year away from the already mature 35-year old Rigondeaux, but I suppose it’s better late than never.
"While I've been sidelined for the past year, I am grateful for the opportunity to deliver a show to all the boxing fans that have supported me throughout this journey, and I look forward to delivering my best come fight night," Rigondeaux said.
As to his opponent, Francisco found moderate success in claiming an interim super-flyweight belt back in 2010, but lost it in his first defense. He’s since fought fringe competition, but is coming off a 1st round KO win only a couple months ago. It is a bit odd that the bout has been added so close to the fight date, but both fighters were already in training preparing for other opponents. For all intents and purposes, however, the bout seems to be a setup for Rigondeaux to set his career back on track. Despite the odds, Francisco is still optimistic.
“I have been thinking about it for a long time on how I’m going to beat him. He’s a very technical fighter, he’s an Olympic gold medalist, he’s really good with distance, he’s great with jabs, straights. I’m thinking I have a chance because I’m an orthodox so I can surprise him.”
Featherweights Jayson Velez and Ronny Rios will open the night with a 10-round featherweight bout, followed by an IBF bantamweight title fight featuring Randy Caballero and Lee Haskins. To sum up, that’s three title bouts, the return of Rigondeaux, and of course the long-awaited matchup between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Álvarez. Not a bad night of boxing.
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