Ramos vs. Rigondeaux: A Fistful of Dollars
By Aaron Lloyd
Tonight on ShoBox: The New Generation, Cuban amateur sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux, in just his ninth professional bout, attempts to defy the odds by wresting the WBA junior featherweight title from undefeated Puerto Rican standout Rico Ramos. Over the last several years, countless great Cuban fighters have found the transition to the professional ranks to be somewhat demoralizing, when compared to the amateur success with which they have grown accustomed. Fighters like heavyweight Odlanier Solis, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, and light heavyweight Yordanis Despaigne, who amassed a record of 302-16 as an amateur, both found out how difficult the professional fight game can be in terms of competition and divergent styles, as each suffered early losses in their professional careers.
Scoring solely on “unobstructed punches landed on the head and torso” and using a controversial and often misunderstood scoring system that rewards a single point only when a scoring blow is simultaneously recorded by three of the five judges, amateur boxing has come under fire recently for not remaining true to the scoring system utilized in the professional ranks. Fighters are not incentivized for aggression, or body punching, and knockdowns are treated the same as any other punch landed, which begs the question of whether or not the amateur program actually prepares fighters to succeed at the next level. If a fighter like Yordanis Despaigne can win 95% of 318 amateur contests yet lose two of his first eleven professional contests, then there is obviously a disconnect between how fighters are trained and taught in each of the corresponding disciplines. In fact, at the time of this writing, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) has decided to scrap the controversial scoring system following the 2012 London Olympics, in favor of a more professional “10 point must” system that recognizes and rewards things such as footwork, speed, defense, ring generalship, and style.
So can one of the most successful amateur fighters of all time, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and winner of more than 400 amateur fights, do the impossible and win in just his ninth pro fight? Or is he destined to end up like former Heisman Trophy winners Gino Toretta, Danny Wuerffel, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, and Jason White and become just another guy who couldn’t cut it in the big leagues? Personally, I think Rigondeaux has all the tools to be a great professional champion. He is dedicated in the gym, he has excellent hand speed and defensive ability, and he punches well to the body, particularly given the fact that he has had little use for it until now. Tonight we will find out whether he has the goods to thrive at this level or whether his previous successes were simply a matter of the headgear making the man.