Rigondeaux tells Caryn A. Tate that fight­ing Lo­machenko holds no fear for him

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ON so­cial me­dia, the hash­tag used by Guillermo “El Cha­cal” Rigondeaux when ref­er­enc­ing his up­com­ing fight with Va­syl Lo­machenko is #Notafraid. There’s a rea­son for that: once you’ve braved shark-in­fested waters in a small boat, it’s doubt­ful you’ll be afraid of an­other per­son.

For Rigondeaux, the for­mer sce­nario isn’t rhetor­i­cal. It’s what he had to en­dure to de­fect from his home coun­try of Cuba in 2009, in his sec­ond at­tempt.

Now, after dom­i­nat­ing the su­per­ban­tamweight di­vi­sion, WBA cham­pion Rigondeaux is mov­ing up two weight classes to face WBO su­per-feath­er­weight king Lo­machenko. The bout will take place on De­cem­ber 9 at Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York, and will be tele­vised on ESPN in the US and Box­na­tion in the UK. Both fight­ers are two-time Olympic gold medal­lists with re­mark­able am­a­teur records, and both are known for their su­perb tech­nique in the box­ing ring. Fans have wanted to see this fas­ci­nat­ing matchup for some time.

Mov­ing up two weight cat­e­gories (with eight pounds be­tween their re­spec­tive di­vi­sions) isn’t a small thing, but Rigondeaux main­tains that putting on a few pounds will pose no prob­lems for him. “I just have to be smart and strate­gic about my eat­ing habits, but there will be no drop-off when it comes to my speed and explosiveness,” he said. “At the end of the day, I asked for this fight and I’m will­ing to do what­ever is nec­es­sary to reach the ap­pro­pri­ate weight.”

Make no mis­take, Guillermo not only wants this fight – he’s down­right ex­cited about it. One could ar­gue that his last



truly elite op­po­nent was Nonito Don­aire, a then-top pound-for-pound fighter whom Rigondeaux outboxed in 2013. Since then, “Rigo” has had pro­mo­tional is­sues, re­sult­ing in some in­ac­tiv­ity. But now, with pro­moter Roc Na­tion Sports, Rigondeaux fi­nally has an­other ma­jor bout around the bend.

“In or­der to be recog­nised as the best in your sport, you need to fight, and de­feat, the best,” Rigondeaux said. “For years I’ve been seek­ing a mar­quee fight to show the world that I’m one of the top pound-for-pound fight­ers. I’ve called out sev­eral top op­po­nents at dif­fer­ent weight classes, but none of them had been will­ing to fight me un­til Lo­machenko. I’m thrilled that I fi­nally have a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent and a na­tional plat­form with ESPN, so I can make a state­ment and trans­form the box­ing land­scape.”

A for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent in­deed, yet Rigondeaux does not hold Lo­machenko in quite the high re­gard that some do in the box­ing world. “While I re­spect Lo­machenko, the re­al­ity is he’s never fought some­one with my pedi­gree and skillset. The fight­ers he’s gone up against are in­fe­rior com­pared to the ones that I’ve faced through­out my ca­reer.”

Part of the in­trigue sur­round­ing the Lo­machenko-rigondeaux fight is the size dif­fer­ence. Some feel that Lo­machenko may be too big for Rigondeaux, but Guillermo has a hard time un­der­stand­ing that no­tion. “I keep hear­ing about an­a­lysts that be­lieve Lo­machenko’s size will give him an ad­van­tage in the fight,” he said. “Hon­estly, I don’t un­der­stand that logic be­cause all of my op­po­nents have been taller than me, yet I’ve re­mained un­de­feated. Don­aire was much big­ger and heav­ier than me in 2013, but I still recorded a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion vic­tory. Re­gard­less, I will con­tinue to rely on my speed and my tech­ni­cal skills to atone for the dif­fer­ence in size. On De­cem­ber 9, I look for­ward to sur­pris­ing the doubters and de­trac­tors once again.”

Rigondeaux tends to be a quiet in­di­vid­ual out­side the ring. But re­cently he has es­tab­lished a highly en­ter­tain­ing pres­ence on so­cial me­dia – one might even spec­u­late that his taunts on Twit­ter helped se­cure the Lo­machenko fight. “Although I can be a bit more re­served in pub­lic, plat­forms like Twit­ter al­low me to show­case my play­ful per­son­al­ity. At the same time, so­cial me­dia also gives me the op­por­tu­nity to el­e­vate my brand and dic­tate my mes­sage di­rectly to the pub­lic, es­pe­cially since things can get mis­con­strued in the me­dia. My man­ager, Alex Bornote, and my team at Roc Na­tion have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in help­ing me nav­i­gate the world of so­cial me­dia.”

But aside from pok­ing fun at his op­po­nent, Guillermo loves in­ter­act­ing with his fans on­line. “It’s very im­por­tant to en­gage with my fans via so­cial me­dia be­cause, without them, I wouldn’t be in this po­si­tion. I en­joy hav­ing a di­rect con­nec­tion with my fans through Twit­ter – it’s re­fresh­ing to give them a sneak peek into my fam­ily life, train­ing habits and thoughts on the world of sports. I’ve also been try­ing to do more Twit­ter Q&AS with my fans to show my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for their sup­port and con­tinue cul­ti­vat­ing my re­la­tion­ship with them over time.”

Rigondeaux re­cently posted a photo on so­cial me­dia of him­self with his com­pa­triot Eris­landy Lara. Lara and Rigondeaux en­dured the trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence of de­fect­ing from Cuba to­gether in 2009. When asked what it means to him to still be in touch with Lara, Guillermo said: “It means the world be­cause Eris­landy is a dear friend. We’ve bonded through sev­eral shared ex­pe­ri­ences and chal­lenges – we both uprooted our lives in Cuba to fur­ther our box­ing ca­reers, we both had to adapt to a new cul­ture in the United States and we both en­dured our share of ups and downs as pro­fes­sional box­ers. It’s a bless­ing to call him a friend be­cause there are very few peo­ple in this world that can truly re­late to our ex­pe­ri­ences.”

As Rigondeaux con­tin­ues to dili­gently pre­pare for the Lo­machenko fight with his trainer, Pe­dro Diaz of Mundo Box­ing, he has one more mes­sage for his fans: “Thank you for all your sup­port and, if you don’t al­ready have a ticket, tune in on De­cem­ber 9 to see a fight for the ages!”


STAND­OUT WIN: Rigondeaux fires a jab at Don­aire dur­ing his best vic­tory to date


TIME TO SHINE: Rigondeaux is ready to prove his elite-class cre­den­tials to the world

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