Guillermo Rigondeaux Wins First Pro Fight, Antwone Smith Pulls Off Another Upset, Erislandry Lara Steps Up Successfully On Friday Night Fights

Friday Night Fights recap, “what I learned”-style:

What I learned about one of two former decorated Cuban amateurs on the card, junior
middleweight Erislandry Lara: He was ready for the step up. Well, I
guess I should say, I knew he was ready for the step up, but what I
learned was that I was right. No great insight there. The kid can
fight. He scored a 4th round knockout over a battle-tested veteran. I
can’t comment much further. I missed the fight after tuning in a little
late. Shame on me. Lara’s a nice talent, pleasing to the eye, and I’d
been wondering how well he’d fare against better competition. From the
highlights and the ESPN2 team talk afterward, it certainly appears he was more than ready.

I learned two things about Guillermo Rigondeaux, the even more highly decorated Cuban amateur featherweight, in his pro debut: A.,
He’s definitely been in a few fights, and it showed; it looked like he
very much knew what he was doing in there. His connect rates, compared
to that of his opponent, were absurd. I think his opponent landed 3 of
45 punches, to more like a 50 percent connect ratio for Rigondeaux. So
vast was the gulf that the referee called it off in the 3rd at a moment
when Rigondeaux’s man not in particular trouble, although he was at
times earlier in the fight. The other thing I learned is B., the
habits of an amateur background may still be ingrained and he’ll need
to adjust at the pro level, because when he had his man reeling, he
didn’t do anything. Several times when he had his opponent hurt, he did
anything but pounce. Often, he backed off. One fight in, that is
something he can work on. It’s just what I learned in one fight, where
there’s often very little to learn.

I’m not sure what I learned
from the main event, where welterweight Antwone Smith upset Ricard
Gutierrez to score a unanimous decision. I can tell you what I won’t be
doing again: underestimating Smith. He just keeps scoring upsets on ESPN2, and
this time he beat a fringe contender-type that I expected to beat Smith
on experience alone. Instead, I had Smith winning every round but the
first two. In those early rounds, Gutierrez just outworked Smith, even
if he didn’t land much of note. Toward the end of the 2nd, though,
Smith was seeing everything Gutierrez was throwing, then landing the
cleaner, straighter punches as Gutierrez swung wildly. Smith took total
control, using his sharper boxing skills to confuse and dominate
Gutierrez. I do have to wonder if, based on his last couple
performances, whether Gutierrez suffered the kind of beating from
Alfredo Angulo last year that took at little something out of a
fighter, but it’s also possible Gutierrez did OK against Angulo because
you can catch Angulo with wild punches and that’s a more difficult
proposition than hitting a clever, smart defender like Smith. I don’t
know how one judge scored it 96-94 for Smith, because the judge who had
it 100-88 was far closer [albeit only on the Smith side; as David Schraub pointed out, the 88 meant two 10-8 rounds, and there were no knockdowns]. Still, Smith came away with the deserved win
in what ended up being a busy fight but not the competitive one I
expected. I’m not saying Smith beats a top 10-leve guy. I’m just saying
he’s smart enough, and he’s bucked the odds enough, that I won’t rule
it out if it happens. Good work from Smith Friday night.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.