Rico Ramos-Guillermo Rigondeaux Friday on Showtime potentially sizes up as an artful, technically adept posefest, punctuated by moments of sudden and extreme violence. It very well could be the “Drive” of boxing. Or maybe it will be one of those things — a posefest — or the other — violence in the extreme. But those are the rhythms of Ramos and Rigondeaux, two ultra-quick and explosive junior featherweights who have a tendency at times to wait for their opponents to seize the initiative, and capitalize off what they do wrong. And then they’ll each suprise you with those rare moments where they are supremely aggressive out of nowhere.
We might not know what we’ll get out of this oft-rescheduled fight in terms of its tenor, but we know that it is the hardest professional fight of both mens’ lives. We know that they are two of the most talented men in a division that could could soon become relevant with the addition of Nonito Donaire. And whether they know it or not, both need to make a statement about how thrilling they can be — even if their impulses are to defend and counter.
Ramos comes in as the more experienced pro, but Rigondeaux as the more experienced boxer overall. This will be Rigondeaux’ ninth professional fight to Ramos’ 21st. Rigondeaux, though, is one of the most accomplished amateur boxers of all time, with more than 300 bouts to his name, and at 31, has to move fast as a pro after defecting from Cuba, where pro fighting is banned. And for most of his pro fights, he has looked like a pure sensation.
That appearance evaporated after a lackluster outing against Ricardo Cordoba in 2010, a fight he won clearly but where he suffered his first knockdown and appeared skittish from that moment until the final bell. He got some of it back against Willie Casey in a 1st round TKO that was a display of quickness and power-punching that had Casey downright dizzy.
At his best, Rigondeaux is a fearsome, southpaw body destroyer with snappy jabs, excellent footwork and swift counterpunching. And make no mistake, Rigondeaux really can punch — when he digs his shots, they do real serious damage. At his worst, he’s just a guy running around, scoring like an amateur, playing keep away and doing the bare minimum to win.
Ramos has a lot of similar qualities — his tendency, like Rigondeaux, is not to lead. He’s good at defending himself. He’s a right-hander, but his left hand is probably his strongest hand, as he scored a knockout with it against Akifumi Shimoda. He also can dig to the body; he stopped Cecilio Santos that way. And he’s fast.
Really, though, he’s like Rigondeaux but not as good in almost every way. He’s fast, but not faster than Rigondeaux. He’s got a good left hand, but not a better one. He’s a good body puncher, but not like Rigondeaux. Etc. What he really has is pro experience. Shimoda is a good deal better than anyone Guillermo has faced. That counts for something. But is it enough?
Probably not. I can see Ramos winning — I don’t like the way Rigondeaux shied away from contact after being knocked down by Cordoba’s off hand, and I don’t like that Rigondeaux has gone through so many trainers in his short pro career. But I do like Rigondeaux’ talent and skill set more than I do Ramos’.
If Rigondeaux comes out too aggressive, Ramos can make him pay. But I think what’s more likely is that Rigondeaux will lead wisely, knowing what might be coming back. Once Rigondeaux makes him feel what Ramos can do to him, I bet Ramos shies away for a while. But he’ll realize, as he did against Shimoda, that he won’t win that way, and will come out in a late round with some fire. That’s when Rigondeaux will get him, and stop him.
If it goes that way, Rigondeaux gets the statement win he needs to generate more interest in what he does next. If he doesn’t, the win might be one that enhances his status, but not his popularity.