It's just a club show Wednesday night at B.B. King's in Manhattan featuring a guy in only his fourth professional bout, but a year from now, Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux very well could be fighting for a world title. At least, that's the vision of promoter Lou DiBella, who said he plans to make a "strong move" to sign a deal with manager Louie DeCubas of Miami, who has made a specialty of moving Cuban exiles to stardom.
Rigondeaux is 29 years, an advanced age to turn pro, but he only managed to defect from Cuba last February via Mexico. He's a two-time Olympic gold medalist with close to 400 amateur bouts, and the Cubans wouldn't allow him to take part in the 2008 Beijing Games after a failed attempt to defect in 2007. The last of his 12 losses came in 2003. "He's ridiculously talented," DiBella said of Rigondeaux. "He's one of the greatest amateurs ever to fight for Cuba, and you know how good that is. He could fight for a world title in 12 months. It's a matter of letting him get in some rounds and move up to where he's had eight-rounders and 10-rounders."
Technically, Rigondeaux's third fight was scheduled for 12 rounds, but it only lasted three before he stopped 71-fight veteran Giovanni Andrade for the vacant NABA super bantamweight title (122 pounds). At B.B. King's, Rigondeaux will square off against Rafael Tirado (24-7, 16 KOs) in a bout scheduled for eight rounds. Tirado is a 35-year-old journeyman out of Ecuador.
Freddie Roach, who trains the great Manny Pacquiao, will be in Rigondeaux's corner, which says a lot about the caliber of fighter he is. Rigondeaux doesn't have the kind of built-in support Pacquiao has with the Philippine audience, but DiBella said, "He's one of the great talents in the world, a tremendous boxer with power. He can develop a following with Cuban and Latino fans."
In addition to Rigondeaux's New York debut, the card includes a heavyweight bout featuring Tor Hamer (9-0, 7 KOs), an up-and-coming prospect who has done a good job of promoting himself while being featured in articles in New York magazine and the Village Voice and appearing on TV with Carson Daly. Hamer is a Penn State grad who got into boxing for love of the sport as opposed to fighting his way out of poverty.
At 6-2 and 227 pounds in his last bout, he's a normal-sized heavyweight, but some consider him a "small" heavyweight in the age of 6-9 champion Vitali Klitschko. "He's got a tremendous punch, and he's getting better," DiBella said.
Tickets for the "Boxing on Broadway" show are priced at $125, $75 and $55 and may be purchased at the door or by contacting DiBella Entertainment at 212-947-2577.
Punch lines: Howard Cosell got all the attention when he was named to the Boxing Hall of Fame, but my congratulations go to Fast Eddie Schuyler, the great Associated Press boxing journalist, who was fast on deadline but even faster with a quip.