The legendary trainer George Benton used to have a saying. "Win tonight, look good next time."
Winning the fight is all that really matters in boxing, right?
Well, not always.
Benton would occasionally apply that saying to Pernell Whitaker, the extremely talented Hall of Famer who boxed from 1984-2001. Whitaker was a brilliant strategist and an excellent defensive fighter. He didn't always make for the most exciting fights.
The same could be said of Guillermo Rigondeaux. Even though the undefeated Cuban boxed looked very impressive in April when he easily handled pound-for-pound mainstay Nonito Donaire at Radio City Music Hall, it seemed that everyone at a recent press conference was concerned more with Rigondeaux's appeal than his ability.
It came up more than once during the presser that promoter Bob Arum and HBO had trepidation about putting Rigondeaux back on the network. But that's where he'll be fighting Saturday night.
Rigondeaux headlines an HBO card from Atlantic City against former world champ Joseph Agbeko, of Ghana. The card also features a 154-pound showdown between Glen Tapia and James Kirkland and a middleweight fight between Matthew Macklin and Lamar Russ.
One would expect the opponent to be critical of Rigondeaux's style, which Agbeko was.
"This is not amateur boxing where you punch one punch and you can get away with it for the whole round,” said Agbeko at the press conference this week at B.B. King's. “This is professional boxing. You come into the ring to give the crowd what they want to see. So you go in, take a punch and punch and at the end of the day the crowd enjoys the fight."
But even Rigondeaux's manager Gary Hyde spent a good portion of his podium time addressing the issue.
"You will see an explosive Rigo," Hyde said. "He put a beating on Donaire, and hurt him, and we expect him to bring it to Agbeko. We think Agbeko won't run, even when he gets a taste of Rigo's power. And while we don't look past Agbeko, Rigo is ready to fight anyone, up to 130 pounds. If Donaire wants a rematch, that's fine."
Rigondeaux is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and about as crafty a southpaw as there is. He's a scientist, not a slugger. And for all the chatter swirling around him this week, Rigondeaux seemed focused only on winning the fight. George Benton would have been proud.
“He could say anything he wants, all the talk is over,” Rigondeaux said. “It’s funny how my [amateur background] is always brought up. I hear it all of the time, and what happens in the end, I win. I’m just really happy that HBO is giving me this opportunity again.”