The New York debut of Cuban super bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux was a tedious eight-round decision over Ghana's Lantey Addy, who got knocked down in the first round and went into a defensive shell the rest of the fight Wednesday night at B.B. King's. Rigondeaux showed in the final round he had the speed and skill to go after his reluctant opponent, but as a counterpuncher, that's not his style.
So, a packed house didn't get to see the 29-year-old Cuban defector at his best. According to trainer Freddie Roach, Rigondeaux's best work since turning pro after a storied amateur career has taken place in the gym, and that's why the man who also trains Manny Pacquiao strongly believes Rigondeaux (4-0, 3 KOs) could fight for a title after just four pro bouts.
"The way he fights in the gym and the world-class fighters he spars with, he boxes with Amir, he boxes with Pacquiao, he does well with everybody," said Roach, who also trains WBA light welterweight champ Amir Khan of the United Kingdom. "He's just great. He's a solid fighter. He's very crafty. He has a lot of experience. He only has four pro fights, but he's like a finished fighter. I call him the little James Toney."
Asked how fast he wants to move Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who wasn't allowed to go to the Beijing Games in 2008 after a failed attempt to defect a year earlier, Roach said, "I really want a title fight right now. There's no one out there I won't fight."
Why so confident? "Because I see him in the gym when he spars with Pacquiao and Amir Khan, champions," Roach said. "The job he does with those guys is amazing."
At this point, Rigondeaux only has spent a little time in the ring with Pacquiao, who moved all the way up to welterweight to win a title in a record seventh weight class. Rigondeaux fought at 125 1/2 pounds last night, almost 20 pounds below Pacqiao's weight against Miguel Cotto, which limited his usefulness as a sparring partner for that fight.
But as Roach plans Pacquiao's preparation for his upcoming welterweight title bout with Floyd Mayweather, which is all but set, he envisions an important role for Rigondeaux. "I don't use him a lot [against Pacquiao] because of the size difference, but he imitates Mayweather really well," Roach said. "So, I'm going to use him for that fight, for that style, because of his defensive style and counterpunching ability."
Rigondeaux certainly showed his patience against Addy (6-5-1, 4 KOs), who was a last-minute replacement for veteran Rafael Tirado, who failed his eye exam. Despite his record, Addy has been matched tough, facing four straight unbeaten fighters and winning his last bout on a card in Atlantic City. But in the first round, southpaw Rigondeaux threw a straight right that split Addy's gloves and sent him to the canvas.
That caused Addy to go into a defensive posture, barely throwing any punches. But he did catch Rigondeaux a couple times, and it caused the Cuban to fight cautiously. In the second round, Rigondeaux was feinting with punches that were short of the mark, and as he dipped down, Addy dropped a big overhand right on his forehead.
Then, in the sixth, Rigondeaux made a similar move, dipping down but with his head sitting up in perfect punching range as an inviting target. Addy pounced on the chance for a 1-2 combo to the head. Since it was the only meaningful exchange of the round, I gave that one round to Addy, making Rigondeaux a 79-72 winner on my card. Judge John Signorile also scored it 79-72 while Julie Lederman and Steve Weisfeld gave Rigondeaux an 80-71 shutout.
"The guy was in defensive mode, and he did catch him early with one shot," Roach admitted. "[Rigondeaux] would knock him out of range with the first punch. So, he single-punched a little bit. He's very smart, and he's not going to walk into too many shots. He did walk into a couple, but he can't take more chances than he normally would. Guys that come at us, we'll eat up. But guys that move away, we're still working on that and need to improve.
"I'd like to see him a little bit busier. He has four fights, and we have a little bit to work on. But he'll pick things up quickly I feel…The thing is we're working on being more aggressive because he's 90 percent a counterpuncher. He likes guys to come to him. When guys move on him, I want him to throw more than one punch and hit them with a combination. We're working on that."
PUNCHLINES: Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi, who avenged his controversial lost to Juan Diaz by winning a clearcut unanimous decision in their light welterweight match last Saturday in Chicago, was ringside at B.B. King's. After heavyweight Tor Hamer (8-0, 6 KOs) stopped Mazur Ali (6-5, 4 KOs), who quit at 1:38 of the first round after a body punch, Malignanni helped promoter Lou DiBella by going into the ring for an interview that served as a time-filler. Malignanni said the bigger ring in Chicago helped with his lateral movement against Diaz. "In actuality, Diaz was beaten before the first bell," Malignanni said. "He never believed he would win."
DiBella suggested his dream would be for Malignanni to face Amir Khan for his WBA light welterweight title at Madison Square Garden. There's no shortage of opponents lining up to face Khan, but Roach said, "That's definitely a viable fight. Something I would welcome. I like Paulie; it's a big fight, and welcome to America and Madison Square Garden [for Khan]. What better way could he come?"
Check back later today for Roach's update on the status of Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations.