Michael Rosenthal

Shields on Rigondeaux: “Sky’s the limit”

 

Guillermo Rigondeaux had fallen into a pattern by the time he fought Ricardo Cordoba on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight in November at Cowboys Stadium.

The immensely talented Cuban defector won the fight, albeit by a split decision. The problem was that it was a tactical victory, not one that was even remotely pleasing to the crowd.  Ronnie Shields, his trainer, decided to sit his fighter down.

“I had a long talk with him about the fight in Dallas,” Shields said. “I told him, ‘Nobody enjoyed the fight, nobody wanted to see that. You have to change things.’ He realized I was right.

“He said, ‘I gotta do better. You’ll see in my next fight. I’m gonna go out there and get him.’ And did he ever.”

That’s an understatement. Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 knockouts) looked like a fighter possessed against then-unbeaten Willie “Big Bang” Casey in a scheduled 12-round junior featherweight bout on Saturday night in Dublin, Ireland.

The two-time Olympic champion, blessed with a lethal blend of speed, power and ability, began to hurt the relatively inexperienced Irishman with devastating body shots about 30 seconds into the fight. A minute into it, he was all over his brave but overmatched opponent.

Casey (11-1, 7 KOs) went down about 1:45 into the fight. About 30 second later, an overhand left put Casey down and hurt him badly. He managed to get up but was being pummeled when the ref stopped the fight at 2:38.

Rigondeaux had followed through on his promise and might’ve reinvented himself as a more-marketable fighter.

“I told Guillermo that he can’t let this kid get started with anything, that he has to take it to him right way. And that’s what he did,” Shields said. “… His attitude is really good. He wants to be the best fighter in the world, he wants everyone to know how good he is.

“And in order to do that, he did what he had to do (on Saturday).”

Rigondeaux isn’t the emotional type. However, when he returned to his hotel after the fight, he was greeted by a gracious crowd of Irish admirers that touched him.

“When we got back to the hotel, there were a lot of people there,” Shields said. “Everyone was screaming his name. ‘Rigondeaux! Rigondeaux! Rigondeaux!’ I know that made him feel good; you could see it on his face.

“The guy is from Cuba and he’s fighting in Ireland against a guy from there. Still, they gave him that reception. It was spectacular.”

That might only be the beginning for Rigondeaux. The fight against Casey was for the WBA’s interim title, meaning a shot an actual title will come soon.

And Shields has no doubt that his fighter will succeed at the next level … and the level after that … and the level after that. You get the idea.

“I think the sky is the limit with this guy,” Shields said. “That’s how good he is. Let me tell you something: This kid can punch, I mean really punch. All he has to do is do what he did the other night.”

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