Despite having only compiled eight bouts during the first two years of his pro career, former Cuban amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux was the betting favorite going into his challenge to WBA 122-pound titleholder Rico Ramos on Friday.
The 31-year-old southpaw proved the odds makers correct by knocking out Ramos in the sixth-round of their ShoBox: The New Generation main event at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Rigondeaux (9-0, 8 knockouts) joined a small club of fighters who won major titles before their 10th pro bout when he dropped the young beltholder for the count with a body shot at 1:29 of the round.
Ramos (20-1, 11 KOs), of Los Angeles, suffered a first-round knockdown and seemed bewildered by the carefully stalking Cuban’s cool counter-punching style for the next four rounds before Rigondeaux clipped him with a swiping right uppercut that landed high on the head a minute into the sixth round.
The punch, which drew a warning from referee Joe Cortez, appeared to stun Ramos and take what little will he had left to win as the 24-year-old Southern Californian turned his back on the challenger and retreated to the ropes before the third man in the ring called the fighters back into action.
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist that many laud as one of the greatest amateur boxers ever, seized the opportunity to end the uneventful fight by charging Ramos with a series of hard lefts to head. Ramos blocked the punches with his gloves as he backed into a corner where Rigondeaux wisely switched his power-hand to the overwhelmed youth’s midsection. A hard left to the gut dropped Ramos to the canvas where he rolled over on his back for Cortez’s 10 count.
Rigondeaux, who is now based in Miami, Fla., was emotional for the title victory but not surprised that he won.
“I was ready to win the title last year but they closed the door on me in 2011,” Rigondeaux told Showtime’s Steve Farhood through manager Luis DeCubas Sr. “2012 is going to be my time.
“Ramos is a very good fighter but I trained very hard for this fight and when I am at my best no one can beat me.”
Rigondeaux is willing to put that boast to the test. He called out pound-for-pound rated Nonito Donaire, THE RING’s No. 1-rated bantamweight who will make his junior featherweight debut against former 122-pound beltholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. on Feb. 4. Both fighters are promoted by Top Rank and have been mentioned as possible opponents.
Should Donaire win his 122-pound debut and a fight with Rigondeaux is made, the Cuban will have to improve certain facets of his game if he hopes to beat the budding Filipino star.
It will take more than a hard counter left hand and pawing jab to control Donaire as he did Ramos.
Perhaps the bigger challenge for Rigondeaux will be fighting in a more fan-friendly manner. Between the first- and sixth-round knockdowns, his fight with Ramos was rather boring.
Joel Diaz Jr.’s seventh-round stoppage of Guy Robb was anything but boring. Their co-featured bout featured three knockdowns and non-stop action in every round until referee Vic Draculich stepped in to halt the bout at 2:20 of the seventh after Robb, who seemed in control of the bout in rounds three, four and five, was stunned.
Diaz (7-0, 6 KOs), who took the first round by landing hard right hands, was dropped by a right cross in the second round. He got up and attacked Robb, who responded in kind, and the two junior lightweights exchanged hard shots to the body and head throughout the rest of the fight.
Diaz hurt Robb (7-1, 3 KOs) with another right and then put the 22-year-old Sacramento native down with a body shot early in the third round. The 19-year-old prospect from Palmdale, Calif., was credited with a second knockdown when an accumulation of punches caused Robb to fall to the canvas near the end of the round.
However, Robb had plenty of fight left and proved to be the physically stronger of the two as he forced the action during the next three rounds, often bulling Diaz to the ropes where he outworked and occasionally stunned the younger fighter with a body-head attack.
Diaz, who had never fought past four rounds, showed a lot of character by rallying in the seventh round of a true barnburner.
Matt Villanueva, who won the opening bout of the ShoBox broadcast with a seventh-round TKO of Michael Ruiz Jr., also showed character along with an impressive display of volume punching.
The 25-year-old Palmdale resident scored two second-round knockdowns en route to overwhelming Ruiz, a 22-year-old southpaw from Fresno, Calif.
Ruiz (8-2-1, 3 KOs) was game but no match for the non-stop, heavy handed attack of Villanueva (7-0-1, 7 KOs).
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Email Doug Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer