Boxing legend pays tribute to Pinoys

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

TOKYO – Two-time Olympic gold medalist and regular WBA bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba recently paid tribute to Filipinos as “some of the toughest fighters in boxing” with the Tokyo Summer Games showcasing the Philippine team’s high level of competition.

In the amateurs, Rigondeaux defeated Asian Games gold medalist Joan Tipon in the 2004 Grand Prix bantamweight semifinals in the Czech Republic and in the pro ranks, decisioned Nonito Donaire in 2013 and Drian Francisco in 2015. He battles another Filipino, WBO bantamweight titleholder JohnRiel Casimero, in a unification showdown at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson City, Los Angeles County, on Aug. 14.

“Filipinos have a lot of heart and always give the fans a great show,” said Rigondeaux. “Before turning pro, I fought many Filipinos and they were always a tough challenge. To me, Filipino fighters are at the top of the list when it comes to toughness. Nonito is a great champion and I would love to give him a rematch. We had a great fight and I showed the world that I’m an elite fighter by beating him soundly. If we do fight again, I believe I’ll come out victorious once more because my style gives him a lot of problems. As for Casimero, I’m not worried about his power as I’ve fought many guys with power in the past. I will have to see how he comes at me in the early rounds to make my final adjustments but I plan to box his ears off. Everyone is talking about his power but I have power as well and he will have to be careful, too.”

Rigondeaux said competing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics was unforgettable. “It was very special to have won two Olympic gold medals especially for my countrymen back home in Cuba,” he said. “My people need hope in their lives and I was able to bring that to them when I was fighting in the amateurs. For those competing in Tokyo, I would say just make sure you throw a lot of punches in each round. The bouts are shorter so you need to let your hands go.”

Regarding Cuba’s formula of success in Olympic boxing, Rigondeaux said it all starts from childhood. “We do a tremendous amount of footwork drills on a daily basis, starting from five years old,” he said. “It’s a style that’s rooted in our culture from an early age and that’s to hit and not get hit. Cuban coaches are some of the best teachers in the sport. It’s all about the basics and repetition of all those drills which give us Cuban fighters the foundation to become great professionals. Not sure if I’ll be a trainer later on in life but if I do, I will certainly implement the fundamentals that were taught to me.”

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