Guillermo Rigondeaux: He Who Sleeps Last Sleeps Best

Alfredo Fernández

Guillermo Rigondeaux. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Ever since his debut as a professional boxer in 2008, I have followed every match fought by Cuban pugilist Guillermo Rigondeaux (“Rigo”, as his fans call him), keeping a close eye on his prodigious, almost dizzying rise in the field, admiring the talent and courage he invariably shows in each fight.

During the Pan-American Games held in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, Rigo and a fellow Cuban boxer, Erislany Lara, members of the Cuban sports delegation that year, attempted to desert. This incident concluded with a rather shameful move by the Brazilian government, which detained the two boxers and repatriated them.

As may be recalled, the incident prompted a series of “Reflexions” by Fidel Castro, in which, through one of his typical monologues, he reproached the “unpatriotic” attitude of the boxers, whose sports careers immediately ended upon their return to Cuba.

Their heartfelt regret, displayed before the Cuban press again and again, did little to change things. So did the fact Cuban boxing superstar Teófilo Stevenson intervened on their behalf.

I will never forget that, on the day Lara and Rigondeaux arrived from Brazil, Castro concluded his Reflection of the day with the phrase: “Now I can get a good night’s sleep.”

It struck me as shameful, even cruel, that destroying the careers of two great Cuban boxers could give Castro a good night’s rest.

To his frustration, Rigondeaux’s and Lara’s determination was unstoppable, and, the following year, having left Cuba behind, the two picked up their boxing career were they left off, demonstrating, in each and every one of their matches, the high quality of their Cuban training.

Rigondeaux’s greatest achievement as a professional boxer was witnessed this past Saturday, April 13th, at New York’s Radio City Hall. There, 6,000 spectators saw the Cuban boxer defeat the Philippine pugilist Nonito Donaire, the world’s top professional boxing champion of 2012, and walk away with the title of World Champion in the 122 pound division.

Rigo, far from his native soil and public, has achieved the feat of becoming the world boxing champion for the 122 pound weight class after a mere 12 fights. During the last fight, we saw him dominate Donaire, who seemed disconcerted, lacking in skill to match Rigondeaux’s talents.

Rigondeaux’s unquestionable victory did more than amaze professional boxing critics, who had unanimously set their bets on Donaire. It also, and more importantly, made a human dream come true, that dream one reaches through personal sacrifice, without harming anyone.

Without a doubt, the night of April 13, 2013, Guillermo Rigondeaux slept more peacefully than Fidel Castro, who, years before, through a pitiful political victory over the boxer, naively thought he had put an end to his career.


Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

9 thoughts on “Guillermo Rigondeaux: He Who Sleeps Last Sleeps Best

  • Rigondeaux is a hero to all cuban people! this victory is for more than just him, it’s for all the people he left behind, his loved one’s, his fellow athletes, for the poor in cuba. This victory is for all cuban pepole who have a dream and struggled hard to make a new life away from home.

  • Rigo lacks Mayweather’s ‘out-of-the-ring’ charm and notoriety. Mayweather’s bombastic personally sells tickets and increases pay-per-view receipts. Boxing is a sport AND a business. Rigo’s draw as a boxer is lessened by his style. Unfortunately, not being controversial outside boring coupled with his style in the ring may work against him.

  • Remember Muhammad Ali’s ‘rope-a-dope”? That was a boring fight too but in the end worth it because Ali won. I never criticized Rigo’s talent or his game plan. In boxing, a win is a win. I still say it was a boring fight.

  • Floyd Mayweather is another one of those “running” types. He’s doing just fine.

  • be right is a matter of perspective on this one, which many other people find it, very entertained(like me). He did his game plan, which is box, and he did it well cuz he won, and not schooled just some guy, he schooled a p4p guy, which i think should be the news, not how boring some fans may find it.

  • rigo was not running,he was circuiting around donaire,,,it was donaire who did not wanted to engage,the reason is clear,every time he did,he miss and got hit in the face,,so I dont know what you are saying,,you must be a nonito fan,its simple,rigo gave nonito a boxing clinic,of cause Im not saying this to convince you of any thing,Im saying it for the pure pleasure,specially to people like you,,,you cant find any thing to say being that nonito lost big time and you and a handful,noticed that I said a handful of people but that rigo was running,,hahahaha,,look at nonitos face and look at rigos face,look at computbox, so can take and digest the dethrone of nonito,keep on saying what you want,,who has the belts,rigo,who made history,rigo,who became a champion with his 8 fight,rigo,where was nonito on his 8 fight,who unify belts and milk shake the face of a top five pound for pound on only his 11 fight fight,rigo,who made history again,rigo,who was the best all time amateur boxer,rigo,,,so,keep on saying what you want,the facts will always make you look ridicules,arrogant and with any knowledge about boxing.

  • You may be right. But as I said, I saw the fight. Arum also happens to be right this time.

  • Moses i notice you quoted bob arum. Arum was trying to make rigo look bad because he made his bread and butter(nonito) look the worse he’s ever looked

  • Okay, I saw the fight too. The Cuban won and all three judges agreed, but this was one booooring fight! According to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, “It was not a very engaging fight. If Rigondeaux would stand and fight, (he) has a lot of power and a lot of skills, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight”. ‘Rigo’ earned his biggest payday of his 4 year career to date with a check for $750,000. The champion was guaranteed $1.1 million. Rigo’s style is not very telegenic and other fighters will be turned off by a fighter who runs so much so it could be tough for him to get good fights after this but boxing will go on. Still, Castro made a mistake by forcing a smart, if not boring fighter like Rigondeaux to escape Cuba to pursue his career.

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