by Jesse Ian Lardies
Fighting Saturday night on his second Manny Pacquiao Pay-Per-View will be one of the most decorated amateur boxers of all-time, Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux (9-0, 7KOs). He’ll be taking on Philadelphia native, 25-year-old Teon “The Technician” Kennedy (17-1-2, 7KOs). Opening as an overwhelming20-to-1 favorite, it seems as though Vegas odds-makers are on a short list of people who know what the Cuban sensation really brings to the table. However, suffering from a lack of true fan support, Rigondeaux continues to struggle for name recognition in the pro-boxing community even though he’s claimed the WBA junior featherweight championship of the world.
At age 31, Guillermo started his professional career later than most (though not by any fault of his own…more on that in a bit) but Rigondeaux was put on the professional fast-track by one-time trainer Freddie Roach, who incidentally once commented that Rigondeaux was the most talented boxer that he’d ever seen.
And no doubt, spend some time watching tape of El Chacal and you will see a calculated master who rarely gives any openings to his opponents yet creates his own opportunities through the immense speed and reflex advantages he enjoys.
Although slowly growing in notoriety over the past few years, most fight fans know little about the Cuban junior featherweight champion. However, listening to the ones who have heard of him argue over pronunciation of his name can be quite comical in and of itself. Just for clarifications’ sake, the English phonetic pronunciation is something like this – [Gee air-mo – Rigon-doe].
Rigondeaux brings a lofty stack of accolades to the professional boxing scene; He is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, capturing the top spot for Cuba in both the 2000 and 2004 games. Rigondeaux was able to claim over 14 championships in both national and world-wide competitions and ended his run with an unbelievable record of 400 wins with just 12 defeats. Rigondeaux’s entire amature career, in fact, was contested at the bantamweight level. Staying near his ideal division, Guillermo has only ventured up a few pounds north since turning professional and he will likely remain there for the duration of his career (higher-weight monetary opportunities aside).
Unable to freely leave his own country because of Communist barricades, Rigondeaux departed Cuba in 2007 with the exceptional Erislandy Lara. However, the pair were picked up shortly thereafter by authorities in Brazil. Two years later in February of 2009, El Chacal would yet again leave his homeland in search of his professional dreams (and more importantly, to earn money for his family – the Cuban left a wife and two children behind in Havana, unable to return for the foreseeable future) in an odyssey that would land him in Mexico, then eventually in Miami, Florida where he now resides.
After being officially branded as a ‘defector’ by Fidel Castro, despite bringing his country Olympic glory and highlighting Cuban boxing on the world stage, the former medalist and his teammate, Lara would be forever banned from the national boxing team by the Cuban dictator. Now labeled both a hero and a traitor in his native land, Rigondeaux trains in Miami with fellow Cuban fighters Odlanier Solis, Erislandy Lara and the supremely talented Yuriorkis Gamboa. – A documentary is currently being produced about the amazing story of El Chacal and is tentatively titled “Split Decision”.