Fight Pick & Preview – Rigondeaux vs. Agbeko:
On December 7, World 122-Pound Champion Guillermo Rigondeaux takes on former bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko at Boardwalk Hall. It’s difficult to remember a 12-fight veteran who accomplished the things Rigondeaux has. He already managed to consolidate his world title claim and beat a top-five PFP guy in Nonito Donaire. He’d be well-advised to not overlook the versatile and accomplished Agbeko, despite the Ghanian being off the radar for the past few years.
- Date: December 7, 2013
- Site: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Weight Class: World Junior Featherweight Title
Guillermo Rigondeaux, 12-0 (8 KOs), Miami, Florida
Joseph Agbeko, 29-4 (22 KOs), Accra, Ghana
Agbeko is now 33 and coming off one fight in the past two years–a decision over 34-8-1 Luis Melendez in Accra. You have to wonder if maybe he’s a little over-ripe. He did perform well in the Showtime bantamweight tourney of a few years ago, becoming the second man to beat Vic Darchinyan and also beating Yonnhy Perez for the IBF title. In perhaps his highest-visibility bout, he was the victim of a referee who somehow didn’t notice the dozens of low blows Abner Mares landed on Agbeko. A lot of people thought Agbeko could have won that fight if not for the bizarre officiating. In all fairness, however, Mares out-boxed him resoundingly in the rematch.
I always felt Agbeko was a bit underrated. He fought a stunningly-high caliber of opponents from 2009-2011. It was a dizzying stretch where he went from one tough opponent to the next–Darchinyan, two fights with Perez, and two fights with Mares. Maybe he needed a break in light of the rapidly accumulating ringwear. At his best, Agbeko was an exceptionally durable fighter, capable of both brawling and boxing with success. He’s a little longer than Rigondeaux, so maybe he will employ more of a long-range style in this fight.
In any event, a peak Agbeko is a guy with perhaps the right style to trouble Rigondeaux. With 2014 breathing down our necks, however, isn’t expecting a prime Agbeko to surface asking for too much? Probably.
Even if the best version of Agbeko were to manifest, he’d still have his hands more than full with the masterful Cuban. Rigondeaux, also 33, is still basking in the glory of the Donaire triumph. It was one of the more memorable boxing clinics engineered against a top-flight opponent in many years. One of the greatest amateurs of all-time, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner is an ultra-educated southpaw with boxing skills that are like fine wine. He’s a defensive whiz and can take a punch if necessary. In addition, he can punch with authority, giving his boxing skills even more credence.
With Rigondeaux, not a lot of guys are going to fare well in a skills comparison. You have to look behind the still for signs of trouble. If beating Donaire was the mountaintop, maybe there will be some letdown in facing a dormant and now-irrelevant Agbeko. You see a lot of these Cuban ex-amateur stars unable to crack into the upper-pantheon of greatness, guys like Joel Casamayor who came close, but seemed to lose ambition while right on the precipice of big things. Not to stereotype Cuban fighters, but after years of abject poverty, some have trouble maintaining a fever-pitch after getting a taste of their first big-time success in the States.
At 33, Rigondeaux is still only 12 fights into his pro career, but is at an age where lower-weight fighters generally begin slipping. It’s hard to say this coming off his best win, but Rigondeaux may actually be slightly past his prime. These are issues to look out for more down the line, as he should still be OK for the purposes of upending Agbeko. You can’t always be sure, as Jhonny Gonzalez showed by flattening the heavily-favored Mares in August.
Rigondeaux vs. Agbeko Prediction
If Agbeko were to win, a cut-induced stoppage seems like the most likely route. His punches have induced deep cuts before and Rigondeaux is a little tender around the eye-area. “Rigo,” while durable, has been dropped a few times. If Agbeko can get out to a fast start and cut up Rigondeaux, who knows?
That’s not something anyone should bank on, though. It could happen, but the far more-probable outcome is a typical Guillermo Rigondeaux boxing clinic. Agbeko has always been a tough nut to crack, so Rigondeaux has a long night ahead of him. In something just short of a landslide, I see Rigondeaux winning an easy decision.
Prediction: Guillermo Rigondeaux wins by unanimous decision.