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At 42, Guillermo Rigondeaux Returns with a Knockout and Renewed Vigor  

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  • At 42, Guillermo Rigondeaux Returns with a Knockout and Renewed Vigor  

    Almost a year ago, an accident in his home endangered the life of talented Cuban southpaw Guillermo “Rigo” Rigondeaux, who returned to the ring on Friday, February 24th in Miami, with a spectacular first round knockout against Colombian Jesús Martínez.

    In March 2022, just days after his second straight loss, Rigondeaux (21-3-0, 14 KOs) had a pressure cooker explode in his face, temporarily impairing nearly 80 percent of his vision, burning him severely, and putting his boxing career in jeopardy.

    The two-time Olympic gold medalist (Sydney-2000 and Athens-2004) was transported to a hospital in South Florida where after several examinations it was determined that although his retinas were undamaged, the cornea and macula had been impaired, and he would have to wait a few weeks to ascertain the extent of the damage and allow for the cornea’s natural regeneration process.

    If the optic nerve was also damaged, surgery would be required, but specialists were unable to predict the extent of the injury at that time. As the days passed, Rigondeaux experienced a speedy recovery that even surprised the doctors. He was discharged within a few weeks and returned to training.

    “I can’t tell you how happy I feel to return to do what I like so much, which is boxing,” said Rigondeaux once the fight against Martínez was official. “This is the second fight of my career in Miami, the first in Hialeah. I know I’m in the final stretch of my career, but I hope people respond and come see me. After all, I am part of the history of Cuban boxing.”


    With skillful movement, a hermetic defense, and powerful fists, Rigo has received criticism for elusive performances in the ring that consisted of very few punches. However, after a year away from competitive action, Rigondeaux returned to the ring with a convincing performance against veteran Martínez (33-17-1, 16 KOs), at Hialeah Park and Casino in South Florida.

    Without taking any time to analyze his opponent’s tactical plan, Rigondeaux stormed into the ring looking to exchange from the very beginning. Within the first minute, Rigo landed several punches to the head of Martínez who fell to the mat. The referee immediately intervened, giving Martínez the mandatory count. When the actions resumed, Rigondeaux went in for the kill, landing several more punches and knocking Martínez down again. Only 1:14 minutes had elapsed in the first round.

    “I just wanted to say I’m back,” a victorious Rigondeaux said. “Guillermo is back. The legend.” Rigo claimed that he now wants a title shot at 122 pounds, but he does not appear among the top 15 in any of the rankings of the four main organizations (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO). He’s going to have to win a few more fights before that opportunity becomes a reality.

    In August 2021, Rigondeaux lost by split decision to Filipino John Riel Casimero (32-4, 22 KOs), in Carson, California. Casimero was defending his WBO 118-pound belt for the second time.

    Six months later, Filipino Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) defeated Rigondeaux by unanimous decision in Dubai, United Arab Emirates with the incentive for the vacant WBC International belt. In the fight, which was scheduled for 10 rounds, Astrolabio knocked Rigondeaux down in the eighth. The three judges issued scorecards of 95-94 in favor of Astrolabio.

    Recognized as one of the best Cuban boxers in history, Rigondeaux had a failed escape attempt in Brazil while preparing for the 2007 Pan American Games. Back on the island, he was separated from the national squad. Sometime later, he managed to successfully escape from the island.

    The little Cuban gladiator became a professional champion in his ninth bout, defeating American Rico Ramos (30-6, 14 KOs) by sixth round knockout on January 20, 2012, in Las Vegas.

    One year and three months later, Rigondeaux had the most relevant success of his career, unanimously defeating Filipino Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs) at Radio City Music Hall in New York. This victory made Rigondeaux a two-time world champion, with both the WBA and WBO belts. At the time, Donaire was riding a 12-year, 30-fight win streak and was considered among the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.

    Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

    Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.