LAS VEGAS – Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux makes the first defense of his World Boxing Association super-bantamweight belt on Saturday, with the division’s more illustrious names clearly on his mind.
“Thanks to Teon Kennedy for being here, because everybody else has been backing away,” Rigondeaux said Thursday at the final press conference for the bout, one of two world title fights on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization welterweight title defense against unbeaten American Timothy Bradley.
“Everybody else” could include Pacquiao’s fellow Filipino Nonito Donaire, the WBO’s 122-pound champion; Japan’s Toshiaki Nishioka, the World Boxing Council champion, and International Boxing Federation champ Jeffrey Mathebula — not to mention Abner Mares or South Africa’s former IBF champion Takalani Ndlovu.
Donaire and Mathebula are slated to fight to unify their world titles in Los Angeles on July 7.
In the meantime, Rigondeaux will continue to try to build his professional resume after a late arrival to the pro ranks in the wake of an amateur career in Cuba that included two Olympic gold medals.
While Rigondeaux was relatively restrained in his press conference remarks, he told Elnuevoherald.com in no uncertain terms that he believes the division’s top fighters are dodging him.
“All other so-called champions of the division have hidden,” he said. “My promotional team has tried to reach them, but do not receive responses. They are cowards.”
Rigondeaux, widely acknowledged as a tremendous talent, has been a pro for just three years. The 31-year-old brings a record of 9-0 with seven knockouts to the bout.
He won the WBA belt with a sixth-round knockout of Rico Ramos on January 20, dropping Ramos with a left in the first round and driving the champion into a defensive shell that displeased fans.
In Kennedy he will face an active fighter, who throws numerous punches and could be vulnerable to a hard counter shot.
Kennedy brings a record of 17-1 with two drawn and seven knockouts to the fight.
Also on the undercard, unbeaten Mike Jones will take on fellow American Randall Bailey for the vacant International Boxing Federation welterweight crown.
Jones brings a record of 26-0 with 19 knockouts to the fight, while Bailey boasts a record of 41-7 with 36 knockouts.
It will be the first world title fight for Jones, who at 29 is eight years younger than Bailey, who is 3-0 since losing to Colombia’s Juan Urango in 2009 in an IBF light-welterweight world title bout. Bailey also lost a world title fight to Miguel Cotto in 2004.
Five-time world champion Jorge Arce will take on Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas in a 10-round non-title 122-pound bout.
Arce, who owns a record of 60-6-2 with 46 knockouts, won three fights in 2011, including stopping Wilfredo Vazquez in Las Vegas in May of last year.
The reigning WBO bantamweight champion has voiced an interest in taking on Donaire and/or Mares, but also said he wants to fight for a world title at 126 pounds.
“Before we go to the second step, we have the first step, and I know Jesus is coming in ready to fight,” Arce said.
The Mexican veteran also knows the value of fighting on the pay-per-view card headlined by Pacquiao.
“I’m very motivated,” he said. “I know Manny Pacquiao will be watched around the world, and if he’s watched around the world I will be, too.”
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