A Look At Last Friday’s Action

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 23, 2009

Boxing IOWA CITY — Guillermo Rigondeaux made his professional debut after nearly 400 amateur fights and two Olympic Gold medals.

Ridondeaux decided after spending much of his year stuck in the prison known as Cuba, to make his own living as a fighter.

Like many Cuban fighters, he may have enjoyed privileges but his talent belonged to the state.

The Cuban national team is the best in the world and one reason is that the best fighters stay amateur and are not given the opportunity to turn professional. Ridondeaux was one of Cuban best and now after escaping from Cuba, he was now ready to fight for himself and for a professional talent.

Juan Noriega was selected to be the opponent but after Rigondeaux’s first blow, Noriega knees buckled and from this point, it was only a matter of time.

The difference in level between Noriega and Rigondeaux was that of a good high school team playing the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Noriega had no business being in the ring with Rigondeaux as the Cuban scored at will and every punch sent Noriega back on his heel.

After watching Noriega being pounded from corner of the ring to the other, the referee stopped the fight as he saw the futility of seeing this continued and Ridondeaux won his opening professional bout.

Whether it was the lack of the fear of his opponent or his professional inexperience, Rigondeaux simply showed himself in this fight as a one handed fighter as his best punch was his straight left from his southpaw position.

Rigondeaux rarely used a jab and except for one devastating right hand hook, the right hand looked more like extra appendage as oppose to a weapon.

Freddie Roach told ESPN’s Brian Kenny that Rigondeaux style was similar to a young Manny Pacquiao, who was a one handed fighter early in his career.

Of course, that one hand was a sledgehammer punch.

Another Cuban immigrant fighting here, Erislandy Lara, challenged the veteran Edwin Vazquez.

Lara showed his amateur pedigree as he unleashed a variety of punches from different angles on the hapless Vazquez.

Vazquez did not have either the strength or hand speed to stand up to Lara and this fight had the feel of a mismatch after the opening seconds.

Like his fellow Cuban Ridondeaux, Lara simply dominated his opponent and Vazquez gave him no reason to fear him.

In the fourth round, a Lara combination sent Vazquez to the floor and the referee stopped the fight.

Antowne Smith has proven to be upset master of ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” as he won his three previous bouts on the network series and his last bout; he defeated the undefeated Norberto Gonzalez in his last appearance on ESPN.

Smith was not a big puncher but he showed knowledge of the ring and as a fighter; he improved with every bout.

Against Richard Gutierrez, he was facing his toughest opponent.

Gutierrez has fought some excellent fighters including a close Majority decision lost to Joshua Clotty. He had the experience, but Smith was the hometown favorite.

This was one of those fights that featured close in fighting.

This fight could easily have been held in a phone booth most of the night.

Throughout the night, Smith proved to be more accurate puncher as he delivered short accurate punches as Gutierrez threw the wider punches.

Smith proved the old maxim — straight punches arrive quicker than wide punches.

Each round were close but Smith connected on more punches each round by a small margin but big enough to pile up points on the judges’ cards.

The key rounds were the later rounds as Gutierrez had been 10 at least five times and Smith never.

Yet in the eighth round through the 10th, Smith never slowed down.

He kept the pressure on the veteran Gutierrez as Gutierrez found himself backing up more than he was advancing.

When the decision was announced, it was a mere coronation of what happened in the ring.

Smith showed poise and never relented to the more experienced Gutierrez.

This was a fight that Gutierrez was the favorite and should have won, at least on paper.

But one can’t forget the old cliché, fights are not won on paper but in the ring and this one particular night; it was Smith who won the fight in the ring; paper be damned.

He out fought and out smarted Gutierrez.

While this fight may not made Antowne Smith a star; it did hurt Gutierrez own career as he is now starting to drifting toward opponent status and moving away from contender status.

Smith showed good ring general ship but he is not a big puncher and this could hurt him as he moves up in the Welterweight division.

As for Lara, he looks like a fighter with the tools and his victory over Vasquez showed that after six fights, he is learning quickly.