26.05.09 – By Coach Tim Walker – The Cubans are coming! The CUBANS are coming!! Well first I hope you laughed at that and second they aren’t really coming, they’re actually here and looking good. If you didn’t know that before you read my opener then the May 22nd airing of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights should have painted a clearer picture.
This showcase version of Friday Night Fights planted it roots in the historic and elegant Fountainbleau Hotel, Miami and featured hot Cuban prospects Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux (yes it seems he is really a serious prospect after one pro fight) as well as pro debuts of Yordanis Despaigne (successful amateur, lost to Andre Dirrell in 2004 Olympics by one point) and Yudel Johnson (gold medalist 1999 Pan American Game, gold medalist 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games).. It seems the only unsuccessful Latin on the card was main event fighter Columbian Richard Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, a veteran of 29 fights whose only previous losses were to contenders Joshua Clottey and Alfredo Angulo, ran into the B fighter Antwone “The Truth” Smith. I’m thinking of starting a petition to change his name to “The Spoiler” or “The Career Breaker” or maybe even Antwone “The End Is Upon You Other Boxers” Smith. In case you’re not familiar with the B fighter moniker, boxing cards of this size typically utilize two dressing rooms. One dressing room is for the house fighters (A) and the other for the opponents (B). Smith has been playing the role of the B side fighter virtually since he turned pro.
Smith, who is continually solidifying his position as genuine, was supposed to lose to Francisco Osorio in 2008. He knocked him out in three. He was supposed to lose to Juan Camilo Novoa in his next fight. He knocked him out in four. Norberto Gonzalez, an undefeated 16 bout hard hitting Mexican fighter with 12 KOs was suppose to destroy him. Smith thoroughly beat him by unanimous decision. Those wins earned him a close quarters battle with the aforementioned Gutierrez which he was also suppose to lose. After 10 grueling rounds of in tight combat it was Smith’s hands which were raised in victory.
The crowd though seemed to be disassociated from the victory offering up a polite but lease than stellar round of applause for the hard fought battle. Why the disconnect? Frankly the horde of fight-goers weren’t there to see Smith or Gutierrez (though I was). They were there to see a hotbed of Cuba’s best boxers: Rigondeaux, Lara, Despaigne and Johnson, and this quartet of boxers didn’t disappoint a single fan. What we witnessed was a byproduct of an excellent amateur boxing program that is currently the world’s best. Sure there were diminutive flaws in their games but overall they displayed skill, heart and intelligence mixed with, bluntly, opponents who aren’t nearly on their levels. I’m all for moving fighters slowly and making every bout meaningful and consequential but these fighters are a different bread of boxer. These fighters’ skill is vastly superior to any D, C and most B level fighters. They might be better served feeding higher on the food chain sooner than later. Realistically, how much benefit would there be in Rigondeaux facing 10 or 15 more fighters like Juan Noriega? Not very much.
Sit back and enjoy boxing fans because this is going to be good!
For questions or comments please contact Coach Tim Walker at email@example.com.