IBF junior featherweight champion Carl Frampton and WBA titlist Scott Quigg are set for a 122lb unification fight on Feb. 27. During a conference call yesterday, both men indicated their preference of facing the polarizing boxing phenom that is Guillermo Rigondeaux, rather than IBF mandatory challenger Shingo Wake, should they emerge victorious.
"I've always said that I'm out to fight the best and beat the best," said Quigg, the WBA champion and RING-rated No. 1 junior featherweight behind Rigondeaux, the RING-designated champion. "So I would obviously go and face Guillermo Rigondeaux. I'm not scared to fight him. I'm not shying away from challenges. I challenge myself and that's what I pride on and obviously fighting Rigondeaux, who is rightly No. 1 in the division because of what he's achieved so far. I believe when the time comes I really believe I can beat him. I'm not scared of anybody. I wouldn't relinquish my belt to avoid him."
Funny enough, the WBA strap that Quigg is currently sporting was handed to him after the WBA demoted Rigondeaux to "champion in recess" - a point Frampton often uses as a point of ridicule when taking aim at Quigg. But if either man are serious about these statements, and not just paying lip-service, I'm obviously not going to complain.
So while Frampton readily admits that to be considered "the main guy" at 122lbs, one has to go through Rigo, he also admit that he empathizes with the man, who has been largely shunned by television networks due to his deliberately tedious style of boxing.
"I feel a little sorry for the position of Rigo," Frampton said. "The way he's an unbelievable fighter - he's someone who I admire and obviously the TV channels don't appreciate his style of boxing. They want to see blood and guts, and technically there's nobody better than him in the world. It's just the way he's been treated by the governing bodies. I think he's been unfairly treated. They've given Scott Quigg his title. I think it's been unfair so you have to feel a little sorry for him."
I, myself, also used to think Rigo caught a bit of a raw deal from networks and promoters who labeled him as unpromotable. While not a thrilling fight, to say the least, I didn't think his performance against Nonito Donaire was so particularly bad that it should have been a tipping point for HBO executives to reportedly throw up at the mere mention of his name. But my goodwill towards Rigo quickly dissipated over the tortuous 30-minutes of his last fight against Drian Francisco.
On that night Rigo once again had an opportunity to make a statement on a big stage (Cotto-Canelo), against an opponent who had nothing to offer him. We all know that the sport of boxing is just as much about entertainment as it is about skill, but instead of making the statement that he actually has the ability to generate fan interest, he did the exact opposite and defiantly put on a mind-numbing showcase that I only remember from the trauma of having to sit through it all. Rigo won a wide decision, but it was a awfully terrible performance against someone he should have, and could have, mopped the floor with.
So if Rigo intended to stubbornly make a statement that he won't be coerced by networks, promoters, or fans to fight more assertively, he certainly made his point - but only to the further detriment of his brand, career prospects, and whatever remaining fanbase he has left. He lost at least one fan on Nov. 21st, and while I still admire him for his technical proficiency and general skill set, that in and of itself just isn't enough to draw significant interest.