Bill Tibbs chats with trainer Ronnie Shields
He defected to Miami from Cuba before making his professional debut in 2009, arriving on U.S. soil as one of Cuba’s best amateur fighters ever. Upon turning pro Guillermo “The Jackal” Rigondeaux (19-1, 13 KO’s) looked like he was going to transition into the pro game and have the same success as he did as a much-decorated amateur.
After turning pro Rigondeaux had captured an NABF world super bantamweight title by his 3rd fight. He then added a world title by his 7th bout picking up the WBA world super bantamweight title in November of 2010. He would then go on to make 4 title defenses before adding the WBO, 122-pound title to his collection by beating Nonito Donaire in 2013. There would be 5 more title defenses to follow before he met fellow amateur legend Vasiliy Lomachenko in December of 2017.
Despite displaying obvious talent, Rigondeaux had never caught on with the United States’ fan-base often choosing to box in a safety-first, reserved manner as opposed to a more exciting, fan-friendly professional style. There was no question he was talented but he was struggling to catch on with the big audience.
Rigondeaux, while never accused of being the most exciting guy in the ring, was efficient, powerful and hard to hit with a clean shot. So, it looked like he might be the first fighter to give the vastly talented Lomachenko some trouble. And, a win over Lomachenko would be a huge boost to his profile. However, Lomachenko would school Rigondeux for every minute of the fight before stopping him and claiming the rightful spot as perhaps the very best fighter in boxing.
Despite the fact that Rigondeaux jumped up 2 weight classes (from 122 to 130) to make Lomachenko fight, critics gave him little reprieve; his star had certainly lost some lustre.
He was 36-years old; he had not been re-signed by his former promoter, Top Rank Boxing, and he had lost the biggest fight of his career - tough times for the former champion.
After taking 2018 off, Rigondeaux returned in January of this year on the Jose Uzcategui - Caleb Plant card in Los Angeles and picked up a KO win. He then returned on the June 23rd Charlo - Cota card in Las Vegas and scored another impressive stoppage. Now back and fighting at 122 pounds, a weight he says is much more suited to him, he is looking very good and is ready to take on any and all champions at super bantamweight.
Rigondeaux is also (again) working with highly respected, Houston, Texas-based trainer, Ronnie Shields and very good things seem to be happening since they, again, started working together.
Maxboxing caught up with Shields to get his thoughts on the talented Rigondeaux and find out what is next for him.
Bill Tibbs: Hi Ronnie, Happy summer 2019. How are you?
Ronnie Shields: Thanks, same to you. Yeah, things are good.
BT: So, you are back working with Rigondeaux now?
RS: Yeah, I had worked with him before but we parted ways after a while. Then I got a call a while back asking me of I would train him again and I said I’d think about it. They called again a couple of months later and I said I would train him. I just had our 2nd fight with him.
BT: Do fighters like Rigondeaux have mental lapses as much as anything? Is that something that you have to work on, to keep him interested (for lack of a better word)? I mean he has been in boxing so long.
RS: Yes, that is something that has to be taken care of at times. I mean the guy has been boxing his whole life, it is all he has ever done, and it is all he knows. But, you know, he’s still learning and he’s still keen to learn and is still motivated. Once a fighter stops learning, or stops wanting to learn, it’s over. Guillermo is still eager to learn and get better.
BT: So much of his career became the build up to the two great amateurs fighting - the bout with (Vasiliy) Lomachenko. And, then he was schooled in the fight. Was there mental letdown after being dominated by Lomachenko?
RS: I don’t know if there was a mental letdown but he was in a fight he should never have been in. Bill, this guy walks around with his clothes on at 124 pounds, he can make 118-pounds, and he is fighting Lomachenko in the mid 30’s, he should never, ever have been fighting at that weight. But, you have people telling him to take the fight; he’ll never get that kind of money again, all of that, so he felt he had to take the fight. I understand why he took the fight, I mean it’s a great pay day and that isn’t something that comes along everyday but he was fighting a guy that was just way too big for him.
BT: In his last fight he seemed to be fighting in the pocket more. He always showed a lot of talent but he would often just box from the outside and move so much. He made the fights easy for himself but he wasn’t exactly Mr. Excitement for the fans.
RS: Well, I have been having him work on really working off of his jab and just moving a bit, short steps to the side to stay in punching range and not be moving around so much, he was moving more than he had to before. He can fight in the pocket with short, smaller moves and work off his jab.
BT: He’s back fighting at 122-pounds?
RS: Yes, a much better, more realistic weight for him. He could make 118, without any trouble, but there is nothing at that weight that excites him.
BT: He’s 38 years old which is old(er) for a lighter weight fighter, is that a factor at this stage? Do you feel you are on a bit of an accelerated schedule due to his age?
RS: Not so much with him because he keeps himself in great shape at all times. He eats properly, he is always in great shape and he is always training. I think as long as he keeps showing that discipline and dedication, and staying in the kind of shape he is always in, then he can fight for a long time. The young guys in the gym are blown away by his speed and conditioning.
BT: What’s next? Is he ready for a title shot right now?
RS: Oh yeah, he is ready right now. I think he’ll get a shot at the winner of Rey Vargas (WBC super-bantamweight champion) and the Japanese fighter (Tomoki Kameda); that is what we are hoping for.
BT: Thanks for the chat Ronnie, we’ll talk soon.
RS: Thanks Bill, anytime.