Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 21st
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guillermo-rigondeauxA recent article congratulated Guillermo Rigondeaux for going for a world title in only his seventh pro bout.  While taking this step in his career is certainly admirable, the names used to correlate this attempt (Leon Spinks, Jeff Fenech, Muangchai Kittkasem, Veerapol Sahaprom, Davey Moore) are a bit misleading to most readers.  Other than Fenech, these succesful attempts were made at a time when there were only the WBC and WBA titles.  No interims, no silvers, no supers, no WBO, WBF, IBC, UBO, RSVP, ASAP, OK titles.

The similarities are there, too.  These men were, like Rigondeaux, typically decorated amateurs, with Olympic appearances (Spinks, Fenech, Moore likely would have been, if not for a 1980 boycott).  As many an analyst have pointed out, many of the challenges of the pro ring can be handled during an extensive amatuer career (physical maturity, traveling, scoring issues, finding the right style and trainer, etc).  However, many of the aspects of professional sports are not addressed... such as rounds, headgear (except in the case of 70's Olympians, who fought pre-headgear), and pacing for longer fights.

The rest of the bunch, and in fact the most common source of early champions, is a two-fighting sport culture.  A few fighters, including Sot Chitalada, and the record holder for the fastest ascension to a world title (3rd fight) Saensak Muangsurin, were Muay Thai champions.  They were essentially already professional fighters... they just switched sports in a world where nearly all participants had done the same thing.

This typically occurs when a Muay Thai fighter is found to have more power in their hands than feet, so the business decision is made to switch to traditional boxing.  This type of fast ascension usually has holes in it, however.  Most of the time when they took on western fighters, they lost... badly!  Just ask Samart Payakarun when he took on Fenech, or Kittikasem when he fought U.S. Olympian Michael Carbajal.  Only Veerapol Sahaprom, whose first title reign was over and done by his 5th pro fight, went back to the drawing board, had 20 or so fights, and became truly good before going for a title again.

However, the western fighters with the long amateur careers still typically have a problem moving this quickly.  In fact, only Fenech (who did not compete in very tough divisions) did not.  Spinks may have defeated Ali in only his seventh fight, but he lost to an even older Ali only months later, and was reduced to journeyman status within a couple of years.  Moore did not have the ring savvy after only 12 pro fights to deal with the crafty (and dirty) tactics of Roberto Duran, and was ruined by the Panamanian legend.  Moore would also be reduced to fringe contender for the remainder of his life.

So, to the handlers of Rigondeaux, he may strap a belt around his waist, via a technicality, but the development has not ended here.  He should still be moved as a skilled 7-0 fighter should be.  That doesn't mean the painfully slow, ridiculously low level of opposition strategy that US Olympians Shawn Estrada and Deontay Wilder have chosen.  Those guys might as well have sent out a bulletin telling TV networks to avoid them.  Rather, the career of Cuban countryman Yuriorkis Gamboa is a good example.  Keep the high profile, provide challenges, and maintain a development course.  Belts are a dime a dozen.  A true champion has to last for the long haul.

Chris Strait

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Kyle McLachlan  - Writer |
My guess is that you've got all your information about the Thai's from boxrec. Do you know anything about the context of Samart's bout with Fenech? What about the Westerners Samart had already defeated. Also, are the lower weights typically dominated by Westerners? One other thing, Jeff Fenech isn't a Westerner, regardless of his skin colour.
His opposition was also tough. Payakaroon, McCrory, Villasana, Nelson, Coffee, all very good fighters. He was undefeated after fighting some very good fighters over a few weights going into the second Nelson bout, and this with terrible injured hands.
And what about Kittikasem moving up to claim the lineal flyweight championship, knocking out Chitalada twice and inflicting the only stoppage loss on ATG Jung-Koo Chang's record?
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