Former unified junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, a dud in his November fight in the United States and still unwanted by American television networks, is headed overseas for the third time in his past four fights.
Rigondeaux, stripped of his two 122-pound world titles late last year due to inactivity, will travel to Liverpool, England, to face James "Jazza" Dickens in a scheduled 10-round junior featherweight bout in Dickens’ hometown on March 12 at the Echo Arena, Dickens promoter Frank Warren announced on Wednesday. The bout will take place on the undercard of lightweight world titleholder Terry Flanagan’s defense against Derry Mathews.
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Cuban defector living in Miami, throws few punches and has an extremely technical style, which has made his fights a chore to watch for most. After back-to-back fights in China and Japan in 2014, Rigondeaux returned from an 11-month layoff on Nov. 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas after signing with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
After signing, Rigondeaux, a 35-year-old southpaw, was immediately added to the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto HBO PPV undercard and won a sleep-inducing 10-round decision against Drian Francisco, leaving the crowd booing and blowing his shot at a return to HBO.
So Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 KO), who defended his world title six times before being stripped, will head to England to face Dickens (21-1, 6 KOs), 24, who will be taking a massive step up in competition.
"I really look forward fighting this young up-and-comer in Dickens,” Rigondeaux said. “I hear he's very good, but I'm going to have to disappoint his hometown fans and teach him a lesson in boxing. I hope the British audience appreciates my skills when I'm done with James.
“I'm looking forward to making my British debut at a time where there is great boxing in Europe, especially in my division. I'm excited to come out and give my best and deliver a world-class performance to the fans.”
Rigondeaux would like to face either Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton of England’s Scott Quigg, titleholders who will meet to unify their belts on Feb. 27 in Manchester, England.
“Frampton and Quigg are both cowards for finding ways to avoid the best in their division,” Rigondeaux said. “We wait in anticipation to see if the winner of a great fight between them would step up and step in the ring with me, so the whole world can see who the best 122-pound fighter is. Fans should come see the real super world champion in Liverpool, as I'll be ready to put on a show and be in a position to happily knock out the winner, if either would even fathom the idea of stepping in the same ring with me."
Roc Nation Sports’ David Itskowitch said the company had no qualms about having Rigondeaux fight in his opponent’s hometown.
“All of us at Roc Nation Sports are extremely excited about Guillermo having the opportunity to fight Jazza Dickens in the United Kingdom as there is intense interest in the [junior featherweight] division there right now,” Itskowitch said. “Despite fighting in hostile territory, we have every confidence that he will emerge victorious and remain one of boxing's best pound for pound fighters."
Dickens has won five fights in a row since suffering his lone defeat, a 10th-round knockout to Kid Galahad for the vacant British junior featherweight title in September 2013. Dickens went on to win the British title in March 2015 and has made one defense.
“It is like a Rocky story,” he said. “One day I’m just training waiting for my next fight and then I get the call. Do I want to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux? Are you mad? One of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world wants to fight me? I’ll definitely have some of that. Opportunities like this don’t come around every day, so I’ve grabbed it with both hands.
“It’s been my childhood dream to be the best in the world and this, to me, is a golden opportunity to become the best by beating Rigondeaux. He might not have the belts, but he’s still the world champion in my eyes. Frampton and Quigg both didn’t want to know him, but what they see as a threat, I see as an opportunity. We’ve all got weaknesses and Rigondeaux will have his. It’s my job to go out an exploit them and beat him.”