To All the Boxers I’ve Loved Before

Naoya Inoue, you’re my favorite boxer
Fans really like you, they call you the “Monster”
You’re small like me and your hair used to be orange-y
Everyone’s afraid of the power of your punchies
You knock out opponents like it’s no big thing
Usually right after the bell in the first few rounds goes “ding”
I’m not really sure how I should end this po-em
But just know that, to me, you are the bo-mb

Rios, Rios, you say “fuck” a lot
And that is something that I can really get behind
The End.

Mario Barrios you’re from San Antonio
Your name rhymes and that’s really cool-io
I’ve been a fan for about two years
We even took a picture together, in it I’m holding a beer (this happens a lot)
You’re 23-0, fo sho
From you I’m expecting years of greatness + mo

Teofimo Lopez, I think the English translation of your name is “Ted”
You got a lot of backlash recently for pretending that your opponent was dead
I didn’t see the big deal, it was part of your spiel
You also did a flip, just like a seal
You’re a badass, something real grand
A lot of damage has been done by your hands
You seem to me a real businessman, you box and put on a show
I hope that your time in the ring isn’t limited, though
And that you don’t lose to Lomachenko

Amir Khan, remember when Danny Garcia KO’d you in the third round?
Me too, that’s why I don’t like him.
End.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, I like your red hair
Some of your training happens in Big Bear
I’m going to stop writing about you for un momento
To mention that Shane Mosely lives in B.B. with his monkey, Tito
You met Tito on an episode of “All Access” if I’m not mistaken
Your affinity for whom there was no fakin’
I hope I’m not making this up because that would be weird
By other boxers you are quite feared
You’ve been given some wins that I don’t agree with, though
And also a horse by the mayor of Tepic, Mexico (according to Wiki)
This makes me a little mad, I want a horse too
If ever gifted a pig I’m not speaking to you

Keith Thurman, you like to play the flute
At your wedding you did not wear a suit
You took two years off and this made me real sad
I bet when you hurt your hand you were mad
You say funny things, but what you should know
Is that I think you lose if you fight Pacquaio

Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, you have have a really cool name
The first and middle are almost the same
In the past, you fought David Lemieux
I like his hair, it looks really cool
I also like you, I like box, I like Max
That loss to Canelo I felt was some crap
You definitely won the first fight that’s for sure
That victory was stolen by Adelaide Byrd
I completely forgot that you have a twin
I’m not sure the world can handle two GGG-like men

Oh Loma, what else is there to say?
A rare individual you are every day
You’re funny and endearing, you sure charm a crowd
Sometimes when you land a punch it is loud
As I write this my dog is snoring
Nothing about your fights is ever boring
You have a good attitude while training it seems
If you start one, Usyk should be on your dance team
Your footwork is great, it’s really advanced
It’s also fun to watch you do headstands

Twitter: @littlejenna37

Havana Banana

I can’t even begin to fathom how difficult it must be for one to leave Cuba knowing that they can never return.

Yes, this is my cliché opening line, the same sentiment echoed by most who tackle the subject of Rigondeaux or defectors in general. Originally, I had planned to open this post by discussing “Havana Affair,” by The Ramones (which has always struck me as a bit racist, and which the Chili Peppers actually do a really good cover of, both of which are reasons why I decided against it) or even about that time I wrote a piece about Rigondeaux as a drag queen, complete with fun name, personality, genre, and backstory about her long climb to the top but then backed out on publishing it because even with all of that, it still wasn’t good enough.

So here we are. Still great, but somehow never good enough.

Remind you of anyone?

My grand love of Rigondeaux began on that fateful night back in 2013 that he is undoubtedly most well known for. But before I recount it in flowery terms that will surely embarrass me in the morning (because don’t they always?) I must start on the eve on November 13, 2010.

AKA-The night I was a ginormous hypocrite.

To be fair, I didn’t realize that I was being a ginormous hypocrite at the time. All I knew was that I was out for the blood of Margarito at the hands of Pacquiao and all of this was being stilted by some boring little guy who had 15 pounds and 5 inches* on me. And I hated it. I exaggerated greatly my gratitude for the fight’s conclusion and continued my life with beer in hand, sure that I would never be subjected to another terrible fight by that-guy-with-the-weird-last-name.

Enter 2013

Like most, I was set to watch ESPN’s “Fighter of the Year,” Nonito Donaire, accumulate yet another win against some guy I’d never heard of (as by this point I’d forgotten all about Rigondeaux). A friend of mine had even inquired about “any good fights lately,” and I’d been talking the bout up to him for a week at that point, how exciting it would be, how lightning quick Donaire was, how I was sure the fight wouldn’t even make it past six rounds.

Aaaaaand then, three rounds into the main event, my now husband (then boyfriend) announced that he was falling asleep on the couch and was going to bed, and my friend texted to make sure he was watching the right channel.

I, however, found myself utterly captivated by what I was witnessing. While admittedly not the most entertaining fight, it occurred to me that I was watching a true thing of beauty-a side to the sport that I’d yet to witness. (I’ve since described it as “boxing ballet.”) Here was a man picking apart a reigning champ (a Fighter of the Year, even) utilizing strategy alone, and the greatest example of ring generalship that I’d ever seen.

The Psych major in me was fucking pumped, y’all.

I became an instant fan, and almost just as instantaneously learned how difficult life can be as a Rigondeaux supporter at times.  Aside from constant defenses of the Cuban style of boxing, long lapses between fights and bouts overseas with streaming capabilities only (I hate watching  pretty much anything on a computer) added to the mounting difficulties. In hindsight, I think this only fanned the flames. The mystery of it all, the inaccessibility-you know. (The majority of the boxing public’s outright hatred for the “boring”, although I’ve noticed that some of those who refer to Rigo as “boring” also do things like read Shakespeare or watch baseball. The irony.)

Enter 2017, and how I tie this all back to the first sentence.

Inspired by my love of Rigondeaux and the works of Brin-Jonathan Butler, (as well as the fact that some friends were already going and invited my husband and I to join,) I visited Havana this summer. (Also, Mike Tyson went to Cuba in the late 90’s and I feel like if Tyson did it, I can do it too. Probably not the best yardstick with which to measure my life, but it’s gotten me this far.)

Attempting to describe Havana using merely words would do it a great disservice. The city has a soul and a presence like none I’ve ever witnessed, and a piece of it will remain with me always. Among the various memories I’ll hold from my short time in Havana, my favorite by far was a conversation I had with a local tour guide about Rigondeaux and Cuban boxing in general.

First, I learned how to pronounce Rigondeaux’s last name correctly: (say it with me now: Ree-gOne-doh, NOT Rih-gOn-DEE-OW which you will likely hear over and over on Saturday night). I also earned mad street cred with him for knowing who Erislandy Lara was and pronouncing his name correctly. But mostly, I noted how his eyes lit up when discussing Teofilo Stevenson. (“Did you know that Muhammad Ali came HERE to see HIM?!”)  I did, but I’d trade a number of the less-cool experiences I’ve had to see that light replicated in the eyes of another when speaking of something that pays them only in joy.

I lived off that light for days, fed off of the experience when other annoying or shitty things were happening. I hold onto it still, and surely will for the rest of my life.  To me, that light can be equated to another discussion we had on the great difference between American and Cuban boxers: pride. One need look no further than Adrien Broner flushing cash down a toilet, fighters carelessly missing weight for their bouts, or the infrequency of fights amongst top name pugilists to see that lack of pride in American boxing.

Enter Rigondeaux

The scrappy little guy with the reputation for being difficult to promote (not wholly unearned)  and the ever present sullen expression. The man who, despite surely being told that he would earn more money or have a greater presence and following if he would just be more of an offensive or entertaining fighter, continues to engage in “boxing ballet.” The man who carries the soul, history, and pride of Cuba as he walks through America today.

I can’t say for sure if Rigo will win on Saturday, partly because I lack clairvoyance and a crystal ball, but mostly because my predictions have historically sucked. (And, if I’m being honest, superstition is at play here as well.) But I will say this, and it may likely be something flowery that I’ll regret in the morning: it snowed steadily in San Antonio tonight. Reports say at least an inch (which, before you Northerners give me any shit, is a LOT for us-it was 85 degrees here on Tuesday), but December snow is uncharacteristically rare here-when snowfall does occur in any mediocre amount it typically happens in February.  In fact, the last time it snowed in San Antonio in December was on December 21, 1929. (2.9 inches, for those of you keeping score.)

88 years ago (Yes, I had to use a calculator.)

It could all just be some huge coincidence-probably is. But how cool would it be if this was all some big, cosmic foreshadowing to another upcoming rift in the “norm”?

I wonder if Tyson ever made it snow?

 

To talk snow, Cuba, drag queens, beer, or even boxing, follow me on Twitter @littlejenna37

Brin-Jonathan Butler’s “A Cuban Boxer’s Journey: Guillermo Rigondeaux, from Castro’s Traitor to American Champion” is available on Amazon, and “The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba” is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

*I didn’t actually research this

Stats for my San Antonio Weather Report were found at: “San Antonio Snowfall 1885 through 2011 in Inches,” http://www.crh.noaa.gov/Image/ewx/snowfalltable.pdf