Those are the chilling words of warning to the Limerickman from Guillermo Rigondeaux’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, ahead of next Saturday night’s (March 19) world title showdown at the City West Conference Centre.
“I’ve been with some of the best fighters in the world and he ranks right up there with all of those guys — with the Holyfields, the Tysons, the Pernell Whitakers, because his skill set is just that good,” said Shields, who lost out to Sugar Ray Leonard for the light welterweight spot on the US team for the Montreal Olympics.
Shields has trained a litany of world champions and Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker are just three that jump to mind from a list that includes Vernon Forrest, Juan Diaz, Kassim Ouma, Egerton Marcus, Dominick Guinn, David Tua, Raul Marquez, Jesse James Leija and Jesus Chavez with Rigondeaux, two time Olympic champion, among the newcomers.
“This guy is one of the best fighters in the world,” he enthused as they prepared for a training session in Cork where they have set up camp ahead of the big fight.
“Sometimes when you are getting two people together for the first time we have to get used to being with each other and we have to get used to doing things in the gym. “Now we are learning with each other. It is working out perfectly. You will see on Saturday night that he is going to be definitely ready and he is going to put on a show for the people of Ireland.
“Trust me he is the strongest puncher at 122 lbs. I am telling you. Willie Casey is going to find out because the thing about Rigondeaux is he’s a great boxer. I am trying to get him to sit down more on his punches and along with his speed and his sitting down nobody is going to stop him.
“He is a world champion — only seven fights — and that’s unbelievable. He has the skill and the talent to be able to compete with anybody.
“He says ‘I am a world champion so I want to travel the world to defend this title’ so that’s what we are doing. Sometimes he does things I get excited about. I see him and I can’t believe he did that because something you can’t teach is something that he has. My job is to bring all of that out of him.
“This guy is the world champion, without a doubt, and everybody is going to see that. He is the real world champion. He wants to defend that title and, you know what, when whoever has the other championships — there are so many of them right now — he wants all of them.”
Reflecting on how Gary Hyde spirited Rigondeaux out of Cuba, he described the Corkman as the bright spot in Rigondeaux’s life.
“One of the bright spots that happened to him was meeting Gary and getting over to the US and having Gary as his manager,” he said.
“He realises this and he realises that now it all falls on his shoulders because he is the one who has to get in the ring and he’s the one who has to prove to everybody that he is the best fighter in the world.
“The country that he was in (Cuba), there was no freedom. Now he has freedom and he wants it for his family back in Cuba. He wants to bring them over to Miami. That’s what he is working for.
“In the United States he realised he can open a business, he can run it the way he wants to run it, he can do whatever he wants to do and have the freedom to do that so he had to make a decision — do I stay here with my family and be unhappy or go out, make all the money I can, try to get them over and we’ll all live happily ever after. That’s the way the world’s meant to be.”
Hyde has brought in the Beijing Olympic lightweight silver medallist, Daouda Sow, as sparring partner for Rigondeaux and even when the Frenchman arrived 20 lbs heavier, Rigo still went ahead.
And Sow, who has won all of his six professional fights, is looking upon it as a chance to raise his profile in the US where he hopes to build a career.