My favorite boxing tricks from the Cuban southpaw super-slickster!
Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the best fighting talents to ever put on gloves. As a testament to his unmatched boxing abilities, he is already a pound-for-pound star despite being 37 years old with only 17 wins. I’ll break down my favorite moves and patterns that I see him befuddle opponents with.
Rigondeaux is a slick southpaw pure boxer with incredible speed, power, skills, ring generalship, and all-around guile. His defense is top notch, his offense is top notch, his footwork, his tactics, everything! There really is no equal to him in any area IMO. Anything other champions do well, he does better. And the fact that he could continues to terrorize opponents at his age is only further proof of his seeming invincibility. He would be a formidable fighter in any era of boxing…I truly do wonder if there would ever be an equal.
Let’s figure him out, shall we?
Rigondeaux’s Southpaw Boxing Tricks
An amateur record of 475 wins with only 12 losses, and won 2 Olympic gold medals in the process. And the last of those amateur losses happened 3 years before his amateur career ended. As a professional, Rigondeaux remains undefeated in 18 fights, and easily outclassed every fighter he’s ever faced. He would win entire rounds throwing less than 10 punches. He often knocked out opponents with the first hard punch he landed. When he finally faced his first pound-for-pound opponent, Nonito Donaire, he completely outclassed him, out-moving him and out-landing him.
Despite being 10 years older than other top fighters in his weight class, still nobody would dare face him. Guys like Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Abner Mares, Gary Russell Jr, are still running from him and preferring to face each other in round robin contests instead of getting thoroughly embarrassed by the Cuban superstar. Watch any Rigondeaux fight and you’ll see that he’s always been the smaller fighter despite competing in the same weight class.
I hope he gets his just due and recognition before he retires. It is so sad that talent in this day and age can be so thoroughly ducked and pushed aside so that inferior (but more marketable) “talent” can be sold to the fans.
1. The Southpaw LEFT-Step
This is one of the most interesting things that I’ve seen in southpaw fighters. In case you don’t already know, most trainers will teach you to always keep your front foot on the outside during a southpaw-vs-orthodox match-up. Conventional wisdom explains that keeping your front foot on the outside means you’ll be outside of his punching range while still keeping him in yours. Having your front foot on the outside also puts your further from his rear cross and also prevents him from moving in that direction (his front foot would trip over yours), giving you the freedom to run up behind him. Most trainers believe that moving towards his REAR foot instead of his FRONT FOOT puts you dangerously closer to his rear cross and allows him to run behind you instead.
Rigondeaux doesn’t care to let you get your front foot outside.
But this “mistake” is EXACTLY what Rigondeaux does—he always steps to the LEFT (towards his opponent’s rear foot) instead of his right (their front foot). You’d think every opponent would be delighted to see Rigondeaux voluntarily place his front foot on the inside but it’s anything but an advantage for them. He out-moves them, evades all their attacks, and counters them at every turn. Hilarious and genius all at once. Brilliance is what I call a strategy that gives opponents exactly what they want and yet you still win.
LEFT-Step against the Jab
- Whereas most fighters would step or slip OUTSIDE the jab instead of inside (which puts their head in the way of the oncoming cross), Rigondeaux has no problems stepping to the inside. Once he’s stepped inside, he quickly returns a hard left cross. Even if they manage to block it, they might still be pushed off balance if his stance is squared off enough.
LEFT-Step against the Right Cross
- Whereas most southpaws would slip their head outside of the cross and then fire a counter-left, Rigondeaux will STEP to his left (moving his head which makes it a slip as well), before countering with a hard left. Here you see, the tactic works again.
LEFT-Step against the Left Hook
- Again, the southpaw can left-step again to evade the left hook and then return a counter left cross before the opponent’s right hand comes out.
LEFT-Step Footwork Strategy
- As you can see, Rigondeaux makes this left-step no matter what you do. You throw out any attack and he takes a left step and counters. But what he REALLY wants is to force you pivot with him, which puts you perfectly into the way of his oncoming left cross. It’s a simple trick but very effective.
- Some fighters have even tried to run up further behind Rigondeaux but all he’ll do is bend over and just circle away, sometimes even making a deep 180 pivot and then popping up to fire off a quick counter. Other fighters have even tried to mirror his tactic by moving to the inside of his front foot which led them right into his left cross. It doesn’t matter what you do, he’s going to step to his left, make you pivot, and then hit you with a hard left hand.
2. Tricky Left Crosses
In case you didn’t know, Rigondeaux’s primary weapon and almost only weapon is his left hand. That’s it. Not much of a jab, and not much of a right hook either (although it’s deadly when it lands). That left cross of his is everything. And it’s incredible how he fights entire rounds with nothing more than 5 single left crosses thrown one at a time. Crazy, right?
Except only, they aren’t just any left crosses but tricky ones. Rigondeaux throws all his left crosses in many different ways, each with subtle nuances that fit perfectly into his plan. He’ll move around all day and wait until his opponents get bored or make a mistake out of total confusion….and THAT’S when he uncorks one of these tricky lefts.
SHIFTING Left Cross
- Rigondeaux loves to slide his back foot up as he throws his left cross. It’s a subtle shift that creates several different opportunities. The first benefit is that it allows him to quickly close the distance and give his left cross more range; crucial since his wide stance makes it harder to reach with a left cross.
- The second benefit is that it creates a new angle for him to evade from. This new angle is what he really wants. He’s hoping to bait a right cross from here which is the perfect position for him to slip and counter with his left cross. This tactic is actually not common because 1) most fighters would prefer to keep both feet grounded to maximize power, and 2) most fighters aren’t even athletic enough to do this.
CURVING Left Cross
- Rigondeaux does this incredibly annoying (but clever) tactic of slightly curving his left crosses. Sometimes, he curves them slightly over (like a slight overhand) and other times, he curves them slightly under (like a slight uppercut). And once he’s got them guessing, he starts FEINTING with it! Hahaha, how annoying! So you’ll see him act like he’s gonna throw one curving over or act like he’s gonna throw one curving under and then he throws something entirely different. So simple and yet so clever, right? I guess the real skill in this is that your left cross needs to be deadly enough to make opponents cautious of being faked out.
COWBOY Overhand Left
- You may have seen this tactic before with other speedy southpaws. They hold their hands really low (around their hips) and throw a quick rear cross from that position. Sergio Martinez comes to mind. (FYI: I call it “cowboy” because it’s like they’re unholstering their left cross from the belt.) Rigondeaux’s cowboy left cross is unique in a couple ways. One is that he throws it from a very sideways stance, whereas other fighters would be more squared to shorten the distance. Obviously, Rigo’s A+ agility and speed affords him these unorthodox positions.
- Another quality that makes it unique is that he throws it as a chopping overhand instead of straight. It makes sense when you think about it. If you were to block a left cross that was coming from the hip, you would expect it to be coming straight at you and NOT as an overhand. Again, Rigo’s superior speed allows him to do things nobody else does. Rigo throws this cowboy overhand left again and again with absolutely no fear of being countered whatsoever. It’s sharp as hell!
3. Never Throwing Right Hooks
It’s kind of weird that I call this a trick but I guess we could say this is part of his strategy. Unlike other fighters who mix right hooks often into their combinations, Rigondeaux almost never throws that punch. “But why?”, you may ask. I suspect that Rigondeaux likes to use his superior speed and skills to fight a potshot game. He likes to fight one punch at a time. He either throws a left cross and moves away, or he throws a 1-2 and moves away. That’s literally 98% of his attacks.
I think he avoids throwing the right cross because it makes his combos longer and gives his opponents time to trade punches with him. By throwing only 1 or 2 punches at a time, he can get in and out with zero risk of being countered. It’s the typical speed-fighter’s strategy, right? Get in and out before they ever realized you were in there.
Dipping right after the Left Cross
- So what DOES Rigondeaux do when he’s not throwing the right hook? What he does is dip his head forward right after his left cross. He throws his left cross so fast that half the time, opponents are too scared to even fire back. Many will take a split second to realize there’s no hook coming after the cross. And IF they do fire back, it doesn’t matter what they throw—jab, cross, hook, or uppercut—his head is ducked down and he just pulls back up and out of range.
4. Right Hand Reaction Strategy
Rigondeaux’s right hand is used for creating reactions, head control, or stalling the fight.
Now that we know he seldom throws right hooks, we have to wonder what DOES he do with his right hand? If you ask me, I think he uses his right glove only to make you react and/or control your head and instead relies on his left hand to do all the damage. You could say he’s almost a one-armed puncher in a sense.
His right hand will either straighten out, push you, distract you, or cover your eyes, or clinch your head, clinch your body and pull you in close to smother your punches. Basically, his right hand is there to create opportunities (keeping space) or shut down opportunities (smothering).
PAWING with the Right Hand
- From here with the stretched out front hand, his body is in a perfect position to throw the left cross. His front hand is there to annoy you, paw at your gloves, keep a distance, blind your eyes, and basically help distract you just long enough for him to sneak a hard left cross.
HEAD CLINCH with the Right Hand
- If you try to run behind him while his right hand is out, he’ll clamp your head under his arm and basically hold this head-lock position until the ref comes in and breaks it up. He’s very patient and has no problems sitting in any position. Quite patient, mature, and annoying, right? He’s not anxious to always throw punches and he’ll stink out the fight until he sees what he wants.
FOREARM BLOCK with the Right Hand
- Another thing he does if you run outside his front foot or get too close, is stick his forearm or hand in your face and use it to push you back or guide your head to the side while he circles away. And of course, he’ll fire in a super fast left hand if you’re overly distracted with his right glove.
HOLDING and Hitting
- If you get way too close up in front of his face, he’ll pull your head in with his right hand and throw left hands into it. It’s illegal as hell as all he does is get a warning at which point, he’ll bow to the ref like a classy gentleman and then get right back to business. It’s a psychological ploy to establish his dominance over the fight and let opponents know he’s cagey and not afraid to go dirty to get the job done. After that, they keep their distance more and stay cautious.
DUCK UNDER and Waist Clinch
- Another thing he’ll do if you get too close is duck under and clinch your waist. From here, he’ll just swing you around, push you back, or just stand up and wait in the clinch until the ref breaks you up. I’ve also seen him clinch an opponent’s waist with one arm while using the arm to shove a forearm into his opponent’s face. Dirty, right? Not to mention incredibly annoying.
5. Side-stance STALL
Rigondeaux will do this little maneuver where he keeps his front foot directly in front of his opponent’s front foot. This move is unusual in southpaw-vs-orthodox match-ups since most fighters are trying to get around each other’s front foot. Rigo, being the unorthodox master that he is, does the exact opposite to create space. By having his front foot lined up perfectly with his opponents’, they can’t get close enough to reach him with their punches. He’s not afraid to stink up the fight by matching his front foot, and then sticking his front arm out to make lots of distance. In a constant effort to catch up with an elusive Rigondeaux, they’ll inevitably make one of the moves that he’s prepared for…
HEAD CONTROL with the Right Hand
- If the opponent tries to run in, Rigondeaux will leave his front arm extended and push his head back…OR, he’ll put his hand their head and pull it down so they fall off balance. As you can imagine, it’s really hard to reach an opponent with a wide sideways stance using the full length of his legs AND arms. And darn near impossible if he’s running backwards while doing this.
LEAN BACK and Uppercut
- If the opponent tries to reach with a long right hand, Rigondeaux will just lean back out of range and fire an uppercut.
Rigondeaux’s Boxing Style
Rigondeaux’s unorthodox southpaw angles combined with his killer speed, power, athleticism, and skills make him impossible to beat. Right off the bat, you have to deal with his footwork. Unlike most southpaws, he lets you have the front foot outside but then what? You haven’t taken any advantage over him. You still can’t find him and you still can’t reach him. Get in front of him and he pivots away. Get close to him and he runs. He creates all kinds of weird angles and knows every possible escape to them.
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s his tricky left hands and incredible footwork that does all the work. His feet make him not only a moving target but also a constant puzzle. You always have to figure out how to stand in front of him and the moment you get there, you realize you’ve just walked right into his left hand. You would think chasing down a guy who doesn’t throw many punches would be easy but it’s anything but that. His left hand possesses knockout power and threatens you from any distance and his right hand is ever so annoying from any distance.
Should you ever get in front of him without getting tied up or tripped up, his head movement is among the slickest in the world and guaranteed to make you miss like a fool. Rigondeaux is something like a Floyd Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones Jr, and Mike Tyson all rolled up into one bantamweight. He’s damn near impossible to chase down, fights disciplined [boring] enough to never give you an opportunities, and can knock you out with the first clean shot he lands.
Which one is your favorite? What other strategies or tactics have you seen Rigondeaux use? Share your thoughts below.