Clitheroe’s Commonwealth king Luke Blackledge fully expects Guillermo Rigondeaux to rule the roost again in the super bantamweight division after overcoming James Dickens on March 12th.
The Jackal takes on the Liverpudlian southpaw in enemy territory, featuring on the undercard of Terry Flanagan’s WBO world lightweight title tilt with Derry Mathews at the Echo Arena.
The 35-year-old Cuban fighter was stripped of his two junior featherweight world title straps last year with the WBA and the WBO citing ‘inactivity’ as the cause.
But the 122-pound pugilist was reclassified as a “champion in recess” by the World Boxing Association in light of his impressive record and accomplishments, the delays associated with managerial/promoter disputes and the loss of his unification status.
Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 KOs), a two-time Olympic gold medallist, won the title by stopping Rico Ramos in 2012. He made six defences of his prize, unifying the belts almost three years ago with a decision win over Nonito Donaire.
Talking about the talented left-hander, Blackledge said: “He’s a special fighter. He’s without doubt one of the best fighters in the world at his weight. He’s got speed, great timing, good movement. He does everything pretty well.
“He’s one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet. He’s dangerous, a very well rounded fighter and he’s an asset for the sport. He was the world champion but he’ll get those titles back if he gets his shot.”
Blackledge added: “You’ve got to give ‘Jazza’ a lot of credit for taking the fight. A lot of people duck Rigo so it takes a lot of courage to get in there with him.
“Dickens is a pretty good fighter, an awkward southpaw, so it could be quite interesting. I can’t see past a Rigondeaux win though.
“It’s a great opportunity for Dickens, a no-lose situation really. There’s nothing on the line, he gets the exposure and he won’t lose any credibility if he loses because that outcome wouldn’t be a surprise. It’ll be a big occasion for him in front of his own fans.”
According to the WBA’s letter, Rigondeaux must face the title-holder on or before May 1st. Scott Quigg is now the organisation’s top man and the Englishman faces IBF titlist Carl Frampton in an eagerly-anticipated unification bout on Saturday.
Following talk that the victor could move up in class to avoid tackling ‘Rigo’, Blackledge said: “People will avoid him but that’s the next step forward without a doubt.
“The winner may follow it up with a voluntary defence but they’ve got to prove that they are the best in the division by beating Rigondeaux.
“I personally think Carl Frampton beats Scott Quigg and the fight with ‘Rigo’ will follow. I guess it all depends on how he looks on March 12th.”
Rigondeaux showed that he was far from invincible when suffering two knock downs in the seventh round against Japanese challenger Hisashi Amagasa at the end of 2014. However, he recovered with a rallying finish to force an 11th round stoppage.
Meanwhile, Donaire makes the first defence of the WBO belt on April 23rd against Zsolt Bedak having earned the vacant strap with victory over Cesar Juarez in December.