Guillermo Rigondeaux to star as big time boxing returns to Cardiff
|World Championship boxing|
|Date: Saturday, 16 July Venue: Wales Ice Arena, Cardiff Start: 19:00 BST|
Top pound-for-pound star Guillermo Rigondeaux will top an impressive looking bill as big time boxing returns to Cardiff on Saturday.
Two world title fights feature on the Wales Ice Arena card with the sumptuous main event of Cuban WBA world super-bantamweight champion Rigondeaux box in the UK for the first time as he defends his title against British champion Jamie Dickens.
Rigondeaux is fifth in the legendary Ring Magazine top pound-for-pound list and is seen by many as the most exciting fighter on the planet.
The unbeaten 35-year-old co-headlines a bill featuring WBO world lightweight champion Terry Flanagan's defence against former IBF world champion Mzonke Fana.
A total of six titles will be contested on a 14-fight bill, the first staged in Wales by promoter Frank Warren in eight years with a capacity crowd expected.
Rigondeaux - the best boxer in the world?
There can be little doubt that the main focus on Saturday will be on Rigondeaux, who boxes for the first time in the UK.
Known as El Chacal or The Jackal, Rigondeaux turned professional in 2009 after defecting to America on a smuggling boat.
At the time, Cuban fighters were only permitted by Fidel Castro's reign to fight as amateurs.
Rigondeaux is widely considered to be one of the world's top pound-for-pound boxers and won gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
The Cuban is undefeated in 16 bouts as a professional and recorded 475 victories in 487 contests as an amateur.
Possessing a relentless style and with hand speed that needs to be seen to be believed, Rigondeaux is often mentioned when the world's best pound-for-pound boxers are discussed.
"If he is not the best in the world, he is the most complete," his trainer Pedro Diaz told BBC Wales Sport.
"For us, he is in a class of his own, he is an extraordinary boxer. He is the only champion to only fight boxers with winning records."
World title fights return to Cardiff
Cardiff is a city with a rich boxing history, with over 10,000 fans packing the now departed American Roller Rink in 1910 to watch Freddie Walsh meet Jim O'Driscoll.
Joe Calzaghe unified to the super middleweight division in front of 50,000 at the Millennium Stadium in 2007, with the most recent world title contest in the city featuring a Welsh fighter remembered less fondly, with the heavy-handed Sergey Kovalev brutally taking Nathan Cleverly's WBO light heavyweight title.
Other notable nights in Cardiff include Frank Bruno's world title clash with Lennox Lewis at Cardiff Arms Park in 1993 - Calzaghe made his debut on the undercard - and Steve Robinson's world title defeat to Prince Naseem Hamed in 1995.
The last non-Welshman to contest a world title fight in Cardiff was Lee Haskins in May.
Warren's Welshmen get a chance on home soil
World renowned boxing promoter Frank Warren has not put on a show in Wales since 2008 when Gavin Rees lost his WBA world light-welterweight title front of a sparse Cardiff International Arena crowd.
Liam Williams defends his British and Commonwealth titles against unbeaten Englishman Gary Corcoran on Saturday as the 24-year-old from the Rhondda Valleys puts his undefeated record on the line.
Blackwood's Craig Evans, Maerdy's Alex Hughes, Jay Harris from Swansea and former British champion Gary Buckland are all on the undercard.
"We haven't built a headline star in Wales for a little while, so the progress of Liam Williams was all the encouragement we needed to return to Wales," Warren said.
"We have enjoyed great nights there in the past and I sincerely hope this is the first of many return visits. The Welsh boxing public know a good fighter when they see one - and they have had more than a few of their own over the years."
And Williams and his opponent are far from friendly.
"I don't like the man at all," Williams said. "Gary thinks a lot of himself and I'm not sure why. He's a confident man but I'm not sure where he gets that confidence from."