22 December 2009 – By Padraig Hoare
Corkman Gary Hyde has set his sights on Kiko Martinez and Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym after pulling off one of the most sensational coups in Irish boxing history.
The Rathcooney-based businessman was a victor in the Florida civil courts earlier this week, securing the services of one of amateur boxing’s most decorated athletes, Cuba’s two-time Olympic and world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux Ortiz.
The dazzling Rigondeaux, a veteran and winner of all but a handful of 250 amateur bouts (or anything up to 400, depending on legend), made world headlines in February this year when he turned up in Miami, Florida after escaping the Communist regime in Cuba.
The winner of the gold medal in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 and world champion in 2001 and 2005, he had originally signed professional terms with Gary Hyde in March 2007, only to change his mind about defecting at the last minute. Hyde then instead earmarked heavyweight Ismaikel Perez as a future star of professional boxing, and Hyde’s Cuban revolution had begun.
Rigondeaux, a 29-year-old southpaw with thunder in his fists even as an amateur, attempted to escape again in August 2007 while part of the Cuban team at the Pan American Games. He was caught and told he could never box again for his country, thereby eliminating any chance of him becoming a three-time world champion or Olympic champion.
He finally made it out in February this year, and it seemed he had signed professional terms with Arena Box Promotions US. Hyde immediately filed suit, as first revealed by irish-boxing.com in March, seeking an injunction prohibiting Rigonseaux from competing until his management contract was upheld.
The defendants insisted Hyde had no case and continued to claim Rigondeaux as their own – until a court vindicated Hyde in Florida this week.
Judge Michael A Chavies said Hyde had presented an excellent case, and expressed his unfavourable opinion at the “utterly surprising disparity between the evidence presented by the parties” at the hearing. Co-defendant Tony Gonzalez had presented no evidence that he had signed a contract with Rigondeaux, according to the ruling, and Hyde was granted managerial rights until March 19, 2012.
Rigondeaux won his fourth professional fight this week, beating Lante Addy in New York on Wednesday night in a super-bantamweight contest.
Hyde was understandably triumphant when talking to irish-boxing.com.
“I knew I had the truth on my side and I had full confidence that the justice system would vindicate my arguments. The ruling was confirmation of what I knew all along. Guillermo was induced into signing a contract in Florida last year, those in Florida committed numerous violations of the Muhammad Ali Act, yet they thought I would bark loudly only to scamper away with my tale between my legs. That is not the Cork way of doing things – we stand up for ourselves and for what is right. The Florida people can go and find their own Cuban fighters if they want, spending their money on it like I did.
“They’ve tried to turn Luis Garcia’s (Hyde’s super-middleweight sensation who has not fought for disciplinary reasons in recent months) head too, telling him all sorts of lies about contract law. This shows them I will fight my corner until the death when I have the truth on my side. If they want to take me on and get hammered in the courts again, then they can do so.”
Hyde revealed that he and Rigo had an emotional reunion in Los Angeles almost two months ago.
“He is a diamond lad, he really is. I never had any problem whatsoever with him – I fondly remember him and myself taking a road trip almost three years ago talking about life in Cuba, his family, boxing and more. As soon as we saw each other in the Wild Card, we were the best of friends right away. Joined at the hip, always were.”
The interest in Rigondeaux will be huge for Cuban and Irish boxing, he said.
“Rigo is the gold standard, the artist, the supreme athlete. There are promoters falling over themselves to talk to us. I will do what’s best for Rigo and for his compatriots, and my Irish lads. The interest among the Cuban community alone is huge. Rigo will continue to do all the same things – train and develop with Freddie Roach in LA, and we’ll continue building his profile and build towards championship fights. It will be in the USA, no doubt about that. Top Rank, Golden Boy, all the names have been in touch. I want to see Rigo on the Pac-Mayweather bill – that’s what his talent deserves.
“Alexei Acosta is rearing to go, as is Mike Perez when he is fully recovered from his operation – they know Rigo commands huge attention and respect and they will get such opportunities. And my two Irish prospects JJ and Paddy McDonagh – they are a pleasure to guide with their hard work, dedication and talent. They’ll be given opportunities too, make no mistake about it.
“Luis Garcia has been distracted by the sharks in Florida. He now realises he got off at the wrong bus stop. If he’s prepared to work hard, then I’m prepared to start afresh. He’s a super talent, and he’ll be right back in the frame when he knuckles down to hard work.”
He concluded by revealing what targets were in the pair’s sights.
“Guillermo would love to fight Poonsawat sooner rather than later, with the world title on the line. God knows, I was heartbroken when Bernard lost, so I would love that fight too. Kiko Martinez is also in our sights. I want revenge for Bernard, a man I consider one of the greats in Irish boxing. Watch this space for the future – this is the start of a glorious era in Irish and Cuban boxing.”