I was chatting with Irishman Gary Hyde, the manager of Guillermo Rigondeaux today, during a Top Rank media gathering at Mendez Gym on E. 26th St. in NYC. Hyde asked me who my favorite fighter was and I paused, thought about it, and said, "Ya know, I sort of don't have one. I do this not to follow favorite fighters, but to meet people, decent people like you."
He'd just introduced me to his son, 13-year-old Tommy, who is supposed to be attending school in Cork, but is skipping to hang with his dad and getting some lessons in "the school of life," as the elder Hyde put it to me on Tuesday afternoon. "He's my right-hand man," Gary told me, pointing to the boy, as we all stood on the ring apron, and watched Hyde's fighter Rigondeaux do some stretches in the ring. "A child of 13, he's more in the flow than us." (Hyde told me he asked wife Fiona to come to NY, but she begged off. Daughters Sarah (22), Lauren (12; she had her confirmation on Tuesday) and Ava (7) are also back in Ireland, with fingers crossed that dad's guy gets it done.)
It's a bit of an unlikely pairing, Hyde and Rigo (age 32; 11-0 record, with 8 KOs; claims 400-12 amateur record). The Irishman, who owns some pubs and real estate in Ireland, met Rigo when the Cuban was an amateur, back in 2001, in Belfast. Hyde was impressed that Rigo fit in with the boys at the pub, and pounded some brews. His own stable of fighters wasn't going to put him within sniffing distance of the Arums of the world, and he knew he needed to secure some jazzier talents. So he went to Cuba, under the guise of writing a book, to try and snare some fighters, in 2007. Rigo had eyes on defecting but put up a front, announcing that he wanted to be the first man to win gold in boxing at four Games. The fighter attempted a jailbreak in 2007, was snared, but managed the feat in 2009. He went to Cancun, and then Miami, and Hyde had to battle another manager for the services of Rigo; he went to court to hold on to him, and won.
Rigo meets Donaire at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night; HBO will show the scrap.
Hyde's affability, I admit, has me somewhat conflicted in this fight. I see Donaire, who battled suicidal ideation as a youth, as a credit to the sport. But I like underdogs, and Hyde is one. Plus, he earned points for a seeming inability to BS. After telling me Rigo had the best camp of his four-year pro career, and that he was injury-free, I asked Hyde if he would lie to me if this was not the case. "I would," he admitted straight away. We both chuckled.
"I'm 59-0 as a manager," he told me, in closing. "When Rigo wins, it's going to be a Rigo-lution!"