Former unified junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, recently stripped of both of his title belts due to inactivity, signed on Saturday with Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports and was immediately added to the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez fight on Nov. 21.
Rigondeaux will face Drian Francisco in a scheduled 10-round junior featherweight bout that will be the second televised fight on the HBO PPV card from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The fight will be the first of the promotional deal Rigondeaux signed with Roc Nation Sports, which will co-promote him with nominal promoter Caribe Promotions.
"I'd like to thank Roc Nation Sports, as well as Golden Boy Promotions, Miguel Cotto Promotions, Canelo Promotions, HBO, and Caribe Promotions for giving me the opportunity to be on one of the most anticipated pay-per-view cards of the year," Rigondeaux said. "This is a great platform to take my career to the next level, and to showcase my talents on the big stage."
Rigondeaux is taking the place of Andre Ward, who vacated his super middleweight title on Thursday to make his impending move to light heavyweight official. In the first fight of a three-fight HBO contract, Ward was scheduled to fight Alexander Brand in the Cotto-Alvarez co-feature but withdrew last week because inflammation in his right knee kept him from training properly.
Rigondeaux-Francisco will be the second fight on the pay-per-view telecast, with the fight between junior lightweight titlist Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22 KOs), of Japan, and mandatory challenger Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, 16 KOs), of Mexico, moving into the co-feature position to replace Ward-Brand.
Rigondeaux had been training for a possible fight Saturday night in Ottawa, Canada, and wound up making a deal with Roc Nation Sports, which pursued him earlier this year but was unable to make a deal until now.
"We are thrilled to add Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of boxing's best pound-for-pound fighters, to what we believe is the biggest night in boxing this year," said David Itskowitch, COO of Roc Nation Sports' boxing division. "On Nov. 21, fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and those watching at home on HBO Pay-Per-View are in store for an event that will bring them even more bang for their buck with the addition of Rigondeaux versus Drian Francisco. It's a rare treat when three of boxing's top 10 pound-for-pound best fighters appear on the same telecast."
The 35-year-old Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs), a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist (2000 and 2004) and considered one of the greatest amateur boxers ever, won a 122-pound world title by knocking out Rico Ramos in the sixth round in January 2012. He made six defenses, including a decision win against Nonito Donaire to unify belts in April 2013. However, Rigondeaux, who defected from Cuba and now lives in Miami, has not fought since Dec. 31 in Japan, and his inactivity caused the sanctioning organizations to strip him of his titles.
In his last bout, Rigondeaux suffered two knockdowns in the seventh round against unknown Japanese challenger Hisashi Amagasa before rallying for an 11th-round knockout victory.
"While I've been sidelined for the past year, I am grateful for the opportunity to deliver a show to all the boxing fans that have supported me throughout this journey, and I look forward to delivering my best come fight night," Rigondeaux said.
Francisco (28-3-1, 22 KOs), 33, of the Philippines, briefly held an interim junior bantamweight title, winning it by 10th-round knockout of Duangpetch Kokietgym in November 2010. He lost the belt in his first defense by unanimous decision to Tepparith Kokietgym in May 2011.
Francisco is coming off a first-round knockout of Jilo Merlin, who is now 13-24-2, in September. In his previous bout, Francisco was knocked out by Jason Canoy in the first round.
Francisco had been slated to fight this past Friday night in the Philippines but withdrew when he was offered a better deal to take on Rigondeaux.
"I'm elated to be able to fight in Las Vegas once more and against a great champion like Rigo," Francisco said. "I want to make a statement and steal the show. I was prepared to fight this month, and when the call came, I didn't think twice about it. This is a great night to be part of on Nov. 21."
In the Nov. 21 main event, Puerto Rico's Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) will defend the middleweight world title against Mexico's Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs), a former unified junior middleweight titleholder, in the biggest fight of the year other than the May 2 showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Opening the pay-per-view telecast, Puerto Rico's Jayson Velez (23-0-1, 16 KOs), a former featherweight title challenger, will face Ronny Rios (24-1, 10 KOs), of Santa Ana, California, in a 10-round featherweight fight.