NEW YORK — Three thoughts on Guillermo Rigondeaux’s unanimous decision win over Nonito Donaire:
This one was for the purists
Let’s make one thing clear: Rigondeaux is a fantastic boxer. The decorated amateur, a two-time World and Olympic champion, is technically brilliant with blurring speed and pinpoint counterpunching. He built an early lead against Donaire, wobbling him in the first round and surviving a ninth-round knockdown to win a decision on all three cards, 114-113, 115-112, 116-111. But after promising to engage before the fight, Rigondeaux hit and ran, dancing around the ring, drawing the ire of a sold-out crowd of 6,145 at Radio City Music Hall and giving Donaire—who wasn’t connecting on much of anything, either—time to one-punch his way back into the fight.
“As I told you before, I would do my job, and I did it,” Rigondeaux said. “I made him look bad. Moving, boxing, you can’t win by landing one shot. Donaire is a disciplined and great fighter.”
One note: There was a huge discrepancy between how HBO’s broadcast team scored the fight and most ringside reporters—including myself, Jon Saraceno from USA TODAY, Kevin Iole from Yahoo! Sports and Dan Rafael from ESPN.com—saw it. HBO had a Rigondeaux blowout; ringside reporters all gave it to Rigondeaux, but had it close. Welterweight champion Tim Bradley—a sound technical boxer himself—worked the international broadcast for Top Rank and had Rignodeaux by two rounds.
Donaire wasn’t ready
It’s pretty clear Donaire underestimated Rigondeaux’s talent. Before the fight, Donaire dismissed Rigondeaux as just a great amateur, and members of his camp believed that Donaire’s power would be too much for Rigondeaux—who has been knocked down and buckled by lesser fighters—to stand up to. Donaire admitted after the fight that he didn’t watch any film of Rigondeaux (along with confessing to a shoulder injury he says will need surgery). Perhaps Donaire was distracted by the impending birth of his child, or perhaps his camp was disrupted by his decision to cut ties with Victor Conte in the middle of it. But he should have been more prepared for a fight of this importance.
Where to, boys?
Donaire is headed to 126 pounds; win or lose, he was moving up. And he is still an entertaining, popular fighter who will have HBO’s backing no matter where he fights. A matchup with Chris John—the undefeated champion who rarely strays from his home country of Indonesia—is appealing, particularly with Top Rank’s recent successful show in Macau, China. Other options include Juan Manuel Lopez, Orlando Salido or Evgeny Gradovich, who claimed a title recently against Billy Dib. Donaire will have options—lots of them.
Rigondeaux is a different story. Despite the win, it is going to be hard to get him back on HBO (Top Rank doesn’t do business with Showtime). The network isn’t hugely invested in the super bantamweight division outside of Donaire, and Rigondeaux’s technically proficient performance wasn’t television friendly. After the fight, Rigondeaux told ringside reporters he had no intention of changing his style. Unfortunately, that may cost him a premium network check.
- Chris Mannix