Nonito Donaire is a three-division champion and 2012 Fighter of the Year and he is the first to admit that he has done everything in boxing. Yet, Saturday evening at Radio City Music Hall in New York City there is another challenge against the undefeated WBA Super Bantamweight champion, and former two-time Cuban Olympic Gold Medalist Guilermo Rigondeaux. It could be a tough test for Donaire. At their final press conference Wednesday afternoon in the Madison Square Garden Theatre lobby area, the two had a stare down that may go down in the annals of boxing history.
Face-to-face for five minutes and it could have been longer had Donaire and Rigondeaux did not have dinner plans. There is mutual respect with both fight camps. Drug testing was an issue a few months ago when the fight was first announced however there were bitter discussions as to how testing would be conducted. VADA, the voluntary anti doping agency is now in control and everyone is in agreement that this should be mandatory. What is not agreed to is, who is the better fighter? Donaire has the reputation, 31-1, 20 KO’s, and he still fights in the shadow of fellow Filipino and eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao.
The undefeated, 11-0, Rigondeaux of Cuba, with a solid punch may have yet been tested, but his reputation as a quick and hard puncher has put him to the top. “The more I watch him fight I realized he is worthy of it,” commented Donaire who will put his WBO junior featherweight title on the line. “I am seeing he is a really tough guy. Not only does he have speed and power but he does well mentally.”
He added, “When you do this for awhile, like I have, you tend to be motivated by having a good fighter in front of you and that is why I disregarded him.” Before Rigondeaux came to the table, Donaire wanted to clash with Abner Mares, the other super bantamweight champion. Boxing politics, the promotional war with Golden Boy that represents Mares and Top Rank, Donaire’s promoter, put a halt to a fight that boxing fans anticipated as much as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I am not concerned about being number one,” says Donaire.. “Whenever Top Rank and HBO put me in it’s an honor.” And in all honesty, it will be HBO because Arum has a working agreement in place, secured with the cable network and Golden Boy has their financial stakes locked in with Showtime. Recall, a few years ago, Golden Boy said they had the contract of Donaire. Arum went to court and got his fighter back. And Donaire has no complaints staying with Top Rank as he keeps a busy schedule on the fight calendar two or three times a year.
Last year, Donaire was victorious four times. Two, fights went the distance against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula. There were questions in a ninth round stoppage over Toshiaki Nishioka, and he easily handled the veteran Joe Arce in his last fight, a third round stoppage on December 15. “At the beginning, he (Nishioka) tried to power me in and I needed a different approach and that’s the same thing that will happen with Rigondeaux,” says Donaire about the approach to this fight.
To Rigondeaux, this is the most important fight of his career. Yes, the 12th for a refugee from Cuba at 32-years of age. “A victory over Nonito,” he says, “would show the world that I can compete against the best in the world in a professional capacity.” This is a fight Saturday night that is expected to explode. Fireworks they say. Both can punch, but Donaire really has nothing more to prove with the exception of a hopeful showdown with Mares.