NEW YORK — RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward and WBO welterweight beltholder Tim Bradley were sitting ringside at Radio City Music Hall for WBA junior featherweight titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux’s unanimous-decision victory that dethroned RING, IBF and WBO champion Nonito Donaire.
Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) rose from a 10th-round knockdown to defeat Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs) by scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 116-111 on the cards of judges John Stewart, Tom Schreck and Julie Lederman, respectively. RingTV.com had it for Rigondeaux 117-110.
But the sold-out crowd was not necessarily appreciative of Rigondeaux’s work, as evidenced by its boos during various portions of the fight.
But those who may have been expecting similar blood-and-guts action on Saturday were bound to be disappointed, according to Bradley and Ward.
Bradley called the fight’s international feed for promoter Top Rank, and Ward has served as an HBO ringside commentator. Each of them addressed the Rigondeaux-Donaire fight with their comments below.
Tim Bradley’s general assessment of the fight:
“With Rigondeaux, it was footwork. Footwork. Footwork. Footwork. Footwork and the ability to get in and move in and out. When he wanted to, Rigondeaux would just close the distance. Every time Donaire would come in, Rigondeaux would just give him a little shoulder-bump and step right back out. And Donaire would go back.
“There was never a point where they were actually face to face and in the trenches. There was never a point where they were like that. Rigondeaux never allowed him to do that. It was the movement and the fact that Donaire was looking for one big shot the whole night. The left hook. That right there, that hurt him. That hurt him the whole night.
“I’m a fighter myself, bro, and fans, they want to see blood and guts, man. It’s about skills and ability. And both of these guys have high amounts of skills and high amounts of abilities in the ring. When you have two guys trying to do that on each other, you get these types of fights.
“I love these types of fights. I love these types of fights, man. And that’s why you saw Nonito, he tried to switch up and land the the straight left. And he dropped Rigondeaux and no one expected that to happen. He was able to drop Rigondeaux and was able to change up everybody’s opinion about how the fight was going on.
“But it took a while for him to really figure that out. So that’s what I love about boxing, man. Fans may say, ‘Ah, this was a boring fight,’ and this was that. But I’m telling you, man, when you’ve got two guys at the highest level of the game fighting each other, man, you’re going to get these types of fights.
“Especially counterpunching, but that’s what I like, because they’re both in their thinking. That’s what I like. It might not be what you like, you know what I mean? But if you want to see blood and guts, and you want to see warrior-type of fights, then you should definitely hit MMA.”
Andre Ward’s general assessment of the fight:
“Once Nonito signed the contract to fight against Rigondeaux, you know that it’s going to be a very, very difficult fight. Rigondeaux is a great boxer, he’s a sharp-shooter, and this is the best I’ve ever seen him look. And that’s the mark of a guys that could be great one day and of a guy who can rise to the occasion.
“Rigondeaux needed to be what he was tonight. He took shots that nobody thought he could take, and then, he responded. I don’t know what the scoring was. I’m a little biased, and I am here for Nonito. I’m looking from a different viewpoint, so it’s hard to say. I have to go back and watch it to really see, but I don’t think that you can have much of an argument against the decision. But I know that I was just watching.”
Bradley on what Donaire could have done differently:
“Nonito started letting his go toward the middle part of the fight. Probably at about Round 7 or 8. One of those rounds in between there. He started putting some effective aggressive pressure on, and I thought that he had become effective in doing that.
“I thought that Nonito out-landed him in that round, by a lot, I felt. I started thinking that he’s changing the tide of the fight a little bit. Now he’s found his rhythm. Finally, he’s found his rhythm. Now he’s landing shots. He wasn’t looking for one big shot.
“He was just in there, just throwing his shots. For a while, he actually did that. I was like, ‘Now, he’s found his rhythm. Now, he’s starting to land some punches and stop just bringing the power.’ But every time he would load up with that right hand, he would load up, and Rigondeaux is too smart for that.
“He would load up, and Rigondeaux would see it coming. It just seemed like with Rigondeaux, having 400 amateur fights and coming out of the Olympics and all of that, that this is nothing to him. It was just another fight for him. He’s just poised, man. He’s just relaxed.
“He was just relaxed. And when you have a fighter like that who is relaxed, poised and seasoned like that, and who knows the ring, the ins and outs of the ring, when you have that, what are you going to do? He was just more relaxed.”
Ward on what Donaire could have done differently:
“I think that when you’re getting a lot of knockouts, it’s hard to think about anything other than getting the knockout. I think that Nonito, he’s a great boxer and he’s not just a good power-puncher. The guy has got legs and he’s got feet and he’s got hands and he’s got speed. Probably, like, midway through the fight.
“Because I know, and you can just tell, Nonito was looking for one big shot. I think that Nonito could have come in more behind his jab, even though he’s not hitting Rigondeaux with it. He should have just tried to touch him as a range-finder, and again, this is in a perfect world.
“Rigondeaux’s ducking and getting low. Nonito could have been shooting at his chest, not just at his head. And when Nonito did that, he was much more successful. But then, don’t try to load up. Touch, touch, touch, and then bang, bang, bang.
“Let him run into something. But again, that’s in a perfect world. In the heat of the moment, things go so fast in that ring, that you sometimes don’t have time to think. Then you look at the tape and say, ‘What was I doing?’ Again, it’s often easier said than done.
“But if he had boxed Rigo a little bit more, then mixed up his shots, some hard, some soft, I think that Rigo may have run into one. But you’ve got to take your hat off to Rigondeaux, man. No sour grapes, man. The guy won tonight. I hope that they do a rematch.
Bradley on the crowd’s boos and whether they appreciated what they saw:
“At the end of the day, it’s about your family. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. You’ve got to go home and see your family. Like when I went to the hospital after the Provodnikov fight, didn’t nobody go to the hospital with me but my family. It wasn’t a whole bunch of fans at the hospital, you know?
“It wasn’t. It wasn’t like that. The fans like what they like, and there is nothing that you can do about that. They like blood and guts. That’s what they want to see. So you either give it to them, or you don’t, and if you don’t give it to them, they’re going to let you know. So you choose. You choose your fate as a fighter. I chose my fate in my last fight.”
Ward on the crowd’s boos and whether they appreciated what they saw:
“You’re coming off of Rios-Alvarado II, but every fight is not going to be that. I enjoyed tonight’s fight. There was great action when there needed to be. Of course there were dead spots, but that’s a given. I think some fans appreciated what they saw, and I think that some didn’t with these guys.
“You want to please the fans every time out, but that’s not always the reality. These guys went in there, they took heavy shots, no fans are with Donaire and Rigondeaux in their locker rooms after this fight right now. They’re both licking their wounds and they’re by themselves.
“None of the fans are going with them to the hospital. So, that’s how you keep it in perspective. You want to give the fans what they want to see, but at the end of the day, winning in this sport allows you to keep making money and living the way that you’re supposed to make a living.
“There is no guaranteed contracts in boxing. One loss, and your minimums change. So, there’s a lot on the line, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and I just told Tim Bradley that. Tim Bradley is the man, and he doesn’t have to prove that he’s the man.
“But I understand the reason Tim Bradley fought Provodnikov the way that he did. Deep down, every fighter wants to have a fight like that to prove that to himself and to prove himself to the fans. But it’s not every fight that you should fight that way, fight in and fight out.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]