Donaire-Rigondeaux: Chess match or fireworks? Experts weigh-in
Out of 22 boxing insiders who were polled by RingTV regarding what would happen in last month’s junior welterweight rematch between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios, only Rich Marotta of KFI Radio in Los Angeles, correctly chose Alvarado to be the victor.
Alvarado won by unanimous decision after having been knocked out in the seventh round of last October’s bloody, Fight-of-the-Year-caliber clash by Rios, whom 19 of the 21 insiders figured would stop Alvarado in their return bout, yet again.
On Saturday night, RING, IBF and WBO junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 knockouts) will make a defense of his and WBA counterpart Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) in a matchup featuring a pair of cereberal boxer-punchers who are considered to be the class of their division at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
“All credit to Nonito Donaire for taking on this challenge,” said BoxingScene.com’s Cliff Rold. “This is an excellent matchup and Guillermo Rigondeaux appears to be in tremendous shape, as evidenced by some footage that has surfaced of his training.”
The winner of Donaire-Rigondeaux could be even more difficult to nail down than Alvarado-Rios.
“Tough one to pick,” said WBC welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi, who also serves as a ringside commentator and boxing analyst for Showtime.
“For all of Nonito Donaire’s advantages in career pro experience, we have to keep in mind that Guillermo Rigondeaux has even more than that in high-level amateur experience. Both guys can lead and counter very well, and they transition from one to the other and vice versa in a very smooth way.”
Nicknamed “The Filipino Flash,” Donaire has displayed two-fisted power during his title-winning rise from 112 pounds to 122 pounds with stoppages of Vic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce.
“I think that there are going to be a lot of fireworks. It could be a chess match, because we can both be defensive fighters. But we’re only defensive because we can see the punches coming,” said Donaire during a Tuesday conference call promoting the clash with Rigondeaux.
“But when it comes down to the title fights, we’re both aggressive and we can both be offensive guys. I owe New York a good fight. I know that my fans want a good fight. They’re expecting a good fight and that’s what I want to give them. So I think that the people of New York are going to get a treat.”
Rigondeaux also used the term “fireworks” in describing what he believes will transpire on Saturday night.
“I think Guillermo Rigondeaux is the closest thing to Floyd Mayweather, in terms of defensive skills, quickness and speed, than anyone in boxing today,” said RingTV.com’s Joe Santoliquito. “This is a major step for him against a larger, polished world-class fighter.”
Following an unimpressive and dull decison over Panama’s Ricardo Cordoba in November of 2010, Rigondeaux responded with consecutive stoppages over Willie Casey, Rico Ramos and Teon Kennedy in the first, sixth and fifth rounds, respectively, before securing September’s unanimous decision victory over Robert Marroquin.
“At this point, this is the most important fight of my career,” said Rigondeaux. “This will solidify who is the king at the 122-pound weight class.”
Donaire-Rigondeaux will be only the second bout to appear at Radio City Music Hall the venue’s 82-year existence. The first was Roy Jones’ unanimous decision over David Telesco on Jan. 15, 2000 in defense of his IBF, WBA and WBC light heavyweight belts.
Donaire has insisted that he remains focused despite the fact that his wife, Rachel, is pregnant with their first child, a son who will be named Jarel, and that he will be honored as The Boxing Writers’ Association of America’s Fighter of The Year on Thursday in New York.
“It really is a 50-50 toss up in my mind,” said trainer John Scully. “I wouldn’t bet much on it.”
Whatever happens, RingTV.com’s Mike Coppinger believes Donaire-Rigondeaux will be one to remember.
“Nonito Donaire is the favorite, but… Rigondeaux is perhaps the greatest amateur boxer of all-time and looked to be in peak shape at Tuesday’s media workout at Mendez Boxing Gym in New York City,” said Coppinger.
“Rigondeaux possesses excellent hand speed and deft footwork, which should give Donaire many problems. Rigondeaux can also punch, but of course, so can Donaire. It could be a matter of whose punch lands first.”
Below are the thoughts of 21 boxing insiders as to what they believe will happen on Saturday night.
Guillermo Rigondeaux UD 12 Nonito Donaire: Nonito Donaire is the favorite, but I think the distraction of the impending birth of his first child coupled with Guillermo Rigondeaux’s special blend of speed and movement will spring the slight upset.
Rigondeaux is perhaps the greatest amateur boxer of all-time and looked to be in peak shape at Tuesday’s media workout at Mendez Boxing Gym in New York City. Rigondeaux possesses excellent hand speed and deft footwork, which should give Donaire many problems.
Rigondeaux can also punch, but of course, so can Donaire. It could be a matter of whose punch lands first, but all things considered, I’ll go with Rigondeaux — who is a great body puncher — to edge Donaire by points.
Nonito Donaire mid-to-late KO Guillermo Rigondeaux: Boxing purists will be treated to a high-level, tit-fot-tat chess match early in the bout. Nonito Donaire will maneuver around Guillermo Rigondeaux looking for opportunities to swoop in with a bomb.
But Donaire will find the Cuban lefty ready for him each time, so he’ll hold off. In the middle rounds, Donaire will change up and allow Rigondeaux to back him to the ropes where the two will exchange power shots.
Both will get caught, but Rigondeaux will be noticeably hurt when he’s tagged and Donaire will finish the job in typically dynamic fashion.
Nonito Donaire KO 11 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Never has Nonito Donaire been a bigger target. He’ll enter the ring a couple nights after being honored as Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers.
That translates into opportunity for Guillermo Rigondeux to fulfill stardom promised by an Olympic pedigree that includes two gold medals. Rigondeux’s tactical skill is enough to pull off the upset, but only if the fight goes to the cards. The guess here is that it won’t.
There are questions about Donaire’s focus and training. Donaire was reported to be seven pounds heavier than the mandatory on Monday. Donaire might struggle to make weight, but his power and experience will still be there.
Both will become a factor sometime between the sixth and ninth, weakening Rigondeux and leaving him open for a decisive assault in the final three rounds
In beating Roberto Marroquin in September, Rigondeux was rocked a few times. Getting rocked by Marroquin is one thing. Getting rocked by Donaire is another, a difference that figures to swing a close fight in Donaire’s favor.
Nonito Donaire KO 7 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Boxing is like baseball. Rare is the hitter who can go seamlessly from dominating Double and Triple A ball in the minors to hitting homeruns off experienced big league pitchers with nasty stuff in the majors.
Cuban amateur boxing legend Guillermo Rigondeaux is potentially such a special left-handed hitter, while pound-for-pound superstar Nonito Donaire is unquestionably such a precise and powerful pitcher. “The Filipino Flash” throws K’s that turn into KO’s.
Donaire scores strikeouts and punch-outs against the best in the game. For the 11-0 Rigondeaux, it’s a significant learning curve against an elite professional, and it will prove to be too much too soon. At worst, the fight will resemble Felix Trinidad versus the 14-0 David Reid and ruin Rigo.
At best, it will be like Salvador Sanchez against the 13-0 Azumah Nelson and see Rigo go on to greatness like Nelson did after losing valiantly to a far more seasoned fighter.
Look for the ultra-talented Rigondeaux to start strong and maybe even get ahead in the count early while Donaire figures him out. Some time around the fifth, Donaire will hurt Rigo with the right-hand fastball down the middle. Donaire will then stretch his man for good with the left hook curveball in the seventh. Count to 10ÔÇöhe’s not getting up.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Few fighters have tackled the strength of schedule Nonito Donaire has in the past couple of years and in many eyes — including mine — he should have been THE RING’s Fighter of the Year instead of Juan Manuel Marquez.
Good people, however, can disagree. As for the task at hand, the combined skill level of both men are off the charts and their versatility makes this one tough to predict. This either can be a slow-paced stinker drowned by an overabundance of respect or a bombs-away slugfest that could end with either man knocked unconscious.
The key difference is that Donaire only has to watch out for one Guillermo Rigondeaux weapon — the left to the body — while the Cuban star has to account for Donaire’s more complete arsenal. Donaire has more ways to win because of his obvious power and his height and reach advantages.
Rigondeaux has to come to Donaire, which is always a dangerous proposition, while Donaire can choose to stay on the outside and pile up points. Donaire will minimize his risks by remaining at long range and by doing so he’ll win a fairly comfortable decision.
Nonito Donaire KO 8 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Nonito Donaire is at the top of his game right now, and although Guillermo Rigondeaux is a very good fighter, Nonito is on another level.
I see this fight being real competitive in the early rounds, but as the fight goes on, I see Nonito getting into a groove and ending this fight by KO in the eighth round.
Guillermo Rigondeaux W 12 Nonito Donaire: I’ve said it for two years now and have never seen anything to veer away — Guillermo Rigondeaux will either knock out Nonito Donaire or get a reasonably comfortable decision.
Aside from chin, they are either like for like or more often than not, Rigondeaux is far better. Freddie Roach told me Rigondeaux was the best counter puncher he had ever seen.
Given gold medal quality defense, as well as underrated power, I see no reason why the Cuban cannot counter punch Donaire’s lunging style.
Nonito Donaire late-round TKO over Guillermo Rigondeaux: Nonito Donaire probably will force the action in this battle between counter-punchers, which could make him more vulnerable to Guillermo Rigondeaux’s body attack at times.
But “The Filipino Flash” is the bigger puncher, even if Rigondeaux’s southpaw stance lessens the impact of Donaire’s trademark left hook, and he should land something flush to Rigondeaux’s questionable chin that’ll change the fight late.
Nonito Donaire TKO 10 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Tough one to pick. For all of Nonito Donaire’s advantages in career pro experience, we have to keep in mind that Guillermo Rigondeaux has even more than that in high-level amateur experience.
Both guys can lead and counter very well, and they transition from one to the other and vice versa in a very smooth way. Donaire seems to bring a little more grit to the table.
Donaire also seems to me to be the one that is more willing to bite down if times get tough. I think both guys will have their moments, but I like Donaire by late stoppage.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: Until Leo Santa Cruz officially works his way up the 122-pound rankings, Nonito Donaire’s top challenge remaining at junior featherweight is Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux possesses some dangerous attributes, from effective body punching to his lethal handspeed out of the southpaw stance.
But the two-time Olympic gold medalist has yet to face someone like Donaire, whose tactical brilliance allows him to set his foes up for the one-punch knockout or the methodical breakdown.
If Rigondeaux can jump out to an early lead, he could theoretically make Donaire take more chances and find opportunities to counterpunch his way to victory.
However, I think we’ll see a relatively even chess match for the first six frames before Donaire’s experience and ring generalship give him the edge as the bout progresses.
Nonito Donaire KO 7 Guillermo Rigondeaux: [Guillermo] Rigondeaux is very talented…so I do think that he will give Nonito [Donaire] some early trouble.
I think that at the end of the day, Nonito’s power and his ability to move and his general professional experience is going to get the best of Rigondeaux that night.
I see Nonito winning by knockout. I estimate a seven-round knockout by Nonito if Rigondeaux doesn’t just run and box all night.
Nonito Donaire KO 5 over Rigondeaux: Although this is a high-profile fight with two top names, I do not think it will be particularly compelling nor competitive when they actually get it on.
To me Nonito Donaire is a very special fighter. It will take a very special fighter to beat him. While Guillermo Rigondeaux is clever and skilled, he is not on that level of “special.”
I look for him to try to be a spoiler and frustrate Donaire. While that may work for two or three rounds, it won’t work for too long. Once Donaire finds the range, he will line up Rigo, tee up that left hook, hurt him and take him out within five.
Nonito Donaire KO 11 Guillermo Rigondeaux: You certainly don’t make it easy, do you? Back and forth and back and forth I go. Where do I stop, well now, everybody knows.
Though Guillermo Rigondeaux is a gifted boxer-puncher, so is Nonito Donaire, and I expect his edge in big fight showdowns, will keep him staying the course and presenting enough situational problems for the Cuban.
Look for a late round stoppage win for Donaire, as Rigondeaux leaves himself open as he tries for a homestretch knockout. Donaire by knockout in 11.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: I like Nonito Donaire in this one. He’s just a much more consistent fighter.
Guillermo Rigondeaux seemingly has all the tools but he never seems to be able to put together a string of impressive, cohesive performances.
Donaire may have some difficulty dealing with Rigondeaux’s boxing skills early in the fight but he should adjust well in the stretch to win a decision. Donaire by decision.
Nonito Donaire UD 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: All credit to Nonito Donaire for taking on this challenge. This is an excellent matchup and Guillermo Rigondeaux appears to be in tremendous shape, as evidenced by some footage that has surfaced of his training.
Still, I like Donaire to find a way to secure the victory. It will probably be very tough, but I feel Nonito will adapt to whatever Rigondeaux brings and just be a little bit busier. Donaire Unanimous decision.
Nonito Donaire KO Guillermo Rigondeaux: If this thing devolves into the sort of “You lead…no, you” fight that Omar Narvaez was, Nonito Donaire can lose. Guillermo Rigondeaux’s offense might be spare but he has some and he’s excelent defensively.
That said, for now we know much more about Donaire as a professional and against a far higher level of professional opposition. He typically comes up big in big situations and he’s still got lethal power four divisions up from his first professional title. It may not be a thriller, but it should have a thrilling end.
Nonito Donaire KO 7 Guillermo Rigondeaux: I believe a fairly competitive matchup in terms of skills and experience will be decided by Nonito Donaire’s power.
Donaire willl catch Guillermo Rigondeaux in the middle rounds, which will be the beginning of the end. Donaire by seventh-round knockout.
Guillermo Rigondeaux W 12 Nonito Donaire: I think Guillermo Rigondeaux is the closest thing to Floyd Mayweather, in terms of defensive skills, quickness and speed, than anyone in boxing today.
This is a major step for him against a larger, polished world-class fighter, but Rigondeaux may have enough defensive skills to stay away, pick away, and come away with the upset.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: This is the toughest fight I’ve had to pick yet, it really is a 50-50 toss up in my mind. I wouldn’t bet much on it.
But if I had a dollar to spare, I would go with Nonito Donaire to land the better and more consistent shots against Guillermo Rigondeaux, especially to the body, on the way to a somewhat controversial 12 round decision.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: I have Nonito Donaire by decision in this fight. I think the fact that he’s been so active will help him to be sharp. But Guillermo Rigondeaux’s caginess and expert counterpunching will keep Donaire on edge all night.
Nonito Donaire W 12 Guillermo Rigondeaux: This one could be puncher Nonitto Donaire vs. counter-puncher Guillermo Rigondeaux. Donaire, who also is a skilled counter-puncher and has knocked several opponents out with counters, will try to test his power against Rigondeaux.
But the Cuban southpaw will prove to be a difficult target and difficult style for Donaire, who needs to stay patient — he hasn’t fought someone as quick as Rigondeaux in awhile. Rigondeaux does not have an exciting style, but Donaire’s experience and ring skills, and ultimately his power, will win the day.
By a total vote of 18-3, the experts predict that RING junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire will emerge victorious over Guillermo Rigondeaux.
[Note: Martinez-Burgos was a draw, meaning all who selected otherwise received a loss]
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]