RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, New York City — Forget the close unanimous decision scores (114-113, 115-112, 116-111). Tonight’s super bantamweight unification bout between Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nonito Donaire was not a close nor competitive fight, as Rigondeaux completely outboxed a clueless Donaire outside a one round where he suffered a balance knockdown. Donaire had put this fight off for some time behind the belief Rigondeaux hadn’t proven himself and wouldn’t “come to fight.” It was fitting that it was Donaire who ended the night with a busted up face and humbled spirit courtesy of the skilled Cuban exile. There’s a lot of ramifications from this fight not just for Rigondeaux and Donaire, but also for the division, Top Rank and HBO.
THE FIGHT: Rigondeaux set the tone early with a short, pin-point straight left inside that made Donaire stumble backwards. From there, Rigondeaux had Donaire’s respect. It was tense in the early rounds with each fighter using feints and waiting patiently for the other to make a mistake. Where Rigondeaux distinguished himself was in every facet of the scoring criteria. Clean punching? Rigondeaux repeatedly caught Donaire with lead southpaw right hooks and counter lefts to the body. Ring generalship? Rigo superb footwork kept Donaire’s offense ineffective while he peppered him off the backfoot. Defense? Again, the footwork aided by smooth upper body movement had Nonito’s famed left hook hitting nothing but air and gloves. And with effective aggression, Rigondeaux was the one usually getting the better of exchanges.
The crowd didn’t always love it — as we all know, Rigondeaux will coast on his leads and he didn’t break that bad habit tonight. He was content to throw a few jabs to keep Donaire honest and Walcott shuffle his way out of any danger. The crowd boos didn’t faze him. As I said last night, be mad at Donaire for not being able to adjust.
Donaire’s best moment came in the 10th when he caught a lazy Rigondeaux out of a clinch with a left hook knockdown from the southpaw stance. While the punch was solid, the fall was due to balance and Rigondeaux quickly regained control, even being able to stun Donaire late with a straight left in the closing seconds.
Rigonddeaux slowly busted up Donaire in the last two rounds. A Rigo counter left hand stifled Donaire’s attempt to rush in for a hook, causing very bad right eye swelling. Donaire immediately pawed at the wound and kept his right glove glued to his face for the rest of the 12th. Rigondeaux pushed for a stoppage with Donaire in in full retreat. However, Rigondeaux didn’t get reckless while working Donaire over with left uppercuts, crosses and right hooks. You could see Donaire looking for a backfoot opening, much like his recent one-punch late knockdown of Toshiaki Nishioka, but Rigondeaux remained too elusive.
If it wasn’t for the knockdown, I would have scored this fight a shutout for Rigondeaux.
DONAIRE’S RIDICULOUS EXCUSES: Donaire’s post-fight interview started real well as he gave Rigondeaux full credit for his boxing lesson.
The last two rounds I got stupid… I wanted to take him out so bad. I have much respect for the beautiful boxing he gave me.
From there, Donaire elicited boos from the crowd when he claimed most of his training with Robert Garcia was done long-distance, he had weight issues, a shoulder injury and didn’t study any tape of Rigondeaux’s style. The last point is what did it for me. How could you not prepare for someone as slick and tricky as Rigondeaux, especially when your last fight in NYC was the 2011 stinker at Madison Square Garden that was the Omar Navaez fight? It just boggles the mind that in a boxing era where one bad loss is a huge setback that Donaire wouldn’t make sure his preparation was top notch.
Donaire all but dismissed a rematch in saying he plans to move up to featherweight. A few years back there was talk of him doing that to face someone like Yuriorkis Gamba, but Donaire’s power is already diminished at super bantam and he loses all of his size advantage at a higher weight. I bet Nonito really wishes that Abner Mares fight would’ve been made over this one.
Top Rank and HBO have invested a lot in the Donaire brand over the last year. One loss doesn’t erase his great 2012 and “Fighter of the Year” honors, but how they move him from here will be interesting. There aren’t any big name, come-forward sluggers for him to smack around anymore like Jorge Arce, and a Rigondeaux rematch would go much like the first.
Don’t feel too bad for Nonito, though. I’m sure he found solace in the ample pregnant bosom of his beautiful wife Rachel. If you watched last night’s fight, you saw a stunning ending shot of Ms. Donaire displaying why pregnancy does a body good for some women. I didn’t screen capture it and even the below shot doesn’t do her complete justice, but you’ll get the idea.
FANS ARE ROBBED OF MARES-RIGONDEAUX: We saw how the bullshit between Golden Boy and Top Rank caused the Mares-Donaire negotiations to collapse before they even got any traction. What we all want to see is someone who can really make Rigondeaux open up and fight for a full three minutes of each round, and the only guy at super bantamweight who can do that is Abner Mares. The sad reality of 2013 boxing politics is we’ll never see it, which is why Mares has already left the division and faces Daniel Ponce de Leon next month.
THE SCORING: One last point about the scoring. Having regularly attended fights ringside over the last few years, I can say that there are times when fights live can be very much different from how they appear on TV. Ringside you can get the impact of blows much clearer than on TV depending on the fighter. But regarding this fight, I can’t see it. Yes, there wasn’t many punches connecting between them, but Rigondeaux was clearly landing the more effective and clean shots (especially the counter punches). Furthermore, if the so-called “4 points of judging criteria” are truly taught and followed (clean punching, effective aggression, defense, ring generalship), there’s no conceivable way this fight could be close. Outside of the few seconds he went down, Rigondeaux controlled every aspect of this fight.