Guillermo Rigondeaux In Tough vs. Nonito Donaire

Lou Eisen / February 17, 2013 - 7:17pm

On April 13, 2013, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (W31, KO20, L1) will step into the ring at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City to face Cuban ex pat Guillermo Rigondeaux (W11, KO8) for the WBO super bantamweight world title and something else called, the WBA Super world super bantamweight world title. That was always the plan regarding Donaire’s next title defense, after his 3 round demolition of future Hall of Famer Jorge Arce.

Now, there has been a lot of talk in the press over the previous 2 months or so that Donaire was close to signing a contract to face Abner Mares, the reigning WBC super bantamweight world champion, in a unification fight that would leave the division with only one world champion. That fight was never close to happening at all. That didn’t stop fight fans worldwide from drooling with excitement at the possibility of a super fight between these two turbo-charged power punchers and the ensuing fistic fireworks that would most certainly occur. However, as often happens in pro boxing, the fans were being misled at every turn.

There was never at any time a contract in place for a possible super bantamweight unification title fight between Donaire and Mares, the two stalwart champions of he division. No serious discussions took place between the promoters of both champions. Each promoter made moves in order to save face and fool the public into believing that they were both interested in such a mega fight.

In fact, not only was a Donaire-Mares clash never close to happening, there was virtually no interest at all in such a fight from Donaire’s promoter, Top Rank Promotions. What this means was that the 3 million dollars offered to Donaire by Mares promoter, Golden Boy Promotions was merely for show and nothing else. Top Rank never took the GBP offer seriously. GBP could have offered 10 million dollars to Donaire to risk his title against Mares and the answer would still have been negative from Top Rank.

Simply stated, Donaire, the current WBO super bantamweight world champion, was always scheduled to fight Cuban ex pat Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13, 2013. Both Mares and Donaire said publicly that they would like to fight each other to unify the title once and for all. Privately both warriors knew that such a fight would not take place this year or possibly ever. Why? That question can be answered in two words: Bob Arum. At this point in time, Arum will only allow his world champions to face other fighters if they are under contract to Top Rank Promotions.  This way, if one of his titlists loses his belt, it will be against another Top Rank fighter and the title will remain under the control of Arum. Arum’s hatred for Golden Boy Promotions and, in particular, their president Richard Schaeffer, is so profound that he will not allow any of his fighters to face any fighter currently under contract to Golden Boy Promotions.

What this means is, if Mares wants to fight Donaire sometime in the future, he will have to leave GBP and join Top Rank to get that chance. That is not likely to happen.

What does this all mean for the super bantamweight division? Well, first off, it means goodbye to Donaire-Mares and hello to Donaire-Rigondeaux. This is a fight that will draw reasonable fan interest but it certainly is not the title bout that fight fans originally wanted to see.

There is no doubt among boxing insiders that Donaire will be a huge step up in talent for Rigondeaux. He has very few recognizable names on his roster and only 11 pro fights to his credit. His press releases always like to remind us that he was the best amateur boxer ever. Even if that were to be true, it would still matter little in the professional ranks.

Let’s remember, there was another fighter several decades ago who was also considered the greatest amateur fighter ever. His name was Mark Breland. He did win a welterweight world title but he was never as dominant in the pros as he was in the amateurs. Today Breland is one of the top trainers in boxing.

Rigondeaux has been dominant in the pros so far, albeit against very limited opposition. What is most disturbing to some boxing experts and especially to members of Rigondeaux’s inner circle, is how often Rigondeaux has been hit and rocked in his brief pro career to date. His defense is not where it should be for a fighter as supposedly skilled as Rigondeaux.  In the ring, the Cuban born Florida native, often leaves his hands down by his side and sticks his chin out in an effort to bait his already over matched opponents. Such tactics often come off as showboating. Either way, he has paid the price for his insolence with his chin. Against an elite champion like Donaire, such tactics would certainly lead to a quick exit from the ring.

Rigondeaux’s balance always seems to be a bit off in the ring, almost as if he is unsure of himself, making him afraid to commit fully to any particular boxing stance. He often keeps his legs too far apart. That is a recipe for disaster. This detracts heavily from his defense. Having his legs a certain distance apart no doubt helps him withstand incoming power shots. However, when his legs are too far apart, he is off balance and unprepared to fend off multiple punch combinations. Rigondeaux has another habit he would be well of to get rid of, which is that he often stops to admire his punches after they land. He is slow to bring his jab back and is therefore easy to hit with a stiff counter shot, which is why you often see him getting rocked during his matches.

The question arises of course, why doesn’t his trainer correct this flaw during training camp sessions? The answer to that question is simple yet frustrating. Rigondeaux is not a very good student while in training and has thus far in his career displayed a disturbing lack of attention in the gym when it comes to receiving instructions from his trainer.

In fact, Rigondeaux does not like to train, period. Most fighters do not enjoy training but it is a necessary evil that all fighters must master if they hope to reach the upper echelons of the sport. Successful world champions all have on thing in common, which is discipline. If a fighter has no discipline while training, he will most certainly have little of it inside the squared circle. Lack of discipline is a recipe for future disaster. Team Rigondeaux has released statements to the press recently stating that he has mended his wayward ways and has improved his discipline and concentration while in training camp. It will be easy to see against Donaire whether or not Team Rigondeaux is in fact telling the truth.

Some boxing fans may not even be aware of the fact that at one time, Freddie Roach, one of the top trainers in the world, had signed on to train Rigondeaux. That arrangement did not work well nor did it last long due to Rigondeaux’s obstinate refusal to take any direction whatsoever from the famed Roach. Apparently Rigondeaux always arrived several hours late for training. Roach, a man with little patience at the best of times, didn’t take long to rid himself of Rigondeaux.

One of the problems plaguing Rigondeaux, according to fight critics is that he has yet to face a creditable opponent that fans recognize. Likewise, he has not faced anyone who has pushed him to the limit of his vast skill set. Donaire will force Rigondeaux to fight 3 minutes of every round and employ all of his incredible boxing skills. Rigondeaux has yet to face an opponent that his fans would recognize during his short professional career. He has only had 11 professional fights against a variety of second-rate fighters. Yes, he does hold the WBA featherweight world title, for whatever that is worth, which is not very much these days.

There are very few people in boxing who believe that Rigondeaux is a bona fide draw in the sport, let alone a PPV draw. Donaire is a known entity and it is his name that will sell this fight. No one can say for sure precisely how he will react when he steps up to engage one of the elite fighters in the world. Also, the other question mark that will most surely be answered on fight night is how Rigondeaux’s chin will hold up against Donaire, a world-class knockout artist.

In Donaire, Rigondeaux will be facing a man who is his superior in terms of talent, skill set, experience, and ring generalship. One other thing Rigondeaux must take into consideration as well is that Donaire possess virtually no fear of him or of his past amateur accomplishments. That doesn’t mean Donaire won’t be wary of him or respectful of his skills and power.  What it does mean is that Donaire will fight his fight and impose his will regardless of whatever Rigondeaux does in the ring during the fight. While there is no doubt whatsoever that Donaire is a HUGE step up in competition for Rigondeaux, it is safe to say that Rigondeaux is not by any means the best fighter that Donaire has ever faced.

As mentioned above earlier Rigondeaux has displayed a disturbing habit of being wobbled by pugs he theoretically should be having no problems dispatching. One can only imagine the catastrophe waiting to happen once Rigondeaux gets staggered by one of Donaire’s decapitating left hook howitzers. Unlike the other fighters he has faced in his career, when Donaire deposits him on the canvas it is a safe bet that Rigondeaux will not beat the count.  Donaire is also one of the best finishers in the sport. Rigondeaux has a tendency to come straight forward at his opponents. Against Donaire, such a style will result in his early demise unless he alters it to his own benefit by creating angles and utilizing lots of lateral movement.

Donaire’s tremendous power is even more devastating when mixed with his incredible hand speed and educated foot movement. So, in order to pull off an upset victory, Rigondeaux will have to tighten his defense significantly and improve his balance. He will also have to employ a lot of lateral and head movement to make it difficult for Donaire to tag him repeatedly. Ultimately, based on his 11 pro fights, Rigondeaux’s downfall will be the fact that he is easy to hit and that he often gets whacked flush on the jaw. Against Donaire, that is a sure ticket to defeat. Does Rigondeaux have a chance to pull off an upset? Anything is possible in boxing but logic and reasoning dictate that this fight will be over in a flash. A Filipino Flash.