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Nacho Beristain Picks Rigondeaux Over Donaire in 'Sink or Swim' Showdown

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COMMENTARY | While most boxing experts and more than a fair share of the hardcore fans are picking Nonito Donaire over Guillermo Rigondeaux in this Saturday's stellar junior featherweight clash at Radio City Music Hall, Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain is waving the flag of the underdog.

"I think Rigondeaux will win," Beristain recently told ESPN Latino. "He's a tough fighter, experienced, he has a great sense of distance. Everybody is talking about Nonito Donaire's punch, but I think if the other guy (Rigondeaux) applies himself, he'll eat him alive. (Rigondeaux) has everything; he can complicate things to a great degree. He left behind the amateur style and has the mark of something special. Personally, it wouldn't be a surprise. If he applies himself and does what he knows, (a Rigondeaux win) shouldn't be a surprise."

The current trainer of Juan Manuel Marquez and Jhonny Gonzalez, among others, is a stickler for the finer points of the sweet science and one who insists on a certain level of technical perfection in his fighters. His work with hall of famer Ricardo "Finito" Lopez serves as testament to what Beristain's ideal fighter may look like and think like.

While the two-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBA 122 lb. titlist, Guillermo, may be the +185 betting underdog in this upcoming unification bout, it would be foolish to completely rule out his chance at pushing through the upset.

His chin may be questioned and the level of his opposition in the pros may be heavily scrutinized, but Rigondeaux has legitimate world class talent and, possibly, could be in possession of something more-the spark of true greatness. At 32 years of age (and some say he's older), time is running out for the Cuban star and Saturday's bout with Donaire is not exactly an easy path to main stage, pound-for-pound glory.

As for "Filipino Flash," Nonito Donaire, it could be said that he has already crossed the threshold of "next level" status and will be assuming the role of dream crusher and gate defender against Rigondeaux.

The talent of the 30-year-old Filipino-American is undeniable and his recent level of opposition has mostly quieted critics who refer back to a time when Donaire wasn't really being all that he could be. But now Donaire is fully and completely legit, with a string of solid wins over Top 10 fighters to prove it. And as a draw, Donaire just may be the biggest "little" fighter to come along since a featherweight Manny Pacquiao began his run in America with an upset stoppage of Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003.

Donaire has a lot to lose in this upcoming bout with Rigondeaux. As a matter of fact, he can possibly lose every bit of career momentum he has fought so hard to create over the last few years.

The talented pound-for-pound star has never faced anyone as technically skilled and as physically talented as Rigondeaux. That is no promoter talking point or catch phrase used to hype an event. Donaire-Abner Mares would've been a more logical, meaningful bout from a rankings point of view, but as a pure sporting event, Donaire-Rigondeaux could very well be the more competitive contest. Question marks and doubts aside, Rigondeaux is that good and, possibly, that great.

The Cuban certainly has all the trappings and fight hardware associated with someone at the elite level. But while past glories and accomplishments are good for trophy cases and scrapbooks, they do little to help a fighter when he's actually in the ring.

On Saturday, Rigondeaux will face, by far, his toughest opponent as a pro and will graduate from relatively easy pickings to the elite of elites, all in one fight. When analyzing the bout, most experts, like "Nacho" Beristain, dwell on what Rigondeaux can do. However, they fail to talk about the fact that he has actually yet to do anything against a true world class challenge.

The truth is that we just don't know what Rigondeaux is capable of doing. This is uncharted territory for him and it will truly be a case of sink or swim.


Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Source: ESPN Deportes

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