COMMENTARY | For a fighter at the top of his game and considered by many experts to be one of the four or five best in the sport, Nonito Donaire looked pretty awful in his last bout. On April 13, the media darling and forced heir apparent to the rabid Manny Pacquiao Filipino fan base wandered aimlessly around the ring, swinging at air like a five-fight novice and frozen in his tracks by his opponent's perfectly-executed fundamental footwork. It was an ugly display of boxing ignorance in the face of a brilliant exhibition of boxing class. To use a baseball analogy, Donaire looked like a Triple-A rookie facing his first all-star slider.
But, apparently, one should blame his opponent, mean ol' Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, for the poor showing.
"...but he didn't want to engage," Donaire told Boxingscene in a post-fight interview. "That was the problem, he didn't want to engage..."
Maybe it would've been best for all those involved if Rigondeaux had offered up his chin on a platter and/or propped himself up in a corner to helplessly absorb power shot after power shot from 'The Filipino Flash."
That sure would've been the preferred strategy for promoter Bob Arum, who is less than enthusiastic about trying to promote Rigondeaux in the wake of his biggest career victory, as well as premium cable channel, HBO, which has decided not to broadcast Rigondeaux's next bout. (As of this writing, attempts to contact HBO for comment have gone unanswered)
Not only did Rigondeaux expose Donaire as somewhat less than what he was hyped to be, but he upset the entire Arum daydream of one day seamlessly transferring all of Pacquiao's mad support to Donaire when Manny retires. And HBO, not in the business of caring about little men, could care even less about one not possibly inheriting a good chunk of Pacquiaomania. The stuff about Rigondeaux being boring or lacking enough drawing potential is a smokescreen. After all, this is the network that still insists on airing go-nowhere Yuriorkis Gamboa fights full of backtracking and air jabs to the soundtrack of a fawning HBO announce crew.
While it's true that a defensive specialist can make life difficult for an opponent if he comes to the ring merely looking to stay alive, this really wasn't the case with Rigondeaux. But even if the Cuban had decided to play a full twelve rounds of prevent defense, a fighter as highly regarded by the experts as Donaire should have plenty of ways to force the fight out of the runner.
But Donaire had no answers. No jab or double jab. No cutting off the ring. No timed shots. No traps. No Plan B. After all was said and done, all he had were excuses.
His shoulder was hurt, he struggled with weight, he was distracted by the upcoming birth of his son, he had severed ties with strength and conditioning coach, Victor Conte, he had a disjointed training camp. And, on top of that, Rigondeaux ran.
Now, heaped on the pile of excuses, is his assertion that he didn't even care about the fight and was, actually, close to retirement.
"I felt like I had accomplished everything I set out to," Donaire told RingTV. "I had won titles in multiple divisions, had made it onto pound-for-pound lists. I was ready to quit...But my mind wasn't really 100 percent on the fight. I honestly didn't care about it that much. Most of the time, I was thinking about my kid."
Huh? So, Nonito is such a great dad that he forgot how to double up a jab or cut off the ring?
All of this would make some sort of case for Donaire, if one looked at the fight with an untrained eye. But Donaire didn't get schooled because he was distracted or out of shape. He lost because he simply didn't know how to handle what Rigondeaux was doing. It was a lack of skill that cost him that fight and not a lack of ability.
There's no doubt that Donaire is a real world class fighter, but if he's truly interested in being an elite in the sport and not just an entertaining media darling, he needs to go back in the gym and put in those long hours to perfect his craft. True pound for pound elite don't have such glaring holes in their game.
Most likely, though, Team Donaire will just be a lot more careful when picking opponents.
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.
Sources: Boxingscene, RingTV
- Sports & Recreation
- Nonito Donaire
- Guillermo Rigondeaux
- Manny Pacquiao