COMMENTARY | There's a reason fans and media, myself included, brought up the name of Abner Mares as the ideal next opponent for "Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire. Taking nothing away from the two-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBA junior featherweight champ, Guillermo Rigondeaux, the true legacy-defining fight for Donaire is against Mares and no amount of pre-fight hype will erase the fact that the two best 122 lb. fighters in the world will likely never meet in the ring.
Having said that, though, Cuba's Rigondeaux is a clear no. 3 at junior featherweight, right behind Mares, who will soon be moving up to featherweight for a try at Daniel Ponce de Leon's WBC 126 lb. strap. The seven-time Cuban national champ is definite world class, main stage material and he has the type of skills that Donaire has never encountered before.
On the surface, Rigondeaux is a nearly perfect fighter-- a southpaw with impeccable technique, great ring presence, and enough power to keep any opponent honest. However, there's one chink in his armor that could very well be the difference between victory and defeat this coming Saturday, April 13 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. As much as we'd like to highlight the dozens of attributes that make him a world killer, the fact of the matter is that the brilliant world champ with the million dollar talent and the stellar amateur career has a very questionable chin.
Up until now, Rigondeaux's chin has yet to be a major factor in any one of his eleven pro fights, despite suffering a knockdown via Ricardo Cordoba jab and getting rocked in his last fight, against Robert Marroquin, on at least a couple of occasions. The chin hasn't been a factor because the undefeated WBA titlist has yet to face a truly heavy-handed opponent with a world class offense.
Against Donaire, Rigondeaux will find himself across the ring from someone who is not only heavy-handed, but also an offense-minded quality closer. "The Filipino Flash" is one of the best offensive fighters in the game and it's hard to imagine him not being able to put away any dazed and vulnerable opponent, regardless of pedigree and skill-level.
In the perfect Team Rigondeaux world, their fighter would use angles and smart counter-punching to tactically dissect Donaire while keeping the Filipino-American talent offensively impotent. Rigondeaux is certainly good enough to do that for long stretches of the contest, but he's going to get hit sooner or later and he's likely to get hit with a big brain-scrambler at some point. Then, he'll be in a truly tough spot against someone with murder in his eyes.
Against guys like Cordoba and Marroquin, Rigondeaux could pull back and regroup, using his experience to bide time until his head got clear again. Donaire won't give him that opportunity. If/When Rigondeaux gets buzzed by a heavy Donaire shot, the bout can be considered all but finished.
To put it another way, the Cuban star will have to fight the perfect fight throughout twelve rounds. Any slip-ups will likely result in an ugly downfall and a highlight reel KO for Donaire.
But like any good, proud fighter, Rigondeaux is defiant, bordering on belligerent:
"This [fight] is a golden opportunity for my career," he recently told Boxingscene. "I'll be facing the best at 122 pounds, and he's earned [that position]. [But] If he think I'm easy, then I'm going to win. He has not fought anybody and playing a guitar and then playing a violin is not the same thing. I'm going to shut that stubborn Filipino's mouth and I will unify the titles."
Still, the one glaring weakness in Rigondeaux's otherwise perfect game is the reason boxing people were touting Abner Mares as the real legacy-defining bout in Donaire's career. But a three million dollar offer from Mares' promoter, Golden Boy, wasn't enough to nudge Donaire into facing Mares in a true no. 1 vs. no. 2 bout, so life goes on.
Donaire-Rigondeaux is a good fight, there's no doubt about that, but it's not the bout for Donaire. And once the fight actually begins and fists start flying, we might see why.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Nonito Donaire
- Abner Mares
- Guillermo Rigondeaux