By Kirk Jackson
This past weekend, Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux met in what was supposed to be a battle of the ages featuring two of the best fighters below 130 pounds.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
It was a very good tactical fight, any boxing purist would surely appreciate and it was also a one sided dominant performance by the Cuban star Rigondeaux.
Many pieces to the puzzle were configured with the conclusion of this enormous fight that took place this past weekend and many questions were answered.
After unifying the WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine Super Bantamweight titles, it was established that Rigondeaux is the class of the super bantam weight (122) division. The only guy left who can pose a threat is Abner Mares, who was by the way defeated by Rigondeaux in the amateurs.
It’s uncertain whether that fight will come into fruition with Mares fighting under the Golden Boy umbrella and with Rigondeaux being represented by Top Rank Promotions.
Mares is moving up in weight and has a fight against Daniel Ponce De Leon next month for the WBC Featherweight title, so the future possibility of seeing a Rigondeaux/Mares clash may depend on the outcome of the fight next month.
Either way, Rigondeaux although not recognized by “The Ring” is a top 10 pound for pound fighter, arguably top 5. He may stay at super bantamweight and continue to dominate or he may decide to chase bigger names at featherweight. He is in the driver’s seat and will be a problem for anyone going forward.
For Donaire, his path may be a little more complicated.
There has been a lot to talk about within the boxing community, whether it be amongst internet forums o various publications about Donaire’s performance and the legitimacy surrounding the hype he was receiving the past couple years or so. There were many questions that were answered in his last fight.
Many people may say Donaire was exposed. Not necessarily. He fought the best guy in his division, who has a style that presents many problems.
Not too many fighters perform well against slick, south paw, counter-punching, defensive masterminds.
With that said, prior to facing Rigondeaux, Donaire’s last four or five opponents weren’t all that great and did not prepare Donaire for what he was about to face in Rigondeaux. Especially with fighting Jorge Arce and Toshiaki Nishioka, guys on the door step of retirement.
Some of the excuses provided by Donaire’s camp, having the bad shoulder, being in the process of moving to another state, preparing for a baby, lack of physical training with his head trainer, weight issues, these are all viable excuses.
But even with all that going on, he still has a job to do and his lack of preparation was a disservice to himself and disrespectful to a talented fighter like Rigondeaux. The fight would probably turn out the same way even if those things weren’t going on, because Rigondeaux has the style and is just a better fighter.
There will not be a rematch, there is really no point. But not all is lost for Donaire.
He is still a really good fighter. He was not all hype. Four division champion and despite his sound defeat, he is still listed in the “Ring Magazine” top 10 p4p list. Even though for some reason Rigondeaux isn’t even listed in the top 10.
After Donaire undergoes surgery for his shoulder, has his baby and gets things settled, he can move forward in the featherweight division as planned.
There will be new challenges awaiting him at featherweight, guys like Daniel Ponce De Leon, Abner Mares, long time champion Chris John, Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido and Juanma Lopez.
And that’s not even mentioning being able to make the successful transition of carrying the speed and power to the new weight class.
Although I would love to see a fight with any of the featherweights mentioned, I’d also like to see a fight with Donaire and Yuriokis Gamboa or against Gary Russell Jr. at some point. It’s unlikely to happen with Gamboa and Russell being super featherweights, but one can dream right?
What is likely to happen is a fight for Donaire against Juanma Lopez. In the past there were talks with these two potentially fighting, and it would make sense for both guys.
Lopez has shown his vulnerability and disregard for defense in fights and displayed the tenacity to give and receive big punches. Although he does possess impressive boxing skills, at the core he is an action fighter and that can play well into Donaire’s hands as he has shown the ability to perform well against these kind of fighters.
It will be a tough road, but look for Donaire to come back strong later this year or early next year. And look for Rigondeaux to continue to dominant and gain the notoriety he deserves.