By Ivan G. Goldman
Bob Arum, though he promotes both fighters, cannot be happy with Guillermo Rigondeaux’s unanimous decision victory over “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire. Why? Try to name all the Cuban defectors who have become popular with American fight fans. That’s right — none. And despite his great gifts, it’s unlikely that undefeated Rigondeaux will be the first.
Photos: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
Arum has himself to blame for this blow to his business. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer tried to make a deal to put his Abner Mares in the ring with Donaire, but all he got in return was insults. So Mares went up to featherweight and eventually Arum found it necessary to put his very likable Donaire into the ring with stone-faced Rigondeaux, who’s been in Miami four years, yet has apparently made no effort to learn English.
Now Donaire’s brand has suffered and southpaw Rigondeaux, though he proved himself a master once again, still won’t draw a crowd. If Arum had any sense he’d call Golden Boy in the morning and eat some crow. Actually, I take that back because Arum makes plenty of sense for a guy who’d rather hurt his enemies than put together the best possible matches. He figures he’s got plenty of fighters and besides, once-mighty HBO boxing is now in his back pocket. If it wasn’t obvious before, it was after the network spent the first twelve minutes of the New York telecast doing an infomercial for Arum’s Zou “Fists of Gold” Shiming, who at age 32 is now 1-0 (0 KOs). If he’s the future of boxing, I’m Secretary of Commerce.
The financial powers who rule the sport have steadily squeezed boxing into a niche sport. It was a short-sighted process that developed simultaneously with their discovery of closed-circuit broadcasting more than forty years ago (which evolved into pay-per-view events), and meant most of the bigger fights would be closed off to the general public. It seems they won’t be satisfied until they’ve squashed boxing flat.
HBO execs, steamed over losing Floyd Mayweather to blood enemy Showtime, vow they will henceforth do no business with Golden Boy. Not a smart play. And how much does this ridiculous Hatfield-McCoy feud help fans? Not even a little bit.
Other facts and impressions from the title unification that left a stunningly talented fighter who could fit all his American fans into a club car at the top of the junior featherweight division:
* Roy Jones once again proved his value as an analyst. For example, this time he knew immediately why Donaire placed his glove over his right eye and kept it there in round twelve. He was seeing double when he opened it.
* No one enjoyed the outcome more than Gary Shaw, who used to promote Donaire. After Donaire quit him for Arum, I was in the room when Shaw, filled with bile, referred to Donaire as a “little dog.” Not terribly classy.
* Teddy Atlas had it right again.
* Good job from Harold Lederman.
* Crappy job from judge John Stewart, who had it for the winner by only one point.
* Rigondeaux proved faster than Donaire. In fact, he may well have the fastest power punch in the game. Donaire was a polished veteran who, unless he sparred with guys from another planet, had never in his career felt such strong punching combined with that much speed. It confused him.
* It didn’t help Donaire to have stayed up late Thursday night to pick up that Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America at its annual banquet. However, the BWAA (Full disclosure: I’m a member) should have arranged it so Donaire, fighting the same weekend, went on early and got out fast.
* Any promoter who stages a card in Radio City Music Hall, which seats fans only on one side of the ring, shows unbelievable contempt for fans. Any fight writers who swallow the promoter’s line of crap that this was good for boxing must have left their minds back in the bar.
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a 2009 Notable Book by the American Library Association. Information HERE