By Ivan G. Goldman
Tired of fighters ducking each other? So are Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux. HBO has reportedly confirmed it’s signed them onto its TV calendar for April 13. Site to be determined.
Apparently promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank so loathes his rivals running Golden Boy that he’s willing to pit his top two super bantams against each other, ensuring one will lose, rather than cave in to their pressure for a bout against Golden Boy’s Abner Mares.
Donaire, 30, is virtually everyone’s 2012 Fighter of the Year. He holds the WBO title. Rigondeaux, 32, is the WBA champ, which makes their contest a unification bout. Various details of the event are seeping out to Arum’s pet scribes while outmaneuvered Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions stand out in the cold watching events through a hole in the fence. It has to be frustrating to Mares.
Mares, who saw the handwriting on the wall, had already said he’d be moving up to featherweight, where he may end up fighting Daniel Ponce de Leon, a Golden Boy fighter who holds the WBC title. But Mares has made comments about moving back into the super bantam picture if he can find the right opportunities there.
The long standoff between Mares at one end and Donaire and Rigondeaux at the other exemplifies the increasing Balkanization of the boxing business, in which too many fighters are closed off from each other for business reasons. The networks are also part of the problem. Both Showtime and HBO angle for exclusive contracts with fighters that prevent them from crossing the TV line to the other side.
Donaire, Rigondeaux, and Mares are all blessed with power, movement, and a fan following, though Rigondeaux, a Cuban escapee who fights out of Miami, can’t claim the same popularity as the other two. Donaire versus Mares would have been the bigger fight in terms of money generated. The three of them have a cumulative record of 67-1 -1 (41 KOs).
Golden Boy’s Schaefer has proposed different ways to put together a Donaire-Mares showdown, but Arum has met his attempts with insults. In the meantime though, Arum has had to keep Donaire, who is eager to compete in important contests, placated. Donaire, whose ring moniker is “The Filipino Flash,” is peeling away fans from Manny Pacquiao, whose star has lost some of its luster. Donaire was born in the Philippines and raised in Northern California. Like Pacquiao, he’s comfortable speaking in English or Tagalog. He fought and won four times last year. A full schedule like that is practically unheard of these days for world-class fighters. It had much to do with his romping over other candidates for Fighter of the Year honors. He also impressed fans and fight writers by putting up his own money to enter Dr. Margaret Goodman’s VADA program on a year-round basis. He is subject to testing for PEDs at any time.
Rigondeaux, also busy, fought three times last year. Though his pro experience is limited, he’s a two-time Olympic Gold medalist who vaulted over the intermediate stage after getting out of Castro-land and into pro ranks. He fights out of a southpaw stance, making him more of a problem to opponents.
The Donaire-Rigondeaux pairing is the kind of balls-to-the-wall contest that fans thirst for. It offers huge opportunities and awful consequences for both fighters.
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a 2009 Notable Book by the American Library Association. Information HERE