By Ivan G. Goldman
Top Rank’s Bob Arum was so intent on placing the Nonito Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux super bantamweight unification match in New York that when he couldn’t make an April 13 deal for Madison Square Garden, he apparently settled for Radio City Music Hall, a less than stellar venue for boxing.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
But the auditorium now has big viewing screens and presumably they would be turned on for the show. I use the word “apparently” because Top Rank has yet to make an official announcement. Details are leaking out, but an about-face is still possible.
Promoters often try to avoid staging fights in New York because its tax tentacles reach deep, particularly into fighters’ purses. What surely helped prompt Arum’s choice of cities was the Boxing Writers Association of America. Tipped that the fight would be that weekend in the Big Apple, the group had already set its 88th annual awards dinner for Thursday April 11 in New York. Donaire can pick up his Fighter of the Year award there and receive a strong jolt of publicity from fight writers and photographers who would get an easy story delivered to their tables. As Manny Pacquiao’s star fades, Arum is counting more on the personable Donaire, 30, to pick up straying fans.
Disclosure: I’m a BWAA member. For some years now the BWAA has confined its annual dinner to either New York or Las Vegas, always synchronizing it with a fight card that draws a lot of boxing people into the city.
In 2000, back when Roy Jones was rolling over cops and other part-time fighters on HBO, he faced David Telesco in Radio City Music Hall. With the ring up on the stage, almost all of the seats were lumped on one side of the theater, and relatively few on-site fans enjoyed decent viewing. Jones won every round on two of the three cards. In those days the talented Jones was like a traveling emperor whose wishes were respected. He thought it would be cool to stage a fight in the legendary home of the Rockettes. The auditorium, a fine setting for show biz, is roughly as fan-friendly for boxing as a power outage. It normally seats about 6,000.
HBO has said it will televise the April 13 show. Donaire, 31-1 (20 KOs), competed once before in New York, decisioning undefeated Omar Andres Narvaez of Argentina in October 2011 in Madison Square Garden, but the fight was a stinker. The Filipino Flash won every round on all three judges’ cards against a fighter interested only in surviving. Turnout was a respectable 4,500.
That was Donaire’s last fight as a bantamweight. He surrendered his WBC and WBO belts and in his next outing won the vacant WBO super bantamweight title by defeating Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Narvaez, who was actually a 115-pound fighter, had never fought in the U.S. before and never came back. At age 37 he still competes in Argentina and holds the WBO junior bantamweight title with a record of 38-1-2 (20 KOs).
Donaire-Rigondeaux could presumably have drawn a bigger crowd in California, where Donaire, a personable young man, has a sizable following. Born in the Philippines, he lives in Northern California and is conversant in English or Tagalog. Rigondeaux, 11-0 (8 KOs), who fled Castro-land four years ago and resides in Miami, still doesn’t know enough English to handle an English language interview without a translator. He’s a talented fighter whose fervent fans could all fit in a single-decker bus. Arum, who promotes both fighters, would have to be crazy to want the Cuban, who is now 32, to win this one, but the match-up is competitive. Everyone has a theory on how it will go, but these are both quick men who can hit. In fact, they’re so quick that we could see a tactical contest with each fighter waiting for the other to make a mistake. But I optimistically forecast an excellent fight between two fine athletes at the top of their game.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. It may cure adverse medical conditions. Discontinue use if anything goes wrong. Information HERE