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HBO Boxing Preview: Donaire vs. Rigondeaux at Radio City Music Hall


By: William Holmes

At long last fight fans have a championship bout between the top two legitimate fighters in their division. If you look at the top two fighters in any division a myriad of reasons, or excuses, exist as to why those two fighters refuse to engage with each other.

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Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Financial issues, promoter disputes, urine tests, blood tests, mandatory challengers, and yes even blood relations have caused boxing fans headaches and have prevented them from seeing real and universally recognized matchups between the best in any division.

However, it appears that there are some fights on the horizon that promise to break that mold and deliver the action and competition that we all salivate.

And on Saturday night, two of the world’s best in the junior featherweight division will collide at Radio City Music Hall to bring us one of the most competitive and evenly matched up fights on paper of the year.

Nonito Donaire (31-1) will put his WBO Super Bantamweight Title on the line against Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0), who will be defending his WBA Super World Super Bantamweight title.

Many pundits feel that Donaire has too much professional experience for Rigondeaux and that it’s too early in his career for Rigondeaux to face a fighter with Donaire’s talent. Donaire has been fighting professionally since 2001 while Rigondeaux has only been boxing professionally since 2009, and Rigondeaux is two years older than Donaire.

However, nobody can match the amateur experience of Guillermo Rigondeaux. He’s a two time gold medalist and has over 400 fights as an amateur. Over 400 fights on the highest levels of the amateur circuit are worth more than 20 professional fights against nobodies and has beens.

Donaire believes his experience will be a factor if the fights goes into the later rounds. He stated at a recent conference call, “When it comes down to speed-power and power and tactical ability then my experience will come in handy in terms of pushing through and going all-out and going more rounds I think that is going to be a big factor when it comes down to we are evenly matched. If it comes down to speed and power then my experience will be an ace for me but that is something we will need to find out – if he is stronger than me or faster than me.”

Rigondeaux realizes that this fight is more valuable than any of his previous gold medals. He stated, “The amateur accomplishments that I have had I want to repeat on a professional level. Like I said before, beating Nonito would be beating the best in the division. I have great respect for Nonito and I think he is a great fighter. Beating him would be a great accomplishment in itself. If we beat him we can say we are true professionals. He can stop talking about me as an amateur. A win absolutely would be a bigger accomplishment than the Gold Medals.”

So who has the advantage on Saturday night?

Donaire will have a slight height and reach advantage, but they are about even on the speed department. Rigondeaux has the edge in counter punching ability, while Donaire has the edge in ability to attack offensively. They both have the ability to end a fight. Donaire has stopped 20 of his 31 opponents while Rigondeaux has stopped 8 of his 11 opponents.

Donaire certainly has the more impressive professional resume. He’s defeated the likes of Jorge Arce, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jeffrey Mathebula, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Omar Andres Narvaez, Fernando Montiel, and Vic Darchinyan.

Rigondeaux hasn’t faced the same quality of opposition and he was not impressive in his victory over Ricardo Cordoba, but he absolutely dominated Willie Casey, Rico Ramos, Robert Marroquin, and he plowed through Philadelphia fighter Teon Kennedy.

Rigondeaux can be caught, he was knocked down by Cordoba, and Donaire does not possess the best defense in the world. Both Vazquez and Mathebula hit Donaire way too often.

This is a fight that is quite simply too close to call. But Donaire has never faced an opponent with the speed and reflexes of Rigondeaux, and Rigondeaux’s high level amateur experience should help him win a close and exciting decision victory.

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