By Jake Donovan
It’s been 18 months since Nonito Donaire fought for the first time in New York City. His second trip to the Big Apple will be met with plenty of familiar faces.
Three of the four major officials who worked Donaire’s unanimous decision win over Omar Narvaez have been tabbed to officiate his lineal 122 lb. championship bout versus unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux. Included among the lot is New York-based referee Benjy Esteves, who serves as the third man for Saturday’s main event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
The three judges will Julie Lederman, Tom Schreck and John Stewart. Both Lederman and Schreck served in similar capacity for the aforementioned Donaire-Narvaez bantamweight title fight, in which Donaire won a landslide decision.
The bout marks the second lineal title defense for Donaire (31-2, 20KO), one of the many honors he racked up during a 2012 campaign deemed by the majority of the media (including Boxingscene.com and the Boxing Writers Association of America) as worthy of being named Fighter of the Year. Donaire scored four wins on the year, stopping Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce, both of which were preceded by title fight points wins over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula.
Rigondeaux (11-0, 8KO) was ringside for Donaire’s 3rd round knockout over Arce last December, though his role as spectator wasn’t by choice. The 32-year old Cuban was supposed to appear in the co-feature, but instead saw the bout fall through after his opponent Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym failed his pre-fight medical exam.
The unexpected cancelation has left Rigondeaux inactive since his points win over Robert Marroquin last September. The victory was one of three on the year for the Cuban, also scoring stoppage wins over Teon Kennedy and Rico Ramos.
The bout will air live on HBO, beginning at 11:00PM ET, Donaire’s seventh consecutive appearance on the network. Rigondeaux - a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and among the greatest amateur fighters of all time - fights for the first time on network’s flagship channel, having previously appeared on HBO PPV undercards.
Esteves has served as a boxing official for more than two decades and has quickly developed a reputation as the latest go-to guy for big fights in the New York/New Jersey region. The veteran referee served as third man for the last major main event in New York, when Mikey Garcia defeated Orlando Salido via technical decision to win a featherweight belt.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: