By Ryan Maquiñana
Junior featherweight world champion Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. spoke to BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com Thursday afternoon regarding a proposed April 27 HBO-televised showdown with Cuban 122-pound titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux.
“Everyone’s saying April 27 is the date, and it’s Rigondeaux, but I don’t know anything about it yet, so I can’t say if it’s for sure,” Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) said. “I know HBO is wanting to get that fight now. I’m good with it, but I still need to confirm it with [manager] Cameron [Dunkin].”
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, told BoxingScene.com’s Ronnie Nathanielsz on Wednesday that such a bout would take place in Las Vegas, and not in Macau, as was previously speculated.
The 30-year-old Donaire, who was named Fighter of the Year by several media outlets including BoxingScene.com and CSNBayArea.com, initially pursued a clash with beltholder Abner Mares to open his 2013 campaign. However, negotiations have stalled mainly as a result of Top Rank’s raging rivalry with promotional archrival Golden Boy, who represents Mares.
"If we can free up Mares, that'd be a good fight,” Top Rank CEO Bob Arum told Ryan Songalia of GMA News on Wednesday. “If not, then probably Rigondeaux.”
With the Mares matchup wishful thinking at this point, Donaire was then offered three names by Dunkin—Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), Vic Darchinyan (38-5-1, 27 KOs), and featherweight titlist Chris John (48-0-2, 22 KOs). In 2007, Donaire brutally stopped Darchinyan in the fifth round, but rematch talks never materialized into something substantial.
From his home in Las Vegas, Donaire broke down his choices with this writer on Thursday, stating his preference to take on the unbeaten two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“I wanted the Mares fight, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make that, so I said, ‘Give me Rigondeaux and then Darchinyan, one after the other. Then after that, Chris John at 126 [pounds],’ ” Donaire said. “These are the three guys I want to fight this year. Let’s make it happen.”
A fight with Rigondeaux would also answer Donaire’s critics, as many of them have pleaded for the “Filipino Flash” to finally give the quick-fisted Cuban a shot at the crown.
“They said at the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to handle Darchinyan, and I proved them wrong,” Donaire said. “They said I was going to have a hard time moving up to 118 [pounds] with [Fernando] Montiel especially, and I took him out early. I always challenge myself to prove people wrong.
“All my life, I’ve always been that way. People said I couldn’t be anything, that I was too weak, or too small, and look at me now. It just motivates me to train harder. I guess now it’s more a matter of, ‘Let’s get it over with.’ I know what lies ahead of me, and I want to get there.”
The 32-year-old Rigondeaux last defended his belt in September 2012 against Roberto Marroquin. Though the flashy southpaw floored Marroquin twice and won a wide decision, he displayed tentative stretches and was on the receiving end of several hard shots from the challenger.
“I didn’t see the [Marroquin] fight, and when my fight is finalized, whoever it is, we’ll go study the tapes, but I haven’t seen too many of [Rigondeaux’s] fights,” Donaire said. “The last fight I saw him fight was against [Ricardo] Cordoba or whoever it was, I can’t remember."
In November 2010, Rigondeaux struggled to look spectacular against Cordoba, even rising from the canvas in the sixth round en route to a split decision victory to secure his first title. Keep in mind, however, that it was only Cuban’s seventh pro bout after a lengthy amateur career.
“I tuned in because everyone was raving about him, and this was the guy they were talking about?" Donaire said. "The guy gave Rigondeaux so many problems, and [Rigondeaux] kept running and running, so that’s when I said, ‘I’m not interested.’ Ever since then, I never really looked back and moved on to other guys. But now that he’s on my radar, I’m going to take his belt.”
Donaire’s wife Rachel is three months pregnant with their first child, and as a result, he will not fight from June through August—the period when she is scheduled to give birth. While Donaire is looking forward to his April ring return, the father-to-be couldn’t help but gush over the couple’s incoming addition.
“You should have seen the ultrasound,” he said. “The baby was jumping and jumping, throwing a right hook. I think we have another fighter in the family.”
The Donaires, who will celebrate their fifth anniversary in August, have already decided on a name for the baby.
“If it’s a boy, his name will be Jarel,” he said. “The letters in the name stand for Jun (Junior) and Rachel, Everlasting Love. If it’s a girl, it’ll still be Jarel, but we’ll add something to the end of the name. Either way, I’ll be happy. We wanted a baby this year, and it happened. I feel blessed.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.