By Jake Donovan
Nonito Donaire returns to the ring for the first time in 2013, coming on the heels of a 2012 Fighter of the Year campaign that saw the Fil-Am star rack up four wins while earning the lineal 122 lb. championship in the process.
As big of a year as Donaire (31-1, 20KO) had in 2012, it can be argued that none of his opponents – all of whom were rated in the Top 10 at the time of the fight – are as tough a challenge as what awaits him this weekend at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (Saturday, HBO 11PM ET).
Unbeaten 122 lb. titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8KO) has lobbied for a Donaire showdown from the moment the three-division champ moved up from bantamweight last year. The Cuban star finally gets his wish and is fully prepared to back up his claim, going as far as to say that a win over Donaire would mean more to him than the two Olympic Gold medals he won over the course of his incredible amateur career.
Many see this fight – on paper – as Donaire’s stiffest challenge to date. Proof? Few if any picked against the reigning 122 lb. king in any of his past five fights, while several experts believe Saturday will bring a close to a winning streak that dates back to his second pro fight.
How does the staff at Boxingscene.com see all of the action going down? Read on to find out.
B-SCENE PREDICTIONS – NONITO DONAIRE v. GUILLERMO RIGONDEAUX
“Rigondeaux by decision, I had Donaire till I saw Rigondeaux workout earlier this week. He's extremely focused and seems to be the hungrier opponent.”
- Damien Acevedo (Rigondeaux)
“I expect a very tactical fight for the few first few rounds as the fighters feel each other out. There is a lot of intrigue in this fight. Is Donaire focused with the birth of his first child around the corner? Will he lose his patience and force the action if Rigondeaux won't engage? Rigondeax appears very focused and appears very confident. I think Donaire might get rocked a time or two but will catch the Cuban late. Donaire TKO 11”
- Ryan Burton (Donaire)
“This could be a pick I live to regret (though certainly no worse than any other big fight I’ve gotten massively wrong). Donaire always rises to the occasion when stakes are highest, notably with knockout wins over Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel to highlight an already brilliant career. I have a hunch those good fortunes end here. The risk in liking Rigondeaux is believing he will be active enough to not get robbed against the reigning 122 lb. king and Fighter of the Year. The belief here is that he understands the stakes going in and pulls off the upset in the end. Rigondeaux by split nod.”
- Jake Donovan (Rigondeaux)
“Rigondeaux W 12. As impressed as I've been by Donaire's blitz through the last few years, I think he's vulnerable to a technician who can exploit his holes. I think Rigondeaux, provided he's got the mettle to get through some adversity, is that guy. If the Cuban is sturdy and vertical after four rounds, I think he'll end up winning eight of 12 on the cards.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Rigondeaux)
“As much as people seem to think that Donaire is distracted he also knows this is one tough fight. I think early on it will be interesting at some point he hurts Rigondeaux. From that point forward it turns into a chess match with Donaire winning banking rounds along the way. Donaire UD”
- Ernie Gabion (Donaire)
“Nonito's power will be too much for the slick Cuban. Look for Rigondeaux to outbox Donaire in the first few rounds until Donaire finds his rhythm. Unless Rigo stays on his bicycle the entire fight, Donaire won't allow him to see the final bell. Donaire TKO10”
- Tim Kudgis (Donaire)
“If Rigondeaux can jump out to an early lead, he could theoretically make Donaire take more chances and find opportunities to counterpunch his way to victory. However, I think we’ll see a relatively even chess match for the first six frames before Donaire’s experience and ring generalship give him the edge as the bout progresses. Donaire by decision”
- Ryan Maquinana (Donaire)
“This may be the toughest fight to predict all year. We have a legit top 5 pound for pound in Donaire against a guy who's still finding his pro identity after what may be the greatest amateur boxer career ever. Boxing wisdom says this will be a chess match of a fight. Recent boxing wisdom also said that Tim Bradley couldn't produce an action fight and that Alvarado would lose his rematch in much the same fashion as he lost his first fight to Rios. I'm just glad two great boxers from the same division have decided to step into the right together - both fighters and the fans are winners because of that. Intuition pick - Donaire W12.”
- Richard Najdowski (Donaire)
“Donaire KO: If this thing devolves into the sort of "you lead...no, you" fight that Omar Narvaez was, Donaire can lose. Rigondeaux's offense might be sparse but he has some and he's excellent defensively. That said, for now we know much more about Donaire as a professional and against a far higher level of professional opposition. He typically comes up big in big situations and he's still got lethal power four divisions up from his first professional title. It may not be a thriller, but it should have a thrilling end.”
- Cliff Rold (Donaire)
“Donaire-Rigondeaux should be a tactical, yet exciting fight. If it is a chess match, that might favor Rigondeaux, even though Donaire has a very good trainer in Robert Garcia. I think Rigondeaux will want to find a home for straight and counter left hands to the head. If he is able to do that, Donaire will have to move more side-to-side. I do think Donaire will rely on his athleticism to beat Rigondeaux to the punch. Expect a flash knockdown in the fight and it could prove the difference in Donaire winning a very close decision.”
- Francisco Salazar (Donaire)
“Donaire UD - Tough fight to call but I have to go with Donaire's pro experience and track record. Rigondeaux is one of the best amateurs to ever lace them up but he's shown vulnerability against lesser opponents in Ricardo Cordoba and Robert Marroquin. I wouldn't be shocked to see Rigondeaux dethrone Donaire but he'll have to prove me wrong in this one. I think we see Rigondeaux with success early on but Donaire finishes strong in a chess match with some spurts of action.”
- Luis Sandoval (Donaire)
“Rigondeaux by Majority Decision. I'll go with an underdog here. Indeed, Donaire is much more experienced as a pro but let's not forget of an enormous amateur background of the Cuban star. Plus he has been fighting at the championship level for two and a half years already - he is not a rookie. Of the two, Rigondeaux is more polished, more flexible and has a better defense. They are even with their speed and technique, and the Pinoy Wonder has seemingly more power but that is up for debate. The Cuban will survive an early onslaught, trap Donaire into a slower pace and narrowly outpoint him in a tactical affair.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Rigondeaux)
Totals: Nonito Donaire 8, Guillermo Rigondeaux 4
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: @JakeNDaBox