By Luis Sandoval
Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0, 8KOs) put on a brilliant performance as he schooled Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20KOs) over twelve rounds in front of a sold out crowd at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Scores were 114-113, 115-112, and 116-111.
In a fight for super bantamweight supremacy, it was Rigondeaux who displayed his boxing acumen as he dominated and rendered Donaire ineffective for arguably the first time in his career. Donaire may have had more professional experience but it was Rigondeaux who looked like the seasoned veteran, and maybe because he was.
Rigondeaux got off to a fast start in the opening stanza of the fight as a straight left hand landed on Donaire and made him stagger back. Both fighters would open up but it was the undefeated Cuban who was getting the better of the exchanges. The left hand would be Rigodeaux’s weapon of choice throughout the contest as it would repeatedly find a home on the right side of Donaire’s face.
Donaire played the aggressor for most of the night as he fell right into Rigondeaux’s countering ways. Guillermo was landing the cleaner and harder shots. In a big surprise, Donaire’s jab was non-existent throughout the entire bout. Donaire resorted to simply following Rigondeaux around the ring and not doing much to work himself inside and often paying the price by getting countered.
By the fifth round, the fight was starting to fall into a pattern as Donaire simply could not figure out the puzzle in front of him. Donaire’s activity dropped and he looked to be loading up and looking for a single shot. Whenever he did decide to let his hands go, he missed wildly as the Cuban used movement and footwork to evade Donaire’s attack and retaliated with his own.
There wasn’t much action in the fight, as Rigondeaux put his defensive skills on display, and it drew boos from the sold out crowd. Some of the crowd was shocked that rigo continued his schooling of 2012’s Fighter of the Year. Rigondeaux didn’t even use a lot of movement as he stayed in the pocket and used his jab to set up his offense; something Donaire refused to do all night.
Donaire finally found some success in the tenth round as he put Rigondeaux down with a left hand after breaking out of a clinch. While it was Nonito’s best moment in the fight, Rigondeaux seemed unaffected by the punch as he got up and weathered the storm Donaire tried to pour on. The fight soon went back to the same pattern with Rigondeaux controlling.
To his credit, Rigondeaux closed the show strong as it was he who fought like he was behind in the fight. He caught Donaire with a left that caused a lot of swelling under the right eye of Donaire. Nonito would cover his eye for the remainder of the fight while absorbing Rigondeaux laser-like straight left hands.
In the end, Rigondeaux was awarded a unanimous decision victory with scores that seemed a bit too close and didn’t truly reflect what we saw in the ring.
While this fight was considered a 50/50 affair, it was still surprising to see Rigondeaux dominate a fighter who was on the cusp of being cemented at the top of the pound for pound rankings. For Donaire, this ends a long run of success and domination. For Rigondeaux, this was a coming out party and the proof that his skill set transcends into the professional ranks.
Many felt Donaire may have had too many distractions coming into this fight with his wife Rachel expecting their first son and breaking ties with Victor Conte and others of his team. Donaire gave Rigondeaux full credit and admitted he made mistakes that cost him the fight.
Guillermo Rigondeaux can add another world title to his ledger and he will now be viewed as one of the best fighters in the sport with the performance he put on tonight. If you weren’t sold on Rigondeaux before tonight, you should be now.
You can follow Luis Sandoval on Twitter @Truewest007. You can also tune in to BoxingScene Radio, Boxingscene’s official audio show every Tuesday from 6-8PM PST with hosts Ernest Gabion, Luis Sandoval, and Ryan Burton.