SAN DIEGO, April 12, 2013 – He is the 2012 Fighter of the Year, a charismatic, fan friendly personality with a winning smile and blockbuster punching power in the ring. He submits himself to random drug testing to prove he fights clean, unprecedented within the boxing community.
VIDEO: SEE NONITO DONAIRE’S GREATEST HITS (ABOVE)
But outside of the hard core fan base, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) is nowhere near as popular an athlete as he should be. He’s among the best pound for pound boxers fighting today, and he fought four times in 2012.
Saturday night’s sellout of 6,125 tickets at Radio City Music Hall in New York City (the first fight at this venue in 13 years) for Donaire’s super bantamweight championship unification bout against Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) is a sign that the 30 year-old Donaire might finally gain a little more visibility.
Rigondeaux’s professional record may seem thin, but he is a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba, and stayed in the amateur system for years until he defected to the U.S. in 2009. There is something almost mystical about the great Cuban fighters who put in hundreds, even thousands of amateur rounds away from the bright lights of Las Vegas or New York, then come to America to test their mettle.
Donaire is respectful of Rigondeaux, age 32, but however polite he doesn’t sound too impressed. “You could have 500 amateur fights but when you go pro it is a different world. Although, an amateur like Rigondeaux is able to shift his ways to become a world champion. He is able to use his skills and learn from that. That’s why we do not underestimate him and trained very hard for this fight. We are training for this fight like we are fighting the best out there,” said Donaire in an afternoon news conference Friday.
Rigondeaux’s viewpoint: “Obviously the public does not respect me because of the number of fights I have had. Nonito has three times the experience I have at the professional level so the public has chosen Nonito as the favorite.
Nonito is a great tactician and has enormous power so I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. At this point it is the most important fight of my career. This fight will determine the best in the 122-pound weight class. In this fight I will try to engage more than I have in the past. I want to give the fans what they want to see. Nonito is an aggressive boxer and I will be coming for him. I expect the same from Nonito.”
Rigondeaux originally was a bit of a consolation prize for Donaire. The fight he preferred (along with many fans) would be with Abner Mares. But due to the cold war between promoters Top Rank (who represents Donaire) and Golden Boy Promotions (which represents Mares), it’s not happening any time soon.
Now that the fight is just hours away, there is honest anticipation for a competitive, entertaining contest. Rigondeaux is a technician with textbook form that young fighters should watch and emulate. He is a classic counterpuncher and he will need to show patience against Donaire. Donaire is athletic, fast, and catlike on his feet. If he isn’t challenged, Donaire has to press the action and not let his attention wander or Rigondeaux might seize the opportunity.
Rigondeaux hasn’t ever faced an opponent at Donaire’s level. It doesn’t mean he can’t win, but he has a lot to prove. It’s Donaire’s fight to lose. If Donaire wins this fight convincingly and unifies the WBO and WBA championship, he plans to move up one weight class to featherweight. If that goes well, he could jump one more weight class and take on another hard hitting Cuban, Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Both fighters made weight on Friday. Donaire weighed 121.6 pounds, and Rigondeaux weighed 121.5 pounds.
Join us at Communities for our live boxing chat for Donaire-Rigondeaux on HBO’s World Championship Boxing. We will get started at 10:45 p.m ET for pre-fight predictions, with the HBO broadcast starting at 11 p.m. ET. You can watch the undercard bouts starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Top Rank’s website.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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