No fight is better than when it is for all the marbles. Unification bouts are a rarity, they happen as often as Floyd Mayweather receives punches. Tomorrow night however, we will see a unification bout between two of the most talented fighters in the world, Cuban native Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nonito Donaire. Although Donaire was born in the Philippines, he is currently a California resident. Rigondeaux as well left his native country of Cuba to train in Florida.
What makes this fight so significant is not just the world championship being on the line, but both are believed to be two of the most gifted fighters in boxing. Also, this could be the toughest challenge of either man’s career. What more could you ask for in a prize-fight? Kudos to both Rigondeaux and Donaire for making a fight everyone in boxing wanted to see.
Rigondeaux, 32, (11-0, 8 KOs) was touted as an absolute phenom, having won the gold medal twice. Once at the 2000 Olympic Games, and then he captured gold again in 2004. So far no one can complain about the hype he has received. Rigondeaux, in just his ninth professional bout captured a world title. Although due to Rigondeaux’s vast amateur background and age, he was already considered well-groomed. It is not as big a leap of faith that it typically would be.
Regardless of whatever the circumstances may be, capturing a world title in just your ninth fight is impressive. And the fashion in which he beat a formidable, at the time undefeated Rico Ramos, showed that he could dominate quality fighters. It may not be fair to Rigondeaux, but the truth is people only remember the gold medalists that go on to have a good career in the professional ranks.
Rigondeaux needs this victory more than Donaire does. Donaire is already a borderline hall of fame fighter, so if he loses he would still have accomplished plenty. It will be interesting to see if Rigondeaux fights with a level of intensity that is yet to be seen by him, especially since this is by far the biggest fight of his career. Same with Donaire, he may have to fight with more intensity than he has done thus far. These two could bring out the best in each other and that will be a sight to behold. Both Donaire and Rigondeaux have already wowed audiences with their talent, and the thought of both fighters taking their abilities to the next level is enthralling to ponder.
Both fighters hold advantages over the other in certain facets. Rigondeaux is the better defensive fighter, has great ring generalship, and is the better counter puncher of the two (although you could ask Fernando Montiel if Donaire can counter punch). Donaire’s advantages lie in that he’s been at the highest level of the sport for years now, giving him advantage of experience. Donaire also has the advantage in power and holds the most important advantage between the two of them: more versatility.
Rigondeaux usually wins his fights in the same fashion every time. Rigondeaux will once in a while come forward. For the most part he keeps his opponent at bay with a pawing jab and then waits for his adversary to come forward so he can counter punch. Rigondeaux’s beautiful straight left hand is the Cuban’s signature punch, it is usually landed as his opponent attempts to get on the inside. Rigondeaux is not interested in engaging in a brawl, he loves to dictate a slow-paced fight where he can pot shot and move around the ring. Against Donaire, Rigondeaux will have to do more than pot shooting and just waiting for Nonito to fall into his traps. That is when Rigondeaux’s disadvantage will come into this bout, the versatility. If Donaire figures out his counter punching style and/or forces Rigondeaux out of his slow-paced comfort level, what will be his plan B?
Rigondeaux has done nothing but be too fast and too slick for his foes, winning with ease in large part because of his incredible foot and hand speed. Does Rigondeaux have the ability, the wherewithal , to be the bull instead of the matador? Although Rigondeaux is a very good defensive fighter, he does keep the right hand low at his waist a lot of the time. Rigondeaux is a southpaw and the left hook/ straight right hand have always been noted as the punches to use against a southpaw. With Rigondeaux’s right hand often at his waist, it gives Donaire a heightened chance to land one of the best punches in boxing: Donaire’s left hook. In Rigondeaux’s past fight against Robert Marroquin, we saw him get hurt twice by the left hook. If he is to receive the two left hooks that hurt him against Donaire, it could very well be lights out for Rigondeaux.
Donaire can be the aggressor or move around. He usually sets up his big left hook instead of just looking for the one big shot, a trap many fighters have fell victim to. Donaire and Rigondeaux are almost equal in hand speed. One criticism for Donaire is that when he wants to impress the crowd, he begins to throw more looping shots which leaves more opportunities for his opponent to land effectively. If Donaire does that he may very well lose. Rigondeaux will see the punches coming and then do what he does best, counter. Donaire will have to apply intelligent, patient stalking.
Donaire has to make sure he does not run right into a counter punch, as Rigondeaux has good power himself. There is no need to constantly try to close the distance for Donaire, as his speed, foot and hand can stay on the outside with Rigondeaux. If Donaire were to try to smother him it’d play into Rigondeaux’s advantage. One of the attributes Donaire has (much like his favorite fighter, Roy Jones) is his ability to throw punches from unorthodox angles while maintaining great accuracy, speed, and power on the shots being thrown. Donaire has never fought a counter puncher at the level of Rigondeaux, we will see if counter punching is Donaire’s Achilles heel.
BRB is going with Donaire. Rigondeaux has a great shot at winning as well, but ultimately Rigondeaux’s coasting with ease, pot shotting style won’t work well enough to earn a victory. Looking at that low right hand by Rigondeaux, it is as if he is asking for Donaire’s one punch left hook knockout. The versatility of Donaire will win him this fight, he is not a one trick pony. Rigondeaux is at times too hesitant to attack throughout his career. Now that he is getting into the squared circle with one of hardest punchers in boxing he may be even more cautious. He can not beat Nonito Donaire by throwing twenty punches a round. Rigondeaux will have his moments. He will show his immense talent and tag Donaire with his left hand up the middle, but Rigondeaux will usually do it one punch at a time. If Rigondeaux is there to win, Donaire scores a knockout. If Rigondeaux at some point will be content going the distance, then Donaire will take it on the scorecards.
BRB’s PREDICTION: NONITO DONAIRE, VIA KO