MANILA, Philippines – Expect a classic battle when four-division champion Nonito Donaire Jr. and two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux collide to unify the WBO and the WBA super bantamweight titles.
The fight is scheduled to take place at the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as Donaire and Rigondeaux slug it out to determine who the best 122-pound fighter is.
|Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux (R) and Nonito Donaire of Philippines pose for cameras after the duo weighed in for their upcoming WBO/WBA junior featherweight title unification fight in New York, April 12, 2013. REUTERS
Boxing analyst Ed Tolentino said it won’t be an easy fight for the “Filipino Flash” as he takes on one of the best amateur boxers ever produced by Cuba.
“I agree with the observation of everybody, this fight for Donaire will not be as easy as smoking Cuban cigar,” said Tolentino on ANC. “Because Rigondeaux despite having only 11 fights as a professional… had 400 fights as an amateur.”
But the analyst believes Donaire will want to make a statement against the unbeaten Cuban, especially after the Filipino boxer’s spectacular performance in 2012.
Last year, the US-based Boholano fought four elite fighters in his ascent to the 122-pound division. His efforts netted him the WBO and IBF super bantam titles.
He also earned the recognition as the 2012 Fighter of the Year from the prestigious Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).
“Donaire, I believe is gonna go for the kill, he has a statement to make. He knows that everybody's watching his fight right now, have to live up to the past.”
“Right now, Donaire is following a sure fast recipe to greatness. The recipe is simple, to be the best you have to humble the rest,” said Tolentino.
The Donaire fight will also be Rigondeaux’s biggest break in boxing.
The 32-year-old Cuban, largely unknown to most fight fans, said the Filipino boxer will be his ticket out of boxing obscurity and into fame and fortune.
Rigondeaux, who only has 11 fights as a pro, added that a victory over the more popular Donaire will get him the respect that he deserves.
“Beating Nonito would be a great achievement and people will stop talking about me as an amateur. A win would be a bigger accomplishment than the gold medals," the Cuban counterpuncher said in Boxing Scene.
"Obviously the public does not respect me because of the number of fights I have had. Nonito has three times the experience I have as a professional and that's why the public will choose him as their favorite," said Rigondeaux.
More tools in tool bag
Boxing observers expect the fight to be tactical in the opening rounds due to the counterpunching nature of both boxers.
But Donaire said he has enough tools at his disposal to create an opening against his left-handed foe.
“The thing about me is I have all the weapons from uppercuts, hooks, overhands, and straights,” the soon to be father said in Tha Boxing Voice.
“I have all the powers and all the weapons in boxing, so whatever opportunities are presented in front of me, I’ll take that.”
Filipino boxing fans are also counting on Donaire’s victory after a string of defeats suffered by some of the biggest names in Philippine boxing.
Manny Pacquiao, who lost to Juan Manuel Marquez last December, has yet to make his comeback, while Brian Viloria lost his WBA and WBO crowns to a younger Juan Francisco Estrada last week.
“I just keep trying to do whatever I need to do. Pacquiao inspired me. I hope I can inspire those right next to me and make my country, my people, my team and my family proud,” Donaire said in a separate interview with Yahoo! Sport’s columnist Ronnie Nathanielsz.
‘Nacho’ picks ‘Rigo’
Although most analysts see Donaire edging Rigondeaux, one boxing expert begged to disagree.
Nacho Beristain, who guided Marquez to victory over Pacquiao, believes the Cuban boxer has the goods to win over the crafty Filipino.
"I think Rigondeaux will win," Beristain said in Spanish in an interview with ESPN Latino.
The trainer said if the Cuban plays his cards right, he’ll dominate Donaire.
"Everybody is talking about Nonito Donaire's punch, but I think if the other guy (Rigondeaux) applies himself, he'll eat him alive… Personally, it wouldn't be a surprise. If he applies himself and does what he knows, (a Rigondeaux win) shouldn't be a surprise."
But Rigondeaux claims that against the Filipino Flash, he’ll deviate from his counterpunching ways to please the crowd.
He even said that Donaire won’t have a hard time finding him in the ring.
"In this fight I will try to engage more than I have in the past," said Rigondeaux. "I want to give the fans what they want to see. Nonito is an aggressive boxer and I will be coming for him.”
Donaire said fans should be ready for the unexpected.
“He said he will be aggressive, and I said that I was going to go for a knockout if I can,” he said.
“Definitely we both have power and as much as it can be a fast paced chess match or it can be a very slow kind of thing, but I know one punch can end this fight.”
The Donaire vs Rigondeaux card will be aired on ABS-CBN Channel 2 on Sunday starting 10:15 a.m.