This is not an easy fight to pick.
On the initial glance, it should be easy to pick. Nonito Donaire (31-1) is the junior featherweight champion, a consistent presence on the top 5 of expert’s pound for pound lists, a speedy tactician with dynamite in both fists, a fighter with victories over Vic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka and, most recently, Jorge Arce and a boxer trained by the highly regarded Robert Garcia. Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0), on the other hand, only has 11 professional victories and his best win was over a fellow prospect, Rico Ramos.
Take a closer look though. Rigondeaux was, with apologies to Mark Breland, perhaps the greatest amateur fighter ever with over 400 victories and two gold medals. He was tought well by the Cuban amateur system. In the pro ranks, he has trained under Freddie Roach and Ronnie Shields. His current trainer, Pedro Diaz, comes from the Cuban system and has done very good work with Miguel Cotto. Rigondeaux has shown that in addition to solid defense and a tricky counterpunching style, he has good punching power. He stopped Ramos, Willie Kennedy and Teon Kennedy early and dropped Robert Marroquin in his last fight, a decision victory.
While Donaire certainly deserves all the accolades regarding his boxing skills, it is outside occurrences that could influence this bout. Before the Rigondeaux fight was made, Donaire was involved in a highly publicized twitter feud with junior featherweight titlist Abner Mares. That feud led to a public offer by Mares’ promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, to attempt to make a fight between the two. The feud between Golden Boy and Donaire’s promoter, Top Rank, as well as premium network allegiances, prevented that fight from happening. While this was happening, Donaire announced that his wife, Rachel, is expecting the couple’s first child. Then, after training camp started, Donaire parted ways with the controversial Victor Conte, who is part of his team. When the Rigondeaux fight was announced at a New York City press conference, Donaire almost called the fight off because of Rigondeaux’ refusal to accept VADA random drug testing. If all of that wasn’t enough, it was reported by Gabriel Montoya of Maxboxing that Donaire goes home from training camp on weekends to see his pregnant wife and that Garcia has only been present for a few days of training (to be fair, Garcia’s presence in past camps has not been an everyday thing). All of this could add up to a distracted fighter.
That said, Donaire is still the more well-rounded fighter with experience against better opponents. While both are counter-punchers and that could produce a boring fight, Donaire’s experience will likely lead him to lead and push the fight at times. That should be enough to get him a decision. The odds on this fight have Donaire as somewhere around a 2-1 favorite (www.sportbet.com lists Donaire at -240 and Rigondeaux at +200 and www.bet365.com has Donaire at 5-2). Donaire is the pick.
Author’s Record: 12-2-2 (the loss was Mike Alvarado’s stirring victory in his awesome rematch with Brandon Rios and the draw was Tony Bellew’s draw with Isaac Chilemba where he did not get the benefit of hometown scores in a close fight).