When Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KO) takes on Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KO) on Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall, every major boxing fan will be watching.
This is one of those fights that may not be on the level of a major pay-per-view main event as far as commercial appeal, but if you know boxing, you realize how big this fight is.
Rarely do we see two fighters who are genuinely considered the best in their divisions fight in their primes. In case you aren't aware of Rigondeaux, don't let the record fool you.
The Cuban fighter has tons of amateur experience. He's a 32-year-old savvy veteran fighter who won gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics. Per HBO.com, Rigondeaux claims to have over 400 amateur fights with only 12 losses.
In the same article, legendary trainer Freddie Roach—who once worked with Rigondeaux—calls him the greatest talent he's ever seen.
Rigondeaux is the reigning WBA super bantamweight champion, and he will stake his championship along with Donaire's WBO super bantamweight title in this fight.
Donaire has been an upstanding champion. The many fighter-of-the-year awards he won for his work in 2012 are well deserved.
He has continually taken on the best fighters available to him, and this is another clear example of that.
"The Filipino Flash" is coming off a three-round destruction of Jorge Arce in December. Rigondeaux's last fight was a unanimous-decision win over Robert Marroquin in September.
This is going to be awesome, and here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, April 13, 11 p.m. ET
Where: Radio City Music Hall in New York
Live Stream: HBOGO (Pay Service)
Donaire is Diligently Pursuing Greatness
Ever since Donaire won his first world title in 2007 against the rough Vic Darchinyan, he hasn't stopped taking on top-notch competition.
While some champions in the sport are accused of ducking fighters, no one can logically say that about Donaire.
Since 2007, he has fought and defeated Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Toshiaki Nishioka and Arce.
All of these fighters are current or former champions. Donaire stopped all of them except Vazquez Jr., who he still knocked down.
He has won 30 fights in a row since suffering the lone loss of his career in his second professional fight.
After such a great 2012, Donaire could have taken an easier fight, and fans would have barely noticed. Instead, he will battle one of the most dangerous and skilled fighters on the planet.
The Filipino Flash wants to make a major mark on the sport.
Looking to Become a Household Name
Many people may not know Rigondeaux yet, but if he defeats Donaire, his notoriety will grow exponentially.
Donaire is indeed chasing greatness, but it could be said that Rigondeaux is looking for validation.
Sure, he has looked every bit as good as he has been made out to be, but he has yet to display those amazing talents in the ring against another truly great fighter. Donaire is that man, and he will serve as a measuring stick for Rigondeaux on Saturday.
Is he really as talented and amazing as Roach and others say he is? It certainly looks like it based on what we've seen of him, but beating Donaire would be all the validation any fighter needs.
Keys to Victory
Donaire's speed and power are nearly unrivaled, especially in the smaller weight classes. He has explosive one-punch KO power as seen by his spectacular KO of Montiel:
He's aggressive and generally looks to pounce when he hurts opponents.
Against a fighter like Rigondeaux who is so adept at countering, he must be careful. This is also a classic orthodox vs. southpaw matchup. Not only is Rigondeaux a southpaw, he's also extremely crafty.
Donaire's best approach in this fight is to stay patient, which would allow him to build a lead throughout the course of the bout. If he is overaggressive, Rigondeaux will use that against him with effective counterpunching.
This could cause Donaire to become careless and open himself up for a big shot.
Rarely will he face a fighter who can match his speed. But this is one instance where that will be the case.
Rigondeaux isn't just fast; he's extremely quick and sudden as illustrated by his slight movements and deceptive feints. He also fights with extraordinary balance and poise, and the fact that he throws punches with pop makes him even tougher.
Take a look at him in this video:
To win this fight, he has to take Donaire's confidence early. To do that, he must be elusive, change angles defensively and fire back, scoring punches to get his opponent concerned with being out-pointed.
If he can do that, he could score the biggest win of his career.
More than anything, I'm almost certain we're going to see a great fight. It probably won't be a brawl, as Rigondeaux is far too refined for that, but from a tactical standpoint, this should be excellent.
As for picking a winner, I hesitate to say this because I think so highly of Donaire, but styles make fights and Rigondeaux's quickness, power and defense give him the edge in my eyes.
Though I can't say I'm totally confident, I predict Rigondeaux drops Donaire at some point in this fight, and he wins a unanimous decision.
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