Rivalries don’t happen by accident. Sometimes circumstances align in such a way that they are unavoidable—not that we would expect anything less from a sport that thrives on the heated rivalries of its best fighters.
Fans were never granted the opportunity to see Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. create one of their own, but the need for that has passed. Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux may have supplanted the need for such a rivalry with their superfight on April 13.
Despite the underlying expectations of a Donaire victory, the match was expected to be an epic clash between two budding superstars of the sport. No one wanted to pick a favorite—and rightfully so. Both fighters earned the right to enter the bout on a level playing field. The only consistent expectation was for a tremendous display of boxing.
But Rigondeaux took charge from the onset, displaying the quickness and unpredictability that defines his rounded skill set and made him a more than worthy challenger for the reigning fighter of the year.
With official scorecards of 114-113, 115-112 and 116-111, the two-time Olympic gold medalist outdueled Pacquiao’s potential successor in a fight that lived up to expectations.
Given both fighters’ defensive styles and incredibly balanced skill sets, a unanimous decision wasn’t unexpected. If anything, the outcome gives boxing the potential for its next big rivalry.
Donaire entered the match with momentum, confidence and a remarkable 31-1 record that included 20 knockouts and a bevy of lopsided contests. No one was willing to write off Rigondeaux, but Donaire certainly earned some lofty expectations.
A loss in such a highly hyped bout couldn’t have sat well with the Filipino fighter, and a rematch now seems like the logical progression for two fighters with as much pound-for-pound talent as anyone in the world.
Casual fans may not have enjoyed the technical aspects (and sometimes dull nature) of the fight, but there’s no denying the impact of Rigondeaux’s win. The Cuban proved he is worthy of fighting anyone at 122 pounds, and there’s a good chance Donaire is going to want another shot at taking him down before all is said and done.
Had Donaire dispatched his challenger (as many believed would be the case), Rigondeaux may have become just another quality win for the fan favorite in his path to becoming the best in the world.
Instead, Donaire must battle back to prove he is the world’s best at 122 pounds, and he won’t do so without again facing the man who bested him on Saturday.