This Saturday April 13, HBO World Championship Boxing presents Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux live from Radio City Music Hall with a fight time of 11:00 p.m. ET. Donaire vs. Rigondeaux will be live on HBO - Bloody Elbow will have live results and full fight night coverage.
In Donaire and Rigondeaux you have a very interesting clash between two of the three clear top fighters at 122 pounds. But when you look at their fights, their records, and their styles you come to one easy conclusion - there's a reason Nonito Donaire is the heavy favorite in this fight. As the underdog, and with only 11 pro fights to his name, Rigondeaux comes in here with something to prove. But he's not alone. Let's take a look at the questions each man has to answer Saturday night, starting with the Olympian.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0; 8 KO)
Is he for real? For Rigondeaux, this is the big question that has hung over his head ever since his professional debut four years ago. If all you look at is his pro record, you'd be correct to be skeptical. Only 11 fights, most against clearly overmatched opponents. He does have an absolutely incredible amateur resume, including two Olympic gold medals, but boxing historians know that amateur success is no indication of being championship material as a pro. On the back of his Olympic credentials, he signed with Top Rank after just 5 outings and was immediately moved into high profile fights on HBO, leading many to ask if he is for real, or a product of marketing. What that question fails to take into account is how Rigondeaux fights. He uses a technical superiority to dissect his opponents, landing precise shots throughout the fight while using great defense to avoid counters. He's an extremely accomplished technical fighter who knows how to get it done. But until he shows that against the division's elite, there will be questions.
How is his chin? This one is largely a product of his last fight, a 2012 decision win over Roberto Marroquin. Rigondeaux dominated that fight, yet was wobbled on two occasions. Add in the knockdown he suffered against Ricardo Cordoba in 2010, and the fact that his greatest accomplsihments came while wearing headgear as an amateur, and you have some skeptics asking how his chin will hold up against a puncher with serious knock out power. In other words, a puncher like Nonito Donaire.
Ultimately for Rigondeaux, his amateur credentials and fast rise is a double edged sword. They give him prestige, but also cast doubts. Tonight, he faces by far the toughest challenge of his career, and an opportunity to silence those doubters once and for all.
Nonito Donaire (31-1; 20 KO)
Inside the ring, there is little for Donaire to prove, particularly after his Fighter of the Year performance in 2012. He's run through everyone placed in front of him, including many of the division's best, and he's done so with some nasty highlight reel KOs. What he has to prove is more focused on what's happening outside of the ring.
Can he break through and become a true superstar? Donaire already draws a lot of attention, and that level of attention has only been growing. But these lower weight classes have traditionally struggled to catch fire with the more casual fan audience. As Donaire's countryman Manny Pacquiao showed, a move up the ranks to the heavier weights can help make you the kind of megastar that brings in the lucrative PPV audience. Donaire is close, and he's done a tremendous job shining light on those lower divisions - but he's not there. At least yet. How much attention this fight draws will say a lot about his future as a draw, which brings us to the next question.
What next? If Donaire beats Rigondeaux, and chances are strong that he will, where does he go from there? Abner Mares is the only other real tough challenger for him at this weight. That fight has been talked about and teased for awhile, but with the current Top Rank vs. Golden Boy split, a Donaire vs. Mares fight seems highly unlikely at any point soon. Donaire is talking about taking a well deserved rest after this fight in order to focus on his family, but who will be waiting as an opponent when he returns if not Mares? Sure, he can continue to take down the division's other ranked fighters, but for him to become that big star, he needs to face opponents fans want to see him against. And there just aren't many of those left at 122. A move up to 126 would bring him possible opponents in Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido, and more. He's already moved up through four weight classes, but will he continue to take the Pacquiao route and climb the weight classes to superstardom? If so, how far can he go?
Answers to these questions and more will hopefully be decided Saturday night in a fight any combat sports fan should be sure to check out. We'll see you here.
HBO World Championship Boxing Donaire vs. Rigondeaux airs live from Radio City Music Hall Saturday April 13 with an 11:00 p.m. ET fight time. Join us here at Bloody Elbow for Donaire vs. Rignodeaux live results, discussion, and fight night coverage.