Saturday night, Nonito Donaire suffered his first defeat in 12 years, dropping a unanimous decision to the still undefeated Guillermo Rigondeaux. It was a fight where Donaire was outclassed as a boxer, as he was unable to hit Rigondeaux for most of the fight, unable to make the needed adjustments to turn the fight around.
Post-fight, Donaire's comments were interesting as he mentioned a desire for Donaire vs. Rigondeaux 2, a plan to move up to 126 pounds, the need for shoulder surgery, and, perhaps most interesting of all, the fact that he did not watch any tape of Rigondeaux to prepare for this fight.
Nonito Donaire, facing the toughest challenger he has faced in years, did not prepare adequately by studying this supremely technical fighter. How did this happen?
Even before Donaire's admission, questions had been asked about Donaire's preparation, specifically the last few days. His time in New York had been busy with press, an awards ceremony, and the various other commitments that come with being a marquee fighter. Along the way, it seems that Nonito Donaire forgot to put his training front and center.
I can understand the difficulty - it's a complicated balancing act required of any top level athlete. As you become a superstar, the pressures and commitments increase, taking your focus away from your work, while at the same time building up your fame. In short, the very system that makes you a star makes it harder for you to stay a top level star. Athletes have had to find that balance for years, and this week, Donaire didn't find it.
The big question then is how will that impact Donaire's burgeoning superstar status? One lone loss is not enough to completely shatter his drawing power - Manny Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales during his ascension and things turned out just fine for him. If Donaire can bounce back, look strong next time out, and make this a one off loss, he'll be fine.
But that's a big if. Because next time out, the pressure is going to be even higher. With countryman Pacquiao fading, Donaire is seeing more pressure to be the new face of the Philippines in boxing. With every fight, more and more eyes are upon him, and that will be true next time as well (particularly if he takes some time off, as looks likely). When Donaire comes back, he will need a big win. And in order to do so, he'll need to perform that balancing act that eluded him this week. He'll need to face the pressures, and not let them distract from his primary task at hand - winning.
If he does that - if he blocks out the noise, comes back stronger, and shows his domination from 2012 right away, then Nonito Donaire can once again work on becoming boxing's next big thing. If not, then Guillermo Rigondeaux will go down as the man who put out the Filipino Flash.