There weren’t all that many similarities between Saturday night’s Nonito Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux battle and last year’s Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. match, but the fallout will be exactly the same. Despite the fact that he was clearly the better fighter and quite obviously bested his opponent, Rigondeaux will be diminished and underappreciated over next few days, and the benefits he’ll reap from his victory will likely be miniscule.
Rigondeaux entered his bout against Donaire as an underdog, and with good reason. Despite the fact that he is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and was fighting this weekend to unify two junior featherweight titles, his Filipino counterpart was on the cusp of becoming boxing royalty. The 2012 Fighter of the Year, Donaire, 30, won four matches in 2012 alone and was looking to add Rigondeaux to his victims list just five months after making quick work of Jorge Arce. While he was saying all the right things before this match, it was mostly understood that he was already looking towards his seemingly inevitable showdown against Abner Mares.
Rigondeaux took a sledgehammer to everyone’s expectations on Saturday night, quite clearly outpointing Donaire in a victory that wasn’t as close as some will make it sound over the next few days. The 32-year-old landed 47 more punches, he attempted 44 more punches, and he did his damage with nearly 10 percent more efficiency. Beyond the numbers, though, Rigondeaux frustrated Donaire with his elusiveness for much of the bout – eventually exasperating his Filipino counterpart to the point where he stopped throwing punches with any sort of regularity.
While Rigondeaux’s back-pedaling and defense-oriented style likely didn’t win him many new fans, it did what it was meant to do: it earned the Cuban star the biggest victory of his career.
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Unfortunately, in boxing, earning the biggest win of your career doesn’t mean a whole lot unless you’re able to capitalize on it – which Rigondeaux probably won’t be able to. That’s where the Pacquiao-Bradley comparison comes into play.
Despite the fact that beating Pacquiao was unquestionably the brightest moment of his career, the manner in which Bradley won left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. As a result, he was vilified and lambasted in the media, and rather than being able to capitalize on his wave of momentum, he had to wait eight months for his next fight. When that fight eventually came, it wasn’t against a big name, a star or a young up-and-comer, it came against a relative unknown in Ruslan Provodnikov.
Based on Bob Arum’s comments after the match, it sounds like Rigondeaux may suffer the same treatment
"It was not a very engaging fight," he said. "If Rigondeaux would stand and fight, he has a lot of power and a lot of skills, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight."
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When asked who he would be pitted against next, Arum’s reply wasn’t particularly reassuring. "I don't know what I'm gonna do. I have to look for someone to fight him. He's one of the best defensive fighters I've ever seen, but it's not a very pleasing style. He's a very good fighter, but it's not pleasing, so we will have to see."
Donaire, like Pacquiao, will always be able to find an opponent. He is an exciting fighter with a massive international following; the same can’t be said for Rigondeaux. Either way, though, he was still happy with his performance on Saturday night.
"I told you I was going to do my job, and I did it.”