By Matthew Hurley: There was a moment early on in the super bantamweight tussle between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux where Nonito’s face betrayed the worry that was beginning to plague his mind. Any excuses for his inability to catch and kill his elusive prey would have to wait until the final bell – unless he could catch lightening in a bottle. All he could do, or could think to do, was pursue his quarry and hope to concuss him with a punch not seen coming.
That moment came in the form of a left hook in the tenth round. Rigondeaux hit the canvas and a crack in the window of opportunity appeared. But just as soon as Donaire grasped for his moment Rigondeaux shook off the effects of the punch and resumed circling, backing away and countering his larger opponent with quick, sharp punches – particularly the overhand right.
Just like that, Guillermo slammed the window shut and took all Donaire had left including his title and a few positions on the mythical pound-for-pound list.
Donaire, one of boxing’s true good guys, must be more than a bit discombobulated by what has happened to him in a matter of just a few a days. Last week he attended the Boxing Writers Association of America’s awards ceremony to accept his award for the 2012 Fighter of the Year. Then, at the weigh in for Saturday’s fight he didn’t make weight on his first try. And then he ran into a supremely confident, exceptionally talented but relatively untested fighter in Rigondeaux and for the first time in a long time he looked perplexed at the puzzle of angles, movement and counter punching skills the Cuban presented to him.
Although Donaire hinted at taking Rigondeaux lightly any excuses must be waved off because it seemed very clear that not only was Guillermo the better technical boxer but his chin, the Achilles heel Donaire and his supporters were hoping would be the deciding factor, proved much more resilient than anyone but Rigondeaux himself anticipated.
There are moments in a fighter’s career when he must face danger head on in order to prove to himself and everyone else that he belongs. Rigondeaux brought that mentality into the ring with him and it came to his rescue when he did make a mistake and Donaire made him pay for it. It was a sublime moment – the fighter in desperation, winging a punch with precision but also prayers to the boxing gods that this one, THIS ONE, will finally land. Rigondeaux took it flush, went down, got up and then went about his business like a computer analyst.
Yes Rigondeaux was technical, almost to a fault, but it was Donaire’s job to disrupt his rhythm and set him up for his power shots. He couldn’t do that. On this night Guillermo Rigondeaux was simply the better fighter.
So let the rebuilding of Nonito Donaire begin. It shouldn’t be that difficult considering just how talented and tough he is. As long as he accepts defeat with the intent to learn from it he’ll be fine. In fact, Donaire is such a gym rat and prides himself on how far he’s come in his career that this loss will probably refocus his training preparations and add a few new wrinkles to his game.
A move up in weight will help, as well as a rest from the grueling schedule he has put himself through. We all want elite boxers to fight more often than they normally do but we also don’t want them to burn out. A little time away from the gym and the ring will rejuvenate Donaire and get him hungry for a new challenge. He’s simply too good to let this setback permanently alter his career.
And one day he may find himself staring across the ring, waiting for the opening bell, and there standing in the opposite corner will be Guillermo Rigondeaux. But no time soon. The last thing Nonito Donaire wants to see for a while is Rigondeaux dipping, dodging, whacking him with right hands and then spinning out of harm’s way like a top. No, he doesn’t need that. He had his fill of that on Saturday night.