Jerry Glick reporting: This Saturday night, April 13th, has the distinct possibility of repeating a not so great piece of boxing history. Back in 1964 Emile Griffith was named Fighter of the Year. A very short time earlier, in his last fight before accepting his award, Griffith was knockout in a round by hard hitting Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in a non-title fight. With a sheepish smile, the great Welterweight Champion told the assembled that, “A funny thing happened on my way to the awards dinner.”
I’m not saying that the same thing will happen to WBO Junior-Featherweight Champion Nonito Donaire because he will get his award two days before he is to climb into the ring to face his WBA counterpart Guillermo Rigondeaux, 11-0 (8 KOs), at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, on the Top Rank promoted show, but he is in against a powerhouse former two time Olympic Gold Medal winner.
If attitude is any indication, it was Donaire, 31-1 (20 KOs), who was calm and confident as he sat next to his lovely, pregnant wife Rachel fielding questions at the final press conference held at Madison Square Garden, while the Cuban ex-patriot, Rigondeaux sat on the other side of the room with his game face on and admitted at the podium that he does not like to talk a whole lot. He seemed surly, but neither attitude is necessarily indicative of victory.
And Donaire, on the other hand, had lots to talk about. “It’s going to be a nice fight,” said a smiling, relaxed Donaire, known as the Filipino Flash to his fans. “I think my speed and power is going to show where my level is at.”
Donaire said that once he gained confidence a few years ago, he smiles more and before a fight, “I don’t get moody,” he points out. “I always smile. When it’s time to be there (in the ring) it’s time to be there. We prepared ourselves, that’s why I’m confident.”
For the thirty-two year old Donaire this is another day at the office, “I’m very confident, walking in here it’s just another day. It’s not like when I fought Montiel or Darchinyan, my training, my focus was 100%. For this fight I did everything that I can.”
He adds that when he steps in the ring the fighter version of him comes out and he knows that that is where he is most comfortable.
He sees avenues to pursue in his opponent. Rigondeaux may be a technical wizard, but the hard hitting Filipino believes that he can beat him by taking advantage of his weaknesses, “There’s a lot of vulnerability in him,” adds Nonito, including, he says, that he loses his concentration on defense when he goes on the offense.
“We are the same type of fighter, but I have the experience to know what I’m doing.” Donaire believes. “He’s a reactive fighter. That’s why he wins fights, he’s reactive and he’s fast enough to get those guys. I’m the scariest fighter he ever faced, and that’s why he is taking this to heart.”
He draws a difference between himself and his opponent by explaining that he too is a reactive fighter but he has the eye to see everything that his opponents try to do.
Donaire is a very confident fighter who admits that he had to achieve that in himself after years of being bullied as a young man. That is most admirable in anyone, but he has brought himself to a level that few are able to accomplish in life. “The most important thing for me right now is to see my baby (the Donaires are expecting a boy). That’s where my future will be, with my little boy.”
**Why Bob, Why RCMH?**
In spite of admitting that this venue more expensive for him, Bob Arum said that he chose it because it was something he always wanted to do. “It was a dream of mine to do it, I mean it really was,” said the head man at Top Rank. “It’s really a stupid room to go into because it’s very expensive.”
There will be a pretty good undercard with local Light-heavyweight, the very popular Seanie Monaghan, 17-0 (10 KOs), rising star Glen Tapia, also 17-0 (10 KOs), young, promising Felix Verdejo, 4-0 (3 KOs), and Mikael Zewski, 18-0 (14 KOs), to round out a deep and exciting show.
This will be only the second fight show at this venue. Back in 2000 Roy Jones Jr. defended his Light heavyweight title against David Telesco in the first ever boxing card at Radio City Music Hall.