WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux came to do his job Saturday night – and did so in emphatic fashion.
In just his 12th professional fight, Cuban sharpshooter Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KO) impressively – and stunningly – dominated division kingpin and fellow titleholder Nonito Donaire to unify the WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine 122 lb. world titles via unanimous decision from New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.
Judge Julie Lederman scored the bout 116-111, while judge Tom Schreck scored it 115-112 and judge John Stewart had it the closest at 114-113.
SFBay, however, had Rigondeaux winning by a wide margin – 118-109.
Despite being a 2-1 underdog, Rigondeaux, who fought nearly 400 amateur fights, completely frustrated Bay Area native Donaire with his blistering speed and power from the opening bell.
The two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist never allowed his taller opponent to establish his rhythm and constantly punished him with his trademark straight left hand and right hook.
He said after the fight that his lateral movement caused serious trouble for Donaire, who kept trying to land his money punch – a counter left hook.
“He only throws the left hook. Once I neutralized that, he didn’t know what to do.”
Donaire (31-2, 20 KO) acknowledged afterwards that he failed to make the necessary adjustments as the fight progressed due to his concern over scoring an emphatic knockout:
“I was being stupid, especially [during] the last two rounds. I should have did what I needed to do, but I fell for my power. I wanted to take him out – and that was the problem. I wanted to get everybody riled up.”
Despite having a two-inch reach advantage, Donaire, who was born in the Philippines and currently resides in San Leandro, failed to establish his jab as well.
He had his best moment during the 10th round when he floored Rigondeaux with a counter left hook.
Unphased, the Cuban fighter quickly got back up and impaired his foe’s vision in the 12th by connecting with a straight left hand flush to Donaire’s right eye.
Donaire told Boxing Scene that he believes he might have caught a thumb to the eye, but did not want the injury to take away from Rigondeaux’s performance:
“That’s just part of a fight. … He boxed well and did what he had to do to win.”
Rigondeaux landed 129 out of 396 punches thrown according to the Compubox punch track system, compared to only 86 out of 352 for Donaire, who suffered his first loss in 12 years.
Nicknamed “The Filpino Flash,” Donaire was untouchable during that period – winning titles in four different weight classes, including super bantamweight.
He also earned 2012 fighter of the year honors for an impressive four-fight campaign and recently received his award at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America awards banquet Thursday night.
Despite such a disappointing loss, Donaire told Boxing Scene he hopes on returning to the ring better than ever:
“I’m going to learn from this fight, go over it with my team, and I’m going to come back a better and stronger fighter.”
He also said he will undergo surgery on his right shoulder and spend his time with his wife Rachel, who is pregnant with their first child – a boy they will name Jarel.
Rigondeaux’s win ultimately caps off what has been an impressive rise through his weight class.
Since his pro debut in 2009 – the same year he defected from his birthplace of Cuba, he won the interim WBA title in just his seventh professional fight, then elevated himself to full titleholder status with a crushing sixth-round KO win over Rico Ramos last January.
Against Donaire, who was considered among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, Rigondeaux used his brilliant craft to make the seemingly invincible Donaire look vulnerable from start to finish – and now takes his rightful place as division kingpin.