First, Nonito Donaire is ranked among the top five pound for pound fighters in the world and has been for a few years.
He is practically undefeated having suffered only one loss by decision his second pro bout twelve years ago.
Second, Guillermo Rigondeaux was a Cuban amateur sensation, winning two Olympic Gold Medals and is widely considered to be one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time.
Don't be fooled by Rigo's record. Given that he had purportedly had nearly 400 amateur bouts, with many against tough Cubans, Rigondeaux is as polished and poised as the typical pro with 3 or 4 times as many prizefights. Therefore, its no surprise Rigondeaux was moved along extremely fast as a pro.
The Cuban won the WBA super bantamweight title in only his 9th pro bout. I believe he won his title with the second fewest pro fights in history. Leon Spinks, another Olympic Gold Medalist, defeated and aging Muhammad Ali in their first bout with a record of 6-0-1.
Donaire vs Rigondeaux is the most legitimate match that can be made in and around the super bantamweight division as the two fighters are the best two in that weight range, by far.
Heading into the fight, Donaire will likely be the betting favorite because he is the more accomplished of the two, will be the A-side fighter going in and trumps Rigo in public appeal. However, a lot of people will be surprised with how this fight plays out.
Nonito Donaire: Keys to Victory
The Filipino Flash has incredible boxing skills, great speed and devastating power. He stays behind his jab and likes to land with lead power shots once he gets comfortable. He also employs a fine body attack which he sets up with his jab.
Nonito Donaire is accustomed to dictating the tempo of his bouts and will try to set a faster pace than Rigondeaux is used to. In order for Donaire to control the fight, he will have to use a lot of feints and head movement. He will also benefit in leaving an extra step between him and Guillermo while constantly moving in a circle, forcing Rigondeaux to move his feet in order to hit Donaire.
'The Filipino Flash' Nonito Donaire Donaire, left, lands a left against Jeffrey Mathebula
Courtesy of Chris Farina, Top Rank
If Rigondeaux has to move to find Donaire, it will alter the timing aspect of the Cuban's counterpunching. Donaire would be making Rigondeaux look for him which is something the Cuban isn't used to doing. If Donaire has that extra step, then he gets to choose when the exchanges take place.
Sure Rigondeaux knows how to walk down an opponent but if you force him to close the gap against a guy like Donaire, he will walk into Nonito's jab if he's overaggressive. In essence, Donaire wants to counter the counterpuncher with his jab and movement.
When fighting a counter-puncher, especially one of Rigondeaux's caliber, it would behoove one to conservatively pick his shots and not attack in a straight line because he will get picked apart as the Cuban throws excellent accurate, well-timed shots. As a result, Donaire should fight at angles and not make the mistake of squaring-up against his opponent.
Donaire should try to win each round convincingly but I'd warn him against trying to "dominate" his foe. If he tries to get too showy and overwhelm Rigondeaux, he might walk right into one of the Cuban's many traps.
Guillermo Rigondeaux: Keys to Victory
The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist is a crafty, defensive counter-puncher who knows how to get opponents off rhythm and is an expert at making them miss. So if you're Rigondeaux, you'll want Donaire to come in straight to you so you can pick off 'The Flash' with your jab and hit him hard when he oversteps his punches.
He may be boring to watch at times but Rigo is a smart fighter who often lands thudding shots by capitalizing on his opponent's mistakes and employing his own brilliant timing by punching his opponents when they aren't in position to hit back.
Guillermo "El Chacal" Rigondeaux, center
Courtesy of Chris Farina, Top Rank
Guillermo is comfortable with a slow paced chess match. He knows how to play that game and he does it well. And in a bout like this, the ability to stay composed and fight relaxed is key. Therefore, its imperative Guillermo Rigondeaux controls the pace and forces Donaire to fight on the Cuban's terms.
When or if Donaire struggles to land against Rigo, we will see how the Filipino reacts in a slower paced fight.
Lastly, don't forget that Donaire is the favorite and has a huge fan base throughout the world so if the fight is anywhere near close, Donaire probably wins. As a result, the onus is on Rigo to win convincingly as he'll not likely get the benefit of the doubt in close rounds.
Donaire vs Rigondeaux Prediction
Rigondeaux's tremendous amateur pedigree will pay huge dividends as the fight goes on and Donaire may not know how to handle a fighter with Rigo's poise, technical capacity and athleticism.
Donaire's trainer, Robert Garcia, is an aggressive-minded coach who trains his fighters to be very offensive. I have yet to see him train someone to win on points and 'put rounds in the bank' and that is the kind of mindset Donaire will need in order to win this one.
If it goes twelve rounds and there is not a lot of activity, Donaire may win a decision. But I think his style will play right into the hands of Rigondeaux so I am leaning towards Rigondeaux in this one... Not by a lot, but I think he will get more comfortable and successful in executing his gameplan as the fight progresses.