With limited professional accomplishments, Guillermo Rigondeaux understood he needed a significant victorious performance against an established champion to push his career to optimal standing.
Rigondeaux had his ideal opponent and backdrop for such aspirations late Saturday. This was the occasion for Rigondeaux to prove that his legacy would stretch beyond an outstanding amateur career and one professional alphabet soup belt.
The Miami resident and native of Cuba capitalized on his opportunity. Rigondeaux frustrated the Philippines’ Nonito Donaire with superior boxing skills and won a unanimous decision in their super-bantamweight title unification fight at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“I was going to do my job, and I did it,” Rigondeaux said. “The public that saw this fight can appreciate the quality of good boxing. I made him look like I wanted to.”
During the past five years, Donaire (31-2) has compiled impressive performances and won championships in three weight classes, putting him onto the list of “pound-for-pound” best fighters. But on Saturday, Donaire had limited answers for Rigondeaux’s counter punches and lead shots, far from resembling “pound-for-pound” recognition.
Donaire finally found his opportunity, dropping Rigondeaux (12-0) with a left to the head in the 10th round for the fight’s only knockdown, but Rigondeaux shook off the punch and continued to dictate the pace until the final rounds. Early in the 12th, Rigondeaux landed a left near Donaire’s right eye and Donaire stayed on the retreat for most of the round.
All three judges scored the bout for Rigondeaux, 116-111, 115-112 and 114-113.
Lauded for winning two Olympic gold medals, Rigondeaux, now is adding professional title belts. In addition to retaining his World Boxing Association title, Rigondeaux now owns the World Boxing Organization belt previously held by Donaire.
“With one punch you don’t win a fight,” Rigondeaux said. “My movement and boxing frustrated him.”
Rigondeaux, 32, welcomes a rematch with Donaire, but it would need to be at a higher weight class. Donaire, who had difficulty making the 122-pound limit for Saturday’s bout, plans to move to the 126-pound featherweight division.
“I have much respect for Rigondeaux for the beautiful boxing that he gave me,” Donaire said. “I really didn’t feel his power until the last round. I got too carried away and I wanted to take him out.
“We have to go back to the drawing board.”
While Rigondeaux remains unbeaten and looks for additional lucrative bouts, fellow Cuba native and Miami resident Angelo Santana suffered his first professional loss Friday night. Late replacement Bahodir Mamadjonov (13-1, 9 KOs) scored a ninth-round technical knockout win over Santana in their lightweight bout Friday night in Las Vegas. Mamadjonov (13-1, 9 KOs) took the fight on two weeks’ notice after original opponent Carlos Cardenas withdrew because of a shoulder injury.
Santana is now 14-1.
Male and female boxers in the open and novice divisions will compete in the 2013 State Golden Gloves Tournament on Saturday and Sunday at Indoor Soccer in West Palm Beach.
The two-day event will determine the open division - boxers with more than five amateur bouts – that will advance to the National Golden Gloves Tournament May 13-18 in Salt Lake City. The Women’s National Golden Gloves will be July 9-13 at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
Tickets to Saturday’s state tournament are $15 and $25 in advance and $20 and $35 the day of the event. For information, call 561-833-2131.