A pugilist with merely 11 professional bouts may seem undeserving of a shot against Nonito Donaire — one of the finest prizefighters in the world — but Guillermo Rigondeaux, despite his trial record, is no boxing novice.
Rigondeaux (11-0, eight KOs), though only a professional since 2009, will challenge the San Mateo-based junior featherweight world champion Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
But what the Cuban lacks in a professional experience, he makes up for in amateur accolades. A defector of Fidel Castro’s communist island, Rigondeaux, 32, capped off an immaculate amateur career with two Olympic boxing gold medals in 2000 and 2004.
Donaire dismisses that.
“There’s nothing out there like being in the pro game,” Donaire, 30, told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve known guys with 600 fights in the amateurs and not make it in the professional level. But he is talented, he is a champion ... again, that inexperience is just gonna give him chills, and he’s gonna to doubt himself. That’s what inexperienced fighters do.”
But if doubt has taken hold of the quick-fisted Cuban titlist, it hasn’t yet showed. Cerebral craft, devastating body punching from the southpaw side and an air that borders on arrogant are all culpable for keeping him unbeaten.
But if there is a blemish on Rigondeaux, it’s that when he gets cracked with the left hook, he can get wobbled — that much was evidenced in his prior bout against Robert Marroquin.
And the explosive Donaire, among other things, can violently crack with the left hook — as he evidenced in his prior bout against Jorge Arce.
“The guy who’s faster than me is going to give me a lot of trouble,” Donaire admitted. “But if he’s not, it’s not going to be a fight.”
The 122-pound Filipino is among the fastest fighters in the world, yet that alone won’t guarantee a win Saturday night.
“I didn’t say he wasn’t a dangerous opponent,” Donaire said. “This is his biggest opportunity, but with opportunity there’s risk. And I’m the risk.”