NEW YORK CITY—Firing stiff jabs and showing lightning-quick reflexes, Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux outclassed Nonito Donaire Jr. on Saturday night for a stunning unanimous decision victory to unify their world super bantamweight titles at the jampacked Radio City Music Hall here.
The shifty, counterpunching Cuban, a bemedaled former amateur champion, dominated the “Filipino Flash” despite going down briefly in the 10th round and picked up Donaire’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) title to go with his World Boxing Association (WBA) crown while stretching his unbeaten streak to 12.
Judges Julie Lederman scored it 116-111, Tom Schreck 115-112 and John Stewart 114-113 for Rigondeaux, who inflicted a first loss on Donaire in 12 years and ended his rival’s 30-bout winning run.
After the fight, Rigondeaux, his face unblemished, rubbed it in by saying through an interpreter: “I told you I will do my job and I did it. I made him look bad and I looked great.”
Donaire’s defeat came on the heels of a sixth-round knockout suffered by Manny Pacquiao last December in the hands of Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight and Brian Viloria’s loss of his WBO and WBA flyweight titles to Juan Estrada, also of Mexico, in Macau last week.
Pacquiao, Donaire and Viloria are considered the Big 3 of Philippine boxing.
Donaire’s biggest moment came midway in the 10th when he floored Rigondeaux with a left hook to the face. But the Cuban quickly got back to his feet and resumed fighting after the mandatory eight-count, as if nothing had happened.
“He’s an excellent fighter but one shot just can’t win a fight,” Rigondeaux later said.
Rigondeaux banged a nifty left that inflicted a gruesome welt under the Filipino’s right eye early in the last round and Donaire, who had stopped his last two rivals, was reduced to protecting it from more punishment for the rest of the round.
Donaire, whose record fell to 31-2 with 20 knockouts, later admitted committing basic mistakes that he vowed to correct when he goes “back to the drawing board.”
“I apologize for not giving you what you want. In the last two rounds, I got stupid and I got carried away. I have much respect for Rigondeaux and the beautiful boxing [lesson] he gave me,” he said.
Donaire said he wanted a rematch and acknowledged that he was under “a lot of pressure” going into the fight.
Aside from receiving the 2012 Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America just days before the fight, Donaire has a baby coming in July, which prompted him to clear his fight schedule until after September. He also has a new house in Las Vegas.
He said he gave it all against the Cuban but also admitted he didn’t study Rigondeaux’s tape. “It was one mistake that I did. I never studied his fights.”
The General Santos City-born Donaire also revealed he was bothered by a shoulder injury for the past few weeks and that he would have it corrected by surgery as soon as possible.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum also blamed the loss on Donaire’s difficulty in making the weight.
On Friday, Donaire had to go down to Madison Square Garden, where the official weigh-in was to be held, one hour ahead of schedule to make sure he got the weight. He tipped the scales at 121.6 pounds and entered the ring on Saturday night at 129.
The Cuban threw a total of 220 jabs and landed 56 for a 25-percent accuracy while Donaire fired 138 jabs and connected only 18 times, or at a clip of 13 percent.
CompuBox figures showed Donaire firing 214 power punches to Rigondeaux’s 176. Donaire landed just 64, or 30 percent, while the Cuban was on target 73 times for 41 percent.
Donaire, who suffered his only other loss in the second bout of his career (to Rosendo Sanchez in March 2001), earned $1.32 million for the fight while Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic champion, pocketed $750,000, milestone paychecks for both fighters.
The Inquirer had it 115-112 for Rigondeaux, with Donaire winning rounds two, four, seven and 10.
A large throng of Filipino fans, who braved the cold evening rain, went home sulking as they filed out of Radio City, which was filled to its capacity of 6,015 patrons and pooled in a reported $450,000 at the gates.
Celebrities at the match included New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, and former boxing champs Tommy Hearns, Iran Barkley, Gerry Cooney and Roy Jones Jr. Wrestling superstar Batista carried the Philippine flag for Team Donaire.