NEW YORK—With or without a hero’s welcome, fallen champ Nonito Donaire Jr. is heading home.
Donaire, still smarting from a unanimous decision defeat to a sharp, counter-punching Guillermo Rigondeaux Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall, said he will shoot commercials in Manila later in the week.
“I apologize if I let (our countrymen) down,” said Donaire, who stalked Rigondeaux all night, hoping to land a knockout punch that didn’t come. “I gave it my all. I made mistakes but I will be back.”
Donaire floored Rigondeaux with a left hook to the chin in the 10th round, but by then the unbeaten Cuban, a two-time Olympic and World amateur champion, was already way ahead on points.
The Filipino threw caution to the wind in the last two rounds only to allow Rigondeaux to inflict more damage with well-placed shots, eventually shutting Donaire’s right eye by the final round.
“I made him look bad,” Rigondeaux said of Donaire after the fight. “One shot just can’t win a fight.”
Donaire is expected to be accompanied to Manila by his pregnant wife Rachel, who will give birth to their first-born in July, reason the Filipino Flash is taking a five-month hiatus from boxing.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez tops the names being floated as Donaire’s next foe.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Donaire manager Cameron Dunkin picked Lopez’s name from a short list of foes when Donaire moves up to the featherweight division (126 pounds) in October.
Arum said the Donaire fight could be staged in Puerto Rico within a card to be headlined by a super featherweight fight between Mikey Garcia and Rocky Martinez.
Dunkin told the Inquirer that Vic Darchinyan and Mexican Abner Mares are also being considered “if we get to agree to a fight.”
Lopez (32-2-0 with 29 knockouts) is also trying to get into the groove after taking a devastating pair of KO losses to Orlando Salido.
Donaire (31-2-0, 20 KOs) asked for a rematch with Rigondeaux right after the fight but the Cuban’s handlers expressed intentions to stay at 122 lb.
Lopez vacated the WBO 122 crown to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. which Vazquez then yielded in a loss to Donaire early last year.