San Leandro’s Nonito Donaire, pro boxing’s consensus Fighter of the Year, will open his 2013 campaign against fellow junior featherweight titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux on Apr. 13 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.
Top Rank president Todd Duboef, who promotes both fighters, informed MaxBoxing.com that the two combatants had reached an accord.
Donaire will unify his Ring Magazine and WBO belts with Rigondeaux’s WBA strap in a bout that will air on HBO. Universally recognized as the top 122-pounder in the world, the San Lorenzo High School alum will arrive in New York City on Apr. 11 to accept the 2012 Fighter of the Year Award at the Boxing Writers Association of America’s annual banquet.
“We’ll see what [Rigondeaux’s] going to do and we’ll be ready for whatever he brings,” Donaire told BoxingScene.com.
Exact terms were not disclosed, but Donaire, who cracked the $1 million mark for the first time following his third-round knockout of Jorge Arce this past December, is expected to earn a similar amount for this fight. Rigondeaux’s base purse is reportedly set at $750,000.
EIGHT WOULD BE GREAT
Donaire will be vying for his eighth world title spanning four weight classes—flyweight (112 pounds), jr. bantamweight (115), bantamweight (118), and now, junior featherweight. Last year, Donaire went 4-0 with two knockouts, all of which occurred against reigning or former 122-pound titlists.
Another titleholder in the division, Abner Mares, attempted to secure a fight with the East Bay star in January but negotiations never materialized. As a result, Top Rank presented Donaire with three options—Rigondeaux, featherweight titlist Chris John, and a rematch with Vic Darchinyan, whom Donaire knocked out six years ago.
“I wanted the Mares fight, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make that, so I said, ‘Give me Rigondeaux and then Darchinyan, one after the other. Then after that, Chris John at 126 [pounds],’ ” Donaire (NorCal No. 2; 31-1, 20 KOs) told CSNBayArea.com last month. “These are the three guys I want to fight this year. Let’s make it happen.”
RI’GOLD’EAUX TO THE PROS
Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), a slick southpaw from Cuba now residing in Miami, presents what many pundits have tabbed to be Donaire’s sternest test yet in the division.
“[Donaire] had a good year in 2012, and many boxing writers and fans have him ranked as the number one 122-pound fighter,” said Gary Hyde, Rigondeaux’s manager. “However, Team Rigondeaux are confident that he has the tools to dismantle Nonito.”
However, the same can be said of the 32-year-old Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has yet to face a fighter of Donaire’s caliber in the pro ranks. Rigondeaux clawed his way back to relevance following a disappointing outing in his first world title fight in 2010, when he barely edged Ricardo Cordoba by split decision despite the heavy hype that surrounded the Cuban leading up to the fight.
“I tuned in because everyone was raving about him, and this was the guy they were talking about?” Donaire said. “[Cordoba] gave him so many problems, and [Rigondeaux] kept running and running, so that’s when I said, ‘I’m not interested.’”
Rigondeaux has since successfully defended his WBA belt four times, with three of the victories ending via stoppage. Now that he has Donaire’s attention once again, the two men can commence preparations for their April showdown.
“Ever since [the Cordoba fight], I never really looked back and moved on to other guys,” Donaire added. “But now that he’s on my radar, I’m going to take his belt.”
Top Rank will hold a press conference on Thursday in New York City to formally announce the matchup. Though both teams had previously stated their fighters would have no problems availing themselves random drug testing leading up to the fight, only Donaire has gone on record confirming that he will submit to it in the contract.
Since last July, Donaire has been enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s year-round random drug testing program where agents are allowed to appear unannounced and procure both blood and urine samples from the fighter for testing.
In lieu of VADA testing, Rigondeaux would only be bound by the New York State Athletic Commission’s testing rules, which consist of urinalysis before and after the fight when a championship is at stake.
OTHER NORCAL NEWS: CHERRY STOPS ESCOBEDO
Woodland’s Vicente Escobedo never recovered from an early knockdown and was stopped by Edner Cherry in the sixth round of a junior lightweight bout in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night.
Escobedo (NorCal No. 7; 26-5, 14 KOs), who was coming off a controversial loss in a 130-pound title fight against Adrien Broner last July, hit the canvas in the closing seconds of the first frame when Cherry (31-6-2, 17 KOs) connected with a left hand to the midsection and followed it up with a right hand upstairs.
Though Escobedo would beat the count, Cherry, fighting out of Miami, would finish the job at the end of the sixth round with two more knockdowns; most of the damage resulted from the Floridian landing several heavy right hands. With Escobedo on all fours, referee Allan Huggins officially waved off the bout at 3:00.
Escobedo, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, has lost two in a row after a four-bout winning streak.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.