Nonito Donaire had a great run starting in 2007, winning world titles at flyweight, bantamweight, and super bantamweight, and a short period where he was also considered the world's best at super flyweight. He became a pound-for-pound contender, a big star (especially given his sub-featherweight size), a regular HBO headliner, and a key cog at Top Rank.
But he never fought someone as good as Guillermo Rigondeaux, who showed another level to his game tonight, beating Donaire by unanimous decision at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Scores were 114-113, 115-112, and 116-111. BLH had it 117-110 for Rigondeaux.
Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KO) boxed beautifully in the early rounds, looking faster, sharper, more accurate, and simply better-prepared than Donaire (31-2, 20 KO). Nonito looked downright slow in comparison to Rigondeaux, which is not a knock on Donaire, who is a terrific fighter. Rigondeaux, in the post-fight words of his vanquished foe, simply used "beautiful boxing" to win this fight, and Donaire offered only a minor excuse, that he needs to get shoulder surgery.
For the most part, though, Nonito was refreshingly honest. He didn't complain about the scores, which many felt were too close on the 114-113 and 115-112 cards. He didn't demand any rematch, though it could happen later this year. He accepted his loss, and will move forward.
For the most part, Rigondeaux bossed the fight, even in no-action rounds. He made the fight go when he wanted it to, and Donaire couldn't do much with him. Nonito did have some hope in the 10th round, when he floored Rigondeaux on a right hand, but the Cuban popped up and took over once more.
In the 12th, Rigondeaux cracked Donaire in the right eye with a hard left hand early, which led to Donaire pawing and covering the eye for the rest of the round. The injury may have been a broken orbital bone given the physical look of it, but Donaire wasn't asked by Max Kellerman to address that in his post-fight interview, and they wouldn't know exactly what it was, anyway, so that's something we'll learn later.
Rigondeaux won't become a sudden ticket-seller due to this win, but HBO and Top Rank will be behind him as much as they can be given his limitations with fans. He's never going to be popular, because he just isn't very exciting, and given that he just knocked off one of the most highly-respected fighters in the world using his style, booed though it may have been, he's got no real reason to change.