Building a legacy that stands the test of time is particularly difficult in this era where high-quality matches are so difficult to arrange. But over the past couple of years Nonito Donaire has bucked the trend and as a result sits near the top of every expert's pound-for-pound list. Donaire has won 30 straight fights over 12 years and the gauntlet of opponents he has faced of late -- Hernan Marquez, Wladimir Sidorenko, Fernando Montiel, Omar Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce, champions all -- is arguably the toughest any fighter has faced. Many say that Donaire, not Juan Manuel Marquez, was the rightful Fighter of the Year for 2012.
The beat -- and Donaire, a 3-1 favorite, hopes the beatings -- will go on Saturday when he faces two-time gold medalist and WBA counterpart Guillermo Rigondeaux, (who hasn't lost a fight in nearly ten years) perhaps the greatest amateur fighter who has yet lived. This will be Donaire's second unification fight in nine months and had Nishioka not been stripped shortly before facing Donaire it would have been "The Filipino Flash's" third such match. Fights like Donaire-Rigondeaux are to be savored like a grade-A steak.
Still, there are statistical factors that may separate these high-level fighters. They include:
Firing On All Cylinders: After a three-fight stretch that saw Donaire's performance level slide, the Filipino has seemingly regained the destructive form that saw him starch Montiel with a single punch. Against Nishioka, Donaire averaged 56.2 punches per round, which was above the 49.2 he logged against Mathebula and the 46.3 and 55.5 he averaged against Vazquez Jr. and Omar Narvaez respectively. Moreover, he out-landed the Japanese 134-49 overall and 111-26 in power shots. He connected on 45% of his power punches and fielded 30% of Nishioka's power punches.
In his most recent outing against Arce, Donaire managed to bring down the Mexican's usual high-octane pace to a more manageable speed. Arce averaged 32 punches per round and could not penetrate Donaire's guard, for he landed just 14% of his total punches, 4% of his jabs and 22% of his power shots. Meanwhile, Donaire was far more accurate (30% overall, 19% jabs, 40% power) but he was unusually tepid with his output as he averaged 31 punches per round.
Given Nishioka's tepid pace (23.1 per round overall, 14.3 in the first four rounds) and Arce's hesitancy to let punches go, it appears Donaire has regained the "fear factor" when it comes to his opponents taking risks. His cobra-like ability to strike with deadly power has much to do with that, and it may cause Rigondeaux to do the same thing.
Smart Bombs: A big part of Rigondeaux's success lies in the accuracy -- and effect -- of his power shots. He landed 43% of them in his last fight against Robert Marroquin (W 12), 49% against Teon Kennedy (KO 5) and 49% against Willie Casey (KO 1). Although he struggled to find the target against Rico Ramos (35%), Rigondeaux closed the show most impressively by landing 63% of them in the sixth and final round.
Rigondeaux's low punch output magnifies the effect of his power displays. The averaged 122-pounder throws 60.8 punches per round but Rigondeaux does a lot with a lot less as he averaged just 26 punches per round against Ramos, 41.6 against Kennedy and 39.2 versus Jose Angel Beranza (KO 7). The lone exception to this pattern was the Casey fight in which Rigondeaux unleashed 80 punches in 148 seconds (even less time when one considers the time spent counting two of the three knockdowns).
The Untouchable: While his one-punch power, especially lefts to the body, grabs the headlines his airtight defense in his last five four fights is almost beyond belief. Consider:
Marroquin -- 15.8% overall, 9.6% jabs, 19.9% power
Kennedy: 7.3% overall, 5% jabs, 15% power
Ramos: 13.2% overall, 6.8% jabs, 24.2% power
Cordoba: 15.4% overall, 10% jabs, 22% power
Rigo's 4 opp. overall avg.: 12.9%
Jr Featherweight avg.: 32.1% overall, 21.5% jabs, 39.1% power
(Rigo not yet included on CompuBox +/- list due to lack of 5th quality opponent)
Even Floyd Mayweather Jr., who at 36 remains the defensive gold standard, must applaud Rigondeaux's elusiveness. Nailing Rigondeaux with one solid punch, much less enough to win a title fight, is almost a comical proposition. Rigondeaux hasn't been hit with more than 14 punches (Ricardo Cordoba) in any round in his 11 pro fights. Jr. Feather avg. is 19 landed per round. (CompuBox has counted all 11 of Rigo's pro fights)
Prediction: Both are smart boxers that carefully consider their options before throwing the next punch and because of their excellent defenses and one-punch KO capacity this could either be a slow-paced stinker or a brief but explosive supernova. The difference is that Donaire only has to watch for one weapon -- Rigondeaux's left to the body -- while the Cuban must account for Donaire's more complete arsenal.
Therefore, if anyone is going to score the knockout, it will be Donaire, but the guess here is that this will be a cautious affair that will go the distance. Donaire by decision.