NEW YORK – Top Rank CEO Bob Arum knows better than anyone that no deal is final until both parties have signed their contracts, but he feels pretty confident that fans will see THE RING/WBO junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr., against unbeaten WBA 122-pound titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 27.
“Like everything, it’s not done until it’s done,” Arum told RingTV.com. “But I’m optimistic that that’ll be the fight. I think that Donaire would’ve preferred to do a fight with [WBC titleholder] Abner Mares instead and [Mares' manager] Frank Espinoza wants to do that fight. We offered a tremendous amount of money to [Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard] Schaefer for that fight but apparently it’s not going to happen.”
Arum, who is in town to promote tonight’s tripleheader at Madison Square Garden, has been adamant about being the lead promoter for a proposed bout between four-division titleholder Donaire (31-1, 20 knockouts), of San Leandro, Calif., and Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs), of Montebello, Calif., citing that Donaire is the “A-level fighter” between the two.
Donaire, 30, is considered the favorite to win the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Fighter of the Year award for 2012 after moving up to 122 pounds and winning four title fights. Donaire is rated No. 5 on THE RING’s pound for pound list, while Rigondeaux is rated the No. 1 contender at 122 pounds.
A 32-year-old Cuban defector, Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) is widely regarded as one of the greatest amateur boxers in history, having claimed gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He won his first professional title last year with a knockout of Rico Ramos and has since made two defenses. A fight with Donaire is much easier to make since they are both promoted by Top Rank.
Donaire’s trainer Robert Garcia, whose brother Mikey (30-0, 26 KOs) will headline tonight’s main event against WBO featherweight titleholder Orlando Salido, tells THE RING that he thinks Rigondeaux will be a tougher fight for Donaire than Mares, but is confident nonetheless.
“I think Rigondeaux is harder,” Garcia said. “Talking to Nonito, he says right away, ‘I’ll knock him out’ and I agree with him. If he catches ‘Rigo,’ Rigo won’t be able to take his punch. I think he knocks him out, but he’s a very talented, skillful kid, so you gotta be very careful.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.