NEW YORK – On Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall, junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire will face WBA beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux in an HBO-televised unification matchup featuring two of boxing’s best.
But as Donaire (31-1, 20 knockouts) prepares for Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) and perhaps the biggest moment of his career, the man nicknamed “The Filipino Flash” is motivated by an even more meaningful situation.
Donaire’s focus is bolstered by the fact that his wife, Rachel, is pregnant with their first child, a son who will be named Jarel Michael.
“For me, this (fight) is only one step. I’m just taking things step-by-step, because to me, the one thing that is the most important to me is not this fight, not this victory — but of course I’m going to win — but I’m going to do it because of my baby. That’s the most important thing,” Donaire said during an intervew at Wednesday’s final press conference at The Theater lobby of Madison Square Garden.
“I think about my baby every morning and every night. I talk to my baby every night before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning I talk to my baby. To me, that means so much and adds so much essence in my life.”
Donaire will be honored as The Boxing Writers’ Association of America’s Fighter of The Year (for 2012) on Thursday in New York, a factor that he says won’t intefere with his performance.
“Usually, at this time, a person, as a champion, is vulnerable, because he has accomplished everything that he has wanted to accomplish, and become everything that he has wanted to be,” said the 30-year-old veteran, whose son is due on July 22.
“I have won titles, become Fighter of The Year, and now, we’re having a baby. Usually, that’s when your vulnerability comes in because you don’t think about anything else. But, like I said, before, I will guarantee you that you will get the best of me in this fight.”
Donaire-Rigondeaux will be only the second bout to appear at Radio City Music Hall the venue’s 82-year existence. The first was Roy Jones’ unanimous decision over David Telesco on Jan. 15, 2000 in defense of his IBF, WBA and WBC light heavyweight belts.
FELIX VERDEJO, GLEN TAPIA, MIKAEL ZEWSKI, SEAN MONAHAN RETURN TO NEW YORK
Saturday night’s Donaire-Rigondeaux card marks the return to New York of junior lightweight Felix Verdejo, junior middleweight Glen Tapia, Canadian welterweight Mikael Zewski and light heavyweight Sean Monaghan, each of whom were a part of January’s card at Madison Square Garden that was highlighted by a unanimous eight-round technical decision victory by RING and WBO featherweight champ Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia that dethroned Orlando Salido.
In January, Verdejo (4-0, 3 KOs) took only two punches and 21 seconds to knock out Tomi Archambault, and will be after his third consecutive knockout victory against Steve Gutierrez (4-3-1, 2 KOs), of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.
“I thank God for me being in the Radio City Music Hall,” said Verdejo. “It will be the first time that a Puerto Rican has fought there. I’m here to do my job. I’m here to just do the work.”
Tapia (17-0, 10 KOs), of Passaic, N.J., is coming off his second-round stoppage of Ayi Bruce at The Garden, Monaghan (17-0, 10 KOs), of Long Beach, N.Y., off crowd-pleasing win over Roger Cantrell (15-3, 8 KOs), and Zewski (18-0, 14 KOs), his triumph over Brandon Hoskins, whom he dropped three times in the fourth and final round for the knockout.
“I’m not in position to call people out,” said Tapia. “I’m taking my career step by step, and when I get there, I’ll get there.”
THE REST OF THE DONAIRE-RIGONDEAUX CARD
Also on the Donaire-Rigodeaux card, Detroit lightweight Erik DeLeon (2-0, 1 KO) meets Diamond Baier (2-4-1, 0 KOs, of Phoenix, AZ., New York junior middleweight Dario Soccia (2-0, 0 KOs) will face Tyler Caning (1-1, 0 KOs) of Lander, Wy., Philadelphia super middleweight Jesse Hart (6-0, 4 KOs) has a matchup with Florida’s Marlon Farr (2-2, 0 KOs), and, junior lightweight Toka Khan Clary (4-0, 3 KOs), of Providence, R.I., meets Gadiel Andulez (4-4-1, 2 KOs), of San Juan, P.R.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org