Q&A WITH DONAIRE AND RIGONDEAUX
Press Release: 2012 Fighter of the Year and WBO 122-pound champion Nonito "Filipino Flash" Donaire and his undefeated WBA counterpart and former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux will rumble in a world championship battle, this Saturday, April 13th at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. It will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT. Here is what was discussed during a media conference call:
Promoter Bob Arum: It’s good to be back in the United States and good to be back in my native New York and it’s even better that on Saturday we have a classic match-up to present at Radio City Music Hall. The buzz for this fight has been absolutely tremendous and in the next couple of days we will be able to announce a complete sellout. We have been inundated with requests for tickets. I know that many of the New York Knicks players, who are off on Saturday night, will be coming to the fight as well as many of the players from the New York football Giants. The entire community, and sports community, is focusing on this particular battle which takes place at Radio City Music Hall between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux. So it’s a real pleasure and honor for us to promote this event and I also want to take this opportunity to welcome our co-promoters Caribe Promotions, who are co-promoting this event with Top Rank.
Gary Hyde (Rigondeaux’s Manager): We are absolutely delighted and excited about the fight. We are really looking forward to it and our fighter is in the best condition he has ever been and he is really focused for this fight. We are very confident of victory on Saturday night.
Guillermo Rigondeaux: Training camp has been going very well and I am in the best shape of my career and I am very excited about this weekend.
Nonito Donaire: It’s been great. Camp has been going great. It is going to be a great fight. He has been the best ever at the amateur level trying to become one of the best at the professional level. It is going to be something – people are going to be there for a treat. It’s going to be a great fight.
Q: How do you feel now about facing Rigondeaux where in the past you have been skeptical?
ND: In the beginning when I followed Rigondeaux, I wasn’t impressed with the Ricardo Cordoba fight, but the more that I watched him fight I realized he is more worthy of it. But first things first, I wanted to go Abner Mares first then Rigondeaux but that fight didn’t happen and now that I have been watching Rigondeaux the more formidable I see him. I am seeing that he is a really tough guy. Not only does he have speed and power but he does well mentally so I am really excited about the fight. When you do this for awhile, like I have, you tend to be motivated by having a good fighter in front of you and that is why I disregarded Rigondeaux in the beginning because of the Cordoba fight, so when the fight with Mares didn’t happen, Rigondeaux was the next guy in line. The more that I watched him fight, the more excited I got about the fight. He has a lot of talent and that’s why I am training hard for this fight.
Q: What made you change your mind after the Cordoba fight?
ND: He fought better and progressed as he fought different opposition. As much as I can say he hasn’t fought the guys at my level – the more he fought, the better he got. That was worth the determination of me working hard.
Q: How is it training as well as having a pregnant wife?
ND: I don’t need anything. I have accomplished more than many other fighters have in the boxing world. To me the most precious moments I have is feeling this kid kick. To be there and to witness every movement and every kick - I am really happy. But my focus is once I get inside that ring my focus is to win.
Q: So it hasn’t been a distraction?
ND: Not at all. As much as I like to spend time with my wife, when I am inside that ring I have been performing well against my sparring partners and getting ready for the fight.
Q: Your last fight in New York [a dull decision win over Omar Narvaez] was disappointing…
ND: I think there will be fireworks this time. It may be a chess match. We are both defensive because we can see the punches coming, but when it comes down to the fight we are both aggressive and offensive guys so I don’t think it will be anything near that fight [with Omar Narvaez] and the people in New York and the people watching on HBO will have a treat.
Q: How is your weight?
ND: Weight is good. I have been getting bigger so I may want to try to move up. Training has been excellent and we have had excellent sparring. Everything I needed to prepare for this fight has been given to me and we are ready.
Q: Is it important to score a knockout?
ND: I think, and you know me as a fighter, I want people to have fun and I will always go for the knockout if given the opportunity.
Q: What would you say is Rigondeaux’ greatest strength?
ND: I think his ability to see punches and to be intelligent in there. He has speed and power like I do. It is going to be, who is the smartest guy in the ring and who has the biggest heart?
Q: Do you think your pro experience will be to your advantage?
ND: When it comes down to speed-power and power and tactical ability then my experience will come in handy in terms of pushing through and going all-out and going more rounds I think that is going to be a big factor when it comes down to we are evenly matched. If it comes down to speed and power then my experience will be an ace for me but that is something we will need to find out – if he is stronger than me or faster than me.
Q: Is this your most important fight?
Guillermo Rigondeaux: Nonito is a great tactician and has enormous power so I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. At this point it is the most important fight of my career. This fight will determine the best in the 122-pound weight class.
Q: After the Narvaez fight you said you were disappointed for the fans…
ND: I am thankful for the fans so I want to give them the best treat that I can and that’s why I am not afraid to get hit or to take hits. I am there to give as much excitement as I can. The fans are there for me and I am thankful for them for supporting me throughout this time and to me that’s important.
Q: How do you think you can get Rigondeaux to exchange?
ND: it is impossible to say what I will do because I am a fighter who is given a situation and reacts to that situation and whatever that may be I know I have the power and weapons. It may be the left or it may be the right. I know I have power in both hands and that’s what makes me scary. I have power from all angles and the overhands or I have the straight punches. Rigondeaux has the same thing, power in both hands. But it’s going to be a great fight. To set things in motion I have to put the energy out there to make him engage or do whatever I want him to do.
Q: With Toshiaki Nishioka you made him come forward to finish him off [in the ninth round in a 2012 bout]…
ND: With Toshiaki Nishioka, at the moment he thought he could box me, but ultimately my tactic was well-played to the point where he started to reach in and I capitalized. But at the beginning he tried to power me in and I needed a different approach and that’s the same thing that will happen with Rigondeaux – I will need to find out what type of fighter he is to make a point in strategy.
Q: Does Rigondeaux feel the same? That he needs to be exciting?
GR: Yes, in this fight I will try to engage more than I have in the past. I want to give the fans what they want to see. Nonito is an aggressive boxer and I will be coming for him. I expect the same from Nonito. He is a great boxer and a great technician. I think there are going to be a lot of fireworks.
Q: How do you think amateur experience compares to pro experience? Leon Spinks had less than 10 pro fights and beat Muhammad Ali…
ND: That’s correct, Ali was older at that time but Spinks did shock the world and I do listen to every history lesson that is out there and that’s what makes me work hard and train hard. But I do understand that back then, amateurs fought the way that professionals fought. During Rigondeaux’ time it was about the point system. It was about scoring the points and being tactical. You could have 500 amateur fights but when you go pro it is a different world. Although, an amateur like Rigondeaux is able to shift his ways to become a world champion. He is able to use his skills and learn from that. That’s why we do not underestimate him and trained very hard for this fight. We are training for this fight like we are fighting the best out there.
Q: What would it mean to you to bump off the best 122 pounder?
GR: It would be a huge accomplishment to add to my amateur accomplishments. A victory over Nonito would show the world that I can compete against the best in the world in a professional capacity.
Q: Do you view this as a big step up in competition?
GR: I have great respect for Nonito. His record speaks for itself and what he has done as a professional boxer. I believe that I belong at this level and if I am going to be the best, I believe you’ve got to beat the best. Right now Nonito is the best and on April 13 I am going to give it my all.
Q: Is there a fight on Nonito’s resume that he looks at as his best?
GR: I think in his last couple fights Nonito has become sharper. His last couple fights he has looked his best and the fight against Nishioka was impressive.
Q: How do you get in those long arms and powerful punches? It has proven to be a tall task…
GR: He is a boxer that acts on reaction. Action / reaction – he takes it from there. In the moment of the fight he reacts. He really has no strategy with the length of his arms. He reacts in the ring.
Q: Two Gold Medals or Unifying titles – which is bigger accomplishment?
GR: The amateur accomplishments that I have had I want to repeat on a professional level. Like I said before, beating Nonito would be beating the best in the division. I have great respect for Nonito and I think he is a great fighter. Beating him would be a great accomplishment in itself. If we beat him we can say we are true professionals. He can stop talking about me as an amateur. A win absolutely would be a bigger accomplishment than the Gold Medals.
Q: What part of Guillermo’s style will be the toughest for you?
ND: he’s an incredible fighter. Having only 11 fights and becoming world champion – he’s an elite fighter. That’s why after Mares fell through he was the next guy in line. We want to fight the best. We want to clean up this division – that is the goal my team has.
Q: Do you think people think it is a disadvantage you have only had 11 professional fights?
GR: Obviously the public does not respect me because of the number of fights I have had. Nonito has three times the experience I have at the professional level so the public has chosen Nonito as the favorite.
ND: I am at that point that I have to have that fire. I am at a point in my career that if I think a fight won’t be difficult I won’t train as hard. When we checked it out we saw this guy has a lot of talent and that’s what we are excited about. I saw that he didn’t have many fights and at the same time I know he will get better every time he gets in the ring – and he has proven that he is that person that gets better. That’s what we are fighting him now, now that he’s at that level.
Q: How important was it to you that he accepted VADA drug testing?
ND: It is good to prove that you are clean in the sport of boxing as well as any sport. That’s important to me and I commend him for doing it. This way everybody is good, everybody is clean and there is no doubt.
Q: Bob, how do you feel about the last five weeks promoting four big fight cards?
BA: I don’t know where I am anymore. I went into a restaurant today and I asked a waiter for chopsticks. It’s been fun and I think this is the highlight of the whole experience. We’ve had some great fights – Tim Bradley’s fight with Provodnikov and Rios and Alvarado – terrific fights… Now I am really looking forward to Nonito and Guillermo. I have thought about this fight for a real long time and I think it’s going to be a classic battle.
Q: I just want to remind everyone that at the Boxing Writers Association of America Awards dinner is on Thursday and Donaire will be recognized at the Fighter of the Year and Pacquiao-Márquez 4 as the Fight of the Year among the various awards at that dinner in Manhattan on Thursday night.
GR: Once again I would like to thank Nonito for accepting the fight. I would like to thank Top Rank, Caribe Promotion and HBO – everyone that has helped put together this fight. I think this is the fight the world wants to see – the two top 122-pounders getting in the ring to fight each other.
ND: I am honored, man, honored for the award that I won for my accomplishments last year. And now I am honored to be fighting in this historic venue. I want to thank Top Rank and Caribe Promotions for having the kid ready for this fight. I know Guillermo’s camp has him ready for this fight. Thanks to HBO and all the fans out there – this is going to be a great fight. I owe New York a great fight and this is going to be it.