Junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire Jr., CSNBayArea.com’s reigning Male Fighter of the Year, is currently in negotiations to fight beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux in an HBO-televised Apr. 27 clash in Las Vegas.
The San Leandro product currently holds The Ring Magazine and WBO belts, while Rigondeaux possesses the WBA strap.
According to Donaire’s promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, a potential matchup with fellow 122-pound star Abner Mares fell through when talks with Mares’s promoter Golden Boy were fruitless.
Donaire’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, has subsequently presented his client with three more names—Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), featherweight titlist Chris John (48-0-2, 22 KOs), and Vic Darchinyan (38-5-1, 27 KOs), whom Donaire knocked out in 2007.
“I wanted the Mares fight, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make that, so I said, ‘Give me Rigondeaux and then Darchinyan, one after the other. Then after that, Chris John at 126 [pounds],’ ” Donaire (NorCal No. 2; 31-1, 20 KOs) told CSNBayArea.com. “These are the three guys I want to fight this year. Let’s make it happen.”
Coming off a historic 2012 when he went 4-0 with two knockouts, the 30-year-old Donaire seems to be headed for a collision course with Rigondeaux, a deadly southpaw from Cuba with two Olympic gold medals under his belt.
“I always challenge myself to prove people wrong,” Donaire said. “All my life, I’ve always been that way, that I couldn’t be anything, that I was too weak, or too small, and look at me now.
“It just motivates me to train harder. I guess now it’s more a matter of, ‘Let’s get it over with.’ I know what lies ahead of me, and I want to get there.”
Donaire revealed he has only seen one of the Cuban’s fights, a so-so performance in 2010 where he scraped by Ricardo Cordoba in a split decision. One must note, however, that the encounter was Rigondeaux’s first involving a world title, and that it was only his seventh pro bout.
“I tuned in because everyone was raving about him, and this was the guy they were talking about?” Donaire said of Rigondeaux. “[Cordoba] gave him so many problems, and [Rigondeaux] kept running and running, so that’s when I said, ‘I’m not interested.’
“Ever since then, I never really looked back and moved on to other guys. But now that he’s on my radar, I’m going to take his belt.”
With wife Rachel three months pregnant with their first child, Donaire has a lot on his plate this year. But the king of the 122-pound division is enjoying every second of it.
“You should have seen the ultrasound,” he said. “The baby was jumping and jumping, throwing a right hook. I think we have another fighter in the family.”
Donaire will go from the hospital room to his living room this Sunday, as two of his training buddies, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree, will take the field in Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game. This preseason, the 49er duo fine-tuned their knowledge of the sweet science at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos under the tutelage of Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel, two key members of Team Donaire.
“Those guys are hard workers,” Donaire said of his football friends. “They’re determined, and you saw that last week [against Green Bay]. Gore’s not a big guy, but he pushes the pile around, and Crabtree’s fast. He’s definitely talented.”
When asked to prognosticate Sunday’s final score, Donaire’s pick was more analogous to a knockout blow than a split decision based on the margin.
“They’re going to kick butt,” he said. “I’m not good at predicting scores, but I’m just going to say the 49ers are going to win by at least 14 points.”
• KNIGHT-VAZQUEZ II ON TAP: IBF flyweight champion Ava Knight of Chico announced that she has accepted a rematch with Mexican challenger Susana Vazquez. The fight will occur on Jan. 26 at the Gimnaseo Aguirre in Chihuahua, Mex., and will air on Mexican television giant Televisa.
In their first meeting last June, Knight (NorCal No. 5; 10-1-3, 5 KOs) won a wide unanimous decision despite injuring her hand in the third round, and CSNBayArea.com’s reigning Female Fighter of the Year is hoping to beat over Vazquez (8-7-1, 3 KOs) more impressively this time around.
“Susana is a great, strong fighter and deserves a lot of respect for wanting to get back in the ring with Ava, but we will show her no mercy in the ring,” said Knight’s trainer, Ben Bautista.
“I am most definite Susana is training very hard to prove a point,” Knight said. “I am positive I am training harder to prove a bigger point.”
• CHAMP NATION CARD MOVED: Bautista, who trains Knight out of the Champ Nation Gym in West Oakland, was scheduled to host an amateur card there last Saturday. However, the show was postponed and will now take place on Feb. 9, with the first bout at noon. Admission is still $15 for adults and $10 for youth. Call Bautista for more information at (510) 444-8269.
• NORCAL BOXER OF THE WEEK: Suray Mahmutovic, Daly City
Age ain’t nothing but a number. Ask 14-year-old Suray Mahmutovic, who dominated 15 and 16-year-old amateurs at last week’s Junior World Team Open in Reno.
Currently a freshman at Daly City’s Westmoor High School, ”Sugar” Suray not only won the 176-pound crown and was named Most Outstanding Boxer, but also earned a coveted spot on the U.S. National Team for the AIBA Men’s Junior World Championships in August.
At 6’3’’ Mahmutovic presented a matchup nightmare, made all the more daunting when combined with a skill set usually unseen for a boxer with his height. In the final, Matthew Hernandez of Texas was no match for the teen phenom, falling by a margin of 23-8.
"Everyone knows Suray's tall, but I think his athleticism surprised a lot of people,” said Rob Fernandez, who trains Mahmutovic out of the 415 Boxing Club in The City. “He can be on the ropes against the shorter man, and still be able to slip under the punches."
Mere hours before the championship bout, Fernandez learned that his father Albert passed away in San Francisco following a long battle with liver and kidney problems. In memoriam, the newest member of Team USA showed his appreciation for his coach's efforts by presenting Fernandez with his Most Outstanding Boxer trophy.
“That meant a lot to me," Fernandez said. “I'm just so proud of the kid. He's still young, and he's not even at his peak yet. He's definitely going to accomplish a lot more. I told Suray he put himself on the national map tonight.”
Thanks to everyone who voted. Look out for future polls in the upcoming weeks!
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.