Saturday night's main event at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City could go some way towards deciding the successor to Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather’s position as the world’s top-ranked pound-for-pound boxer.
In one of those unification bouts which (usually) do not come along ridiculously often, one of those fights where two dominant and entertaining boxers meet to decide a division’s true top dog which nobody can honestly predict with a large degree of confidence, Nonito Donaire Jr puts his WBO super-bantamweight title up against Guillermo Rigondeaux’s WBA equivalent.
Funnily enough, just seven days later San Antonio plays host to another such contest in the light-middleweight bracket between undefeated titlists Saul Alvarez (WBC) and Austin Trout (WBA Super).
The winner of the latter unification fight could well be next in line to fight pound-for-pound king Mayweather, who first takes on Robert Guerrero on May 4th’s Cinco de Mayo supershow, a fortnight after Canelo-Trout.
Bottom line: the top 10 world boxers list, decided upon by an elite panel of writers and journalists, has seen little change over the last six months but that could easily change over the next four weeks.
One week at a time, of course, and it all starts with Donaire-Rigondeaux.
Donaire has already cracked the list. In fact, the latest edition has him fifth. This comes courtesy of a fantastic 2012 in which four impressive victories in the calendar year saw ‘Filipino Flash’ win and retain gold at 112lb and earn ‘Fighter of the Year’ awards from multiple outlets, including Eurosport-Yahoo!.
Donaire lost his second professional bout to Rosendo Sanchez back in 2001 but went on to win his next 30, raising world gold at four divisions in the process and unifying belts in three. With Manny Pacquiao’s profile on the decline after two straight defeats, Donaire is the Philippines’ current top dog.
By comparison, Rigondeaux is a slight underdog on paper. Turning pro in his late 20s just four years ago, the Cuban competes in just his 12th professional fight on Saturday.
However, Rigondeaux is one of the finest amateur boxers to ever don the protective headgear, and claimed bantamweight gold at both the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympics as well as two world holds, one pan-American gold and one Caribbean gold.
His decorated background, combined with him finishing four of his first five professional opponents inside short scheduled distances, led to an offer from Bob Arum’s Top Rank and a fast-track to the world title picture.
Rigondeaux’s current list of victims is not exactly a who’s who of boxing, but the Olympian appears aware of the impending leap up in class when he takes on Donaire, going as far as to switch from trainer Jorge Rubio to Pedro Diaz, the man in charge of his amateur glory.
If there’s one thing which makes cinematic boxing gold, it’s a fighter returning to their roots for a huge clash.
The bout is set to be exactly that: big, epic and if the two do not disappoint when the bell rings, memorable.
A win for Donaire here will not only give him a strong chance of moving up to second in the P4P at next ballot, but if Mayweather somehow slips up against Guerrero or retires following the fight, top spot could be his for the taking.
Rigondeaux meanwhile finds himself in the company of other potential future top-10 fighters including the aforementioned Alvarez and Trout, not to mention Gennady Golovkin, Adrien Broner and Abner Mares (who moved up in weight when he failed to get the unification bout with either Guillermo or Nonito). The scalp of Donaire would skyrocket him perhaps as high as fifth or sixth.
The possibilities are endless for this one, both with regards to the result and the bigger picture. And we as boxing fans get to sit back and enjoy it all on Saturday – before doing it all over again the following weekend for Canelo-Trout.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter
The big fight weekend in the Orient did not disappoint the locals: double Olympic hero Zou Shiming delighted the Chinese faithful in Macau with victory in his professional debut as the gambling city looked to get in on the pugilistic scene. Filipino-American Brian Viloria, however, did lose his WBA and WBO flyweight titles on a loaded undercard in a shocker to the impressive Juan Francisco Estrada.
The following day, Koki Kameda just about retained his WBA bantamweight crown against Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym in Osaka, and things got even better for the Japanese 24 hours later in Tokyo with three world title wins - including two new champions.
The only world title bout this weekend other than Donaire-Rigondeaux takes place in Indonesia on Sunday as Chris John defends the WBA ‘Super’ featherweight belt against Satoshi Hosono, who will hope to stretch Japan’s weekend of glory to a fortnight.
In addition to that, though, we will have further preview coverage of the big unification bout in NYC courtesy of our American expert Kevin Iole. He will provide a closer look at both Donaire and Rigondeaux ahead of Saturday night.
As always, you will find full results and reports on the Eurosport-Yahoo! website and mobile app.