Following his three-round annihilation of Hungarian challenger Zsolt Bedak, reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior featherweight (122 lbs.) champion Nonito Donaire Jr. raised the clarion and called out the other champions in his weight class for unification duels.
Donaire made it clear that while he is satisfied with his performance against Bedak, there is no better way to measure himself than against his fellow titlists. He called out three fighters in particular, International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton, erstwhile World Boxing Association (WBA) titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux, and World Boxing Council (WBC) titleholder Hugo Ruiz. Securing these fights, however, is easier said than done.
Frampton is a diminutive action-packed fighter who owns a chilling left hook. He is built like Mexican Fernando Montiel, short-limbed but explosive. Frampton, however, often stays in front of his foes and hardly moves his head, making him the ideal target for Donaire’s sizzling counter hook. This weakness in Frampton’s arsenal was in full display in July 2015, when he was knocked down twice and nearly stopped in the opening round of his title defense against Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. Frampton rallied to hammer out a 12-round decision.
A Frampton-Donaire duel figures to be action-packed, but last we heard Frampton (22-0, 14 knockouts) is set to face WBA featherweight (126 lbs.) champion Leo Santa Cruz on July 30. If Frampton wins, he is likely to stay at featherweight. A loss would force Frampton to return to the junior featherweight class, but by then a match with Donaire will no longer be palatable. In addition, Frampton is identified with Al Haymon, a guy Top Rank does not wish to do business with.
Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 knockouts) is one boxer Donaire covets for personal reasons. The Cuban stylist survived a 10th round knockdown to easily outpoint Donaire in April 2013. Rigondeaux has not really cashed in on the win as his boring style turned off a lot of American promoters. Rigondeaux was supposed to fight James Dickens in Liverpool, England last March with the end in view of securing a lucrative showdown with Frampton. The fight was called off after Rigondeaux encountered visa problems.
Rigondeaux is available and is desperate for a fight, but from where this writer sits Donaire is better off staying away from the guy. Styles make fights and the Cuban’s hit-and-run approach is the antithesis to Donaire’s counterpunching approach. A rematch is likely to be a replica of the first meeting, what with Rigondeaux’s innate refusal to mix it up. Rigondeaux is that type of guy who can make his foe look bad regardless of the fight’s outcome.
Donaire needs action fights and one guy who can give it to him is WBC champ Ruiz. Nicknamed ‘Cuatito’ (Little Twin), Ruiz won the WBC title just last February with a first-round stoppage of Julio Ceja. Ruiz is tall (5’9 +) and boasts of legitimate power (36-3, 32 knockouts). But of his 3 losses, 2 had come by knockout, implying that he cannot take a punch as well as he can give one. Ruiz is a stand-up boxer-puncher who owns a wicked right straight (albeit thrown in telegraphed fashion) and a squeaky left uppercut. The problem with Ruiz is that when he throws a three-or four-punch combination, he tends to push some of the punches and ends up losing his balance, leaving him wide-open for counter blows.
Yet another foe waiting in the wings for Donaire is American Jessie Magdaleno, the No.1 ranked contender by the WBO in the junior featherweight class. Magdaleno (23-0, 17 knockouts) stands only 5’4” and is relatively untested. While he shows promise, the boxer-puncher from Las Vegas, Nevada still lacks the requisite big-fight experience. The popular opinion is that Donaire will whip him in a wink of an eye.
For now, Donaire is leaning on staying in the junior featherweight division and unifying belt. The yearning to conquer more divisions has somehow ceased following the loss to Nicholas Walters at featherweight, but staying put in one class and ruling it with an iron fist is not that bad an alternative.
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