NEW YORK – Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux beat Nonito Donaire by a unanimous decision yesterday in his WBA junior featherweight world title and handed the “Filipino Flash” his first loss in 12 years.
Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Rigondeaux recovered from an earlier knockdown to win the 12-round bout at Radio City Music Hall on all three judges' scorecards, 114-113, 115-112 and 116-111.
The 32-year-old Rigondeaux remained undefeated as a pro, improving to 12-0 with eight knockouts. He also took Donaire's WBO version of the belt.
"As I told you before, I would do my job and I did," Rigondeaux said through an interpreter. "I made him look bad. You can't win by landing one shot."
The Cuban defector Rigondeaux went down from a left in the 10th round but dominated the 12th.
Thirty-year-old Donaire came into the bout riding a brilliant 30-fight win streak. He dropped to 31-2 with 20 knockouts.
Donaire's only previous loss was March 10, 2001 in his second pro fight.
He said he was sorry after the fight for the way he fought in the final rounds.
"I apologize…I wanted to deliver. During the last two rounds, I got stupid. I didn't do my job…I didn't use my jab and go to my left. I have no excuse. He beat me tonight," Donaire said.
Rigondeaux pushed the action for much of the fight, landing 129 of 396 total punches compared to 82 of 352 for Donaire.
Donaire delivered a left hook that floored Rigondeaux in the opening minute of the 10th round, while the Cuban connected on a hard left that stunned Donaire early in the 12th and opened a cut over his right eye.
Donaire fought the rest of the round with his glove up high to protect that side of his face.
Rigondeaux compiled one of the greatest amateur careers of all time before defecting from Cuba four years ago.
He captured two Olympic gold medals (2000 and 2004) and won the World Amateur Championship in 2001 and 2005.
He won the WBA title with a sixth-round knockout of previously undefeated Rico Ramos in January 2012.
Back in the Philippines, Donaire's fans were left to rue the defeat of another champion following boxing legend Manny Pacquiao's loss to Timothy Bradley in June.
"No more Pacquiao, no more Donaire," exclaimed Bert Castro as he and dozens of patrons left a sports bar in Manila. "What happens next to Philippine boxing?"
The fight was just the second in the 82-year history of the famed Radio City Music Hall. In 2000, Roy Jones Jr. retained the light heavyweight championship against David Telesco.*AFP
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