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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Donaire, Rigondeaux set for N.Y. fight

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire was dominant in all four of his 2012 fights -- all world title bouts against quality opponents -- to earn fighter of the year honors. He hopes to kick off his 2013 candidacy by beating fellow titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux in a unification fight.

They will meet April 13 in the main event of HBO's "World Championship Boxing" at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, promoter Top Rank announced Tuesday. A news conference is scheduled for Thursday in New York City.

"There's no question that fighting at Radio City Music Hall is like a coronation for the fighter of the year, fighting on that historic stage," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "We couldn't get the Theater [at Madison Square Garden] so [MSG executive vice president] Joel Fisher said maybe he could get Radio City, because the Garden owns it. We said that was a great idea. It's expensive to do a fight there, but it's worth it.

"I think it's going to be a terrific fight. It's one I have wanted to see. These guys have been spouting off about each other for a long time and now it will be decided in the ring."

The fight will be just the second in the 82-year history of Radio City Music Hall. In January 2000, Roy Jones Jr. defended the light heavyweight world title there against David Telesco.

"I've heard so much about the place and how Roy fought there and Roy is one of the guys I look up to, so I am very excited about fighting there," Donaire told ESPN.com.

Donaire, who will be making the fourth defense of his 122-pound title, is hoping to put on a better show than he did in his only previous New York fight. In October 2011, he made his lone bantamweight title defense before moving up in weight by facing junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez of Argentina at the Madison Square Theater. Narvaez moved up in weight for the title shot and although Donaire dominated and won a lopsided decision, Narvaez ran from him the entire fight and refused to engage, eliciting heavy booing from the crowd. Donaire, who is usually in fan-friendly fights, does not want a repeat of that situation with Rigondeaux, a renowned defender and two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist.

"We want to show up the second time in New York and make a statement this time and not have Rigondeaux run from me when he gets hit hard," Donaire said. "We already have the remedy and answer for that style from what I learned in the Narvaez fight. We have a blue print ready.

"I failed to get a knockout in my first fight in New York and I want the fans to see a knockout from me. I am going out there to knock my guys out. I believe I have great fans on the East Coast and I want to give them a good show."

Donaire, 30, who was born in the Philippines and lives in Las Vegas, is facing Rigondeaux because they are both promoted by Top Rank, although it was not an easy deal to make.

"It took awhile because there were internal problems on the Rigondeaux side with [his co-promoter] Caribe," Arum said. "But we worked everything out and they were gentlemanly. It takes time. Eventually, sanity prevailed and everyone wants the fight to happen, so you make a deal."

Said Donaire, "I watched Rigondeaux's last fight with [Robert] Marroquin and he's pretty decent. He's pretty good at countering, so I was getting excited about fighting him. It's a good fight. I look forward to taking that belt. That's my goal."

Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) would have preferred a unification fight with Abner Mares -- a much bigger event -- but Mares is with rival promoter Golden Boy and despite Golden Boy's $3 million offer, Top Rank declined to make the match.

"It's unfortunate we couldn't make the fight with Mares. Everyone knows I wanted to fight him. But for now we have Rigondeaux and taking that belt from him is a must," Donaire said.

Two nights before the fight, Donaire will make an appearance at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America awards banquet to collect his fighter of the year trophy.

"I was really honored they gave me that award," Donaire said. "Last year, all I wanted to do was fight the best guys they put in front of. I'm just trying to be the best and fight the best. I have Rigondeaux now and, hopefully, we can get the Mares fight too."

Donaire likely won't fight four times this year because he plans to take time off this summer. His wife, Rachel, is pregnant with their first child, a boy, and due in late July.

"I will do as much as I can this year, but my primary thing this year after this fight is having a family," he said. "We are very excited about [the baby]. I can win titles and more titles and it pays the bills but I also want to be a good father and husband."

Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs), 32, a Cuban defector who will be making his third title defense, was supposed to appear on the undercard of Donaire's third-round knockout win against Jorge Arce on Dec. 15 at the Toyota Center in Houston. However, two days before the fight, Rigondeaux's opponent, former junior featherweight titlist Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym of Thailand, failed a prefight medical exam given by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and was not allowed to fight.

There was some drama on Tuesday after the fight was announced as Donaire threatened not to show up at Thursday's news conference because of issues related to the drug testing for the fight. Donaire is the only fighter in boxing who has agreed to participate in random drug testing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year under the supervision of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.

Although Donaire has not required his opponents to participate, Rigondeaux said he would and the contracts were drawn up to reflect that. But he still had not signed the drug testing paperwork Tuesday, which angered Donaire.

"He was talking all this crap about drug testing, saying he would do whatever it took to fight me," Donaire said. "We negotiated it and I want to show the sport is clean. But then he didn't sign [the VADA contract]."

The drama, however, was taken care of later in the day. According to Arum, the issue was not that Rigondeaux was unwilling to be tested, but that he wanted the VADA contract translated into Spanish so he could understand what he was signing.

"We got that resolved and we have a fight," Arum said.