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Rigondeaux to battle Donaire at Radio City

Guillermo Rigondeaux, left, connects with a right hand

Guillermo Rigondeaux, left, connects with a right hand against Juan Noreigo in the second round of their super-bantamweight bout at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Friday, May 22, 2009. Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is making his professional boxing debut after defecting from Cuba in February. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk) Credit: AP Photo/HANS DERYK

If you have spent some time around Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux, you've seen his thousand-watt smile. But it was not on display Tuesday during the media workout at Mendez's Gym in Manhattan. The ritual of the media workout is generally a prolonged photo op during which the fighter breaks a sweat and smiles for the camera. But Rigondeaux actually had a fairly serious workout.

In contrast, his opponent, Nonito Donaire was accommodating and chatty. Rigondeaux was almost aloof.

It may have a little something to do with respect, or a lack of it.

Rigondeaux, the WBA super bantamweight champ, meets Donaire, the WBO titleholder, in a title unification bout Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall. The fight will be televised by HBO. In the build up to the fight, it's been pointed out more than once that the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba has only had 11 pro fights. (He's won all of them.) Donaire, who will accept his Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America two nights before the bout, has a record of 31-1 with 20 knockouts.

Both fighters and promoter Bob Arum participated in a conference call after the media workout. Here was the recurring theme:

Donaire:  "But first things first, I wanted to go Abner Mares first then Rigondeaux but that fight didn’t happen and now that I have been watching Rigondeaux the more formidable I see him...   When you do this for awhile, like I have, you tend to be motivated by having a good fighter in front of you and that is why I disregarded Rigondeaux in the beginning because of the Cordoba fight, so when the fight with Mares didn’t happen, Rigondeaux was the next guy in line." 

Donaire again: "… As much as I can say he hasn’t fought the guys at my level – the more he fought, the better he got. "

And again:  "During Rigondeaux’s time it was about the point system.  It was about scoring the points and being tactical.  You could have 500 amateur fights but when you go pro it is a different world."

And finally this from Rigondeaux: "The amateur accomplishments that I have had,  I want to repeat on a professional level.  Like I said before, beating Nonito would be beating the best in the division.  I have great respect for Nonito and I think he is a great fighter. Beating him would be a great accomplishment in itself.  If we beat him we can say we are true professionals.  He can stop talking about me as an amateur.  A win absolutely would be a bigger accomplishment than the Gold Medals…  Obviously the public does not respect me because of the number of fights I have had.  Nonito has three times the experience I have at the professional level so the public has chosen Nonito as the favorite."

Should make for an interesting fight.

New York Sports