by Eric Raskin
When two highly skilled, not-necessarily-crowd-pleasing fighters are getting set to square off, expectations are managed by comparing the often thrilling sport of boxing to the rarely thrilling game of chess. It’s an odd choice for a euphemism. But it certainly applied to Guillermo Rigondeaux’s junior featherweight championship showdown with Nonito Donaire. We knew it would be more chess match than street fight.
And as it turns out, Donaire doesn’t play chess nearly as well as Rigondeaux.
The Cuban defector and amateur legend fought the style of fight that gave him the best opportunity to win, Donaire failed to turn it into the sort of fight he needed it to be, and though he said “check” once, he never quite put his pieces in position to say “checkmate.” Amidst intermittent boos from the mostly pro-Donaire crowd at Radio City Music Hall, Rigondeaux boxed, moved, and frustrated Donaire and took an upset unanimous decision to establish himself as the top 122-pounder in the world.