Nonito Donaire and Joseph Agbeko both became well established names in boxing circles following impressive victories against Vic Darchinyan. More than 6 years ago, when still a relative unknown, Donaire was the first to defeat Darchinyan in a shocking upset knockout. From there Donaire coasted and ultimately earned universal elite status recognition. Many people felt Donaire’s great run would continue for the foreseeable future, and it had until he was outclassed by Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year.
Rigondeaux made Donaire look absolutely terrible. In fact Rigondeaux was so dominant that it left fans searching for answers. Was Rigondeaux really that good? Was Donaire perhaps a bit overrated? Is Donaire on the slide? A bad style match up? An off night? Too reliant on his power? Whatever the case may be, Donaire’s style was awful and entirely ineffective against Rigondeaux. Donaire more closely resembled a rank amateur than a solidified P4P superstar. It was simply a masterful performance from the Cuban sensation.
Following the stunning loss, Donaire went full circle and finally granted Darchinyan the rematch he has vociferously sought ever since the immediate aftermath of his brutal KO loss. Some people accused Donaire of taking an “easy” rebound fight since he had so thoroughly dominated Vic in their first fight before overwhelming him with vicious power. The expectation was that Donaire would KO Darchinyan again, and he did, but not before making a very poor account of himself based on the expectations that have come with his polished reputation. An opponent he easily dominated 6 years earlier now pushed Donaire to the brink before his tremendous power saved him.
The fact that Donaire looked comparatively diminished in the Darchinyan rematch lends credence to the idea that maybe Donaire was overrated and/or in decline. Whether it’s that or any number of other possibilities is anyone’s guess, but either way it is difficult to get a proper gauge regarding exactly how good Rigondeaux actually is. He obviously has skill to the extreme. Some call him boring. Others claim watching his technique unfold during a fight is akin to watching an artistic genius stroking brush onto virgin canvas. Despite having a gazillion amateur fights and amassing amazing accolades on that platform, Rigondeaux is still a relative novice as a pro. Many of his detractors question the sturdiness of his chin, his ability to handle adversity, and the overall shallowness of his professional ledger.
So what should we as fans make of this outstanding Cuban technician?
When Rigondeax returns to the ring this Saturday in his first bout following his exceptional win over Donaire we should get a better idea of how to accurately rate his talents.
Enter King Kong Agbeko.
Like Donaire before him, Agbeko’s breakthrough victory came against Darchinyan. The Raging Bull had been on a decent winning streak that included a high profile stoppage against Mijrares. But against Agbeko, Darchinyan was outmaneuvered and outslicked by the crafty Ghana born boxer. Unlike Donaire, who relied on superior power and athleticism to beat Vic, Agbeko was able to do it with an entirely different type of strategy that involved tricky angles, clever traps, unorthodox rhythm, and a versatile display of ring smarts and execution.
Donaire and Agbeko used vastly different means to the same end in conquering Darchinyan. Agbeko brings elements to the table that should enable him to have more success with Rigondeaux than Donaire did. Agbeko has run hot and cold since he beat Darchinyan, so it may be hit or miss. He looked lackluster in his loss to Perez, and then seemed rejuvenated in their rematch. He also performed well against Mares in their first fight, only to produce an uninspiring effort in that rematch. Which Agbeko will show up? And will it really matter?
My feeling is that Agbeko will be highly motivated and that he will utilize every ounce of resourcefulness he can find within himself to find and exploit weaknesses in Rigondeaux’s craft. Whether or not that will be enough for him to compete with a master boxer like Rigondeaux remains to be seen. I think Agbeko will definitely find ways to test Rigondeaux, but am unsure of how the Cuban will respond. If Rigondeaux responds well and emerges victorious, then maybe Agbeko should continue following Donaire’s lead and seek out a Darchinyan rematch.