Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs) seemed stuck in quicksand, not really getting off good punches outside of a few rounds at the beginning and the 10th round, when he knocked down Rigondeaux (12-0, 8KOs).
The 32-year-old Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, ducked and ran away from most of the punches thrown by Donaire, who stalked the Cuban fighter for twelve rounds.
Donaire, who earlier in the week accepted the award for 2012 Fighter of the Year at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America banquet, fought poorly, abandoning all his skills and throwing flat-footed bombs.
Donaire also had a terrible 12th round in which he did not throw more than a few punches. It was a lackluster performance for Donaire and a technically evasive performance by Rigondeaux.
In the end, the judges had to decide between giving each round to a fighter running and ducking and throwing a jab or to the champion who couldn’t catch him. They chose the Olympic-style boxing of Rigondeaux.
Donaire, a 30-year-old fighter whose Filipino roots often earn him comparisons to Manny Pacquiao, was gracious after the fight, admitting Rigondeaux won the fight. But later he complained about a shoulder injury that has bothered him for three years and was now going to require surgery.