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Nonito Donaire: Following The Path of Manny Pacquiao?

By Kirk Jackson

As expected, Nonito Donaire defeated the 36-year-old Japanese fighter Toshiaka Nishioka Oct. 13th in Carson, Calif at the Home Depot Center. While earning his victory via 9th round TKO, many skills were on display for the “Filipino Flash.”

His hand speed, counter-punching skills and power show why Donaire is regarded as one of the best fighters in the world.

Donaire in recent years has moved through various weight classes, starting at flyweight, advancing to super flyweight, bantamweight and now to super bantamweight.

Just like his Filipino counterpart Manny Pacquiao, Donaire has moved up in weight with much success. Like Pacquiao, Donaire is considered one of the best fighters pound for pound in the world. And like Pacquiao, Donaire has faced questionable opposition, en route to being regarded as one of the best and more popular stars of the sport.

Pacquiao was always regarded by most fans and experts as a great fighter in the lower feather weight divisions. Pacquiao exploded into super stardom and worldwide notoriety, solidifying his Hall of Fame status with a TKO victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2008.

Nonito Donaire (Photo: Chris Farina – Top Rank)

After the “Dream Fight” with De La Hoya, there would be a string of fights for Pacquiao against faded fighters, including Ricky Hatton and most recently Juan Manuel Marquez [Hatton had one loss–to Floyd Mayweather. That means he was “faded”? — ed.].

This list would also include Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley. You can argue that De La Hoya was old; Hatton was past his prime; Cotto arguably lost to Joshua Clottey and hadn’t recovered from the Margarito beating prior to facing Pacquiao; Mosley was coming off consecutive bad performances against Floyd Mayweather and Sergio Mora; Marquez is old and fighting at an uncomfortable weight. The condition of Pacquiao’s opponent selections is well documented.

Donaire’s last four fights, meanwhile, were against Toshiaki Nishioka, Jeffrey Mathebula, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Omar Narvaez.

The 36-year-old Nishioka looked outmatched and had actually considered retirement before he took the fight. Nishioka is a champion, but aside from Rafael Marquez, he does not have any notable opponents on his resume.

Mathebula is another guy with the lack of great opposition on his resume and did well against Donaire.

Vazquez gave Donaire some problems and he was coming off a knockout defeat against Jorge Arce.

Donaire dominated Narvaez but many viewers complained it was boring, which isn’t necessarily Donaire’s fault.

These guys are good fighters, but the point is, none are considered the best or even one of the best in their division.

Perhaps we shouldn’t expect Donaire to fight the best fighter in the division every time he enters the ring, especially if he is moving up in weight, but at some point it would be nice to see him fight the best.

Just like with Pacquiao.

For those asking who could Pacquiao have faced instead of Hatton, etc.? How about Floyd Mayweather? Instead of David Diaz at lightweight, take on Joan Guzman or Juan Diaz. Instead of Hatton, take on guys like Lamont Peterson, Amir Khan or Devon Alexander. He does get props for fighting a young, prime, Timothy Bradley.

Some may ask who should Donaire fight? At bantamweight there is Anselmo Moreno. At super bantamweight there is Guillermo Rigondeaux and Abner Mares.

Donaire may even move up to featherweight and there is some great fights for him up there as well.

Rigondeaux and Moreno are generally considered the best fighters in the bantamweight divisions by boxing experts. Donaire disagrees and expressed that with HBO’s Max Kellerman in his post victory interview.

“At this point, I got the guy who I thought was the best in the division and that was Nishioka. Whoever wants it, lets go.” said Nonito Donaire.

When Donaire was asked about potentially facing Rigondeaux, he said, “To be honest with you, I think he needs more guys to make me excited. I have to be excited for the fight, otherwise you will see me get bored like you seen for the last few fights.”

“This fight I was so focused because I know what this guy has. I want to feel that going in the ring, that this guy is challenging me and that I have confidence this guy is a good fighter. They got to prove themselves to me to go at it.” said Donaire.

Donaire may have a point. But it seems to me, especially with the whole “bored” comment, Donaire wants a guy to come straight at him. He wants action style brawlers, because it makes for an easier fight.

The fight with Navaez was tough at some points because of his defense. A solid defensive fighter who can move around the ring and counter-punch will pose problems. Does that sound familiar?

Coincidentally, Pacquiao and Donaire are promoted by Bob Arum. Arum has claimed in the past that he tried to make big, tough, fights for Pacquiao and is claiming the same with Donaire.

Many people do not realize that Arum isn’t making those kind of fights and doesn’t really have to, because Pacquiao has such a dedicated fan-base who are going to tune in and support him no matter who he faces.

Pacquiao, who turns 34 later this year, is on his way out the sport and has a future in politics. And Arum is trying to make Donaire, who turns 30 later this year, into his next “Manny Pacquiao.”

That means Arum will avoid putting Donaire in with guys who are threats, guys like Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux to Donaire is what Mayweather is to Pacquiao. A huge threat inside the ring because of their defensive-oriented fighting styles.

The difference here is that at least in Pacquiao’s case, he can earn a large amount of money facing Mayweather. A fight with Donaire and Rigondeaux is a great match-up, but neither fighter has the same drawing power as a Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Donaire is a great talent and worthy of his p4p status. He defeated Fernando Montiel and Vic Darchinyan in extraordinary fashion. Donaire comes across as a humble, down-to-earth person as well, which is refreshing.

Boxing fans just want to see Donaire test his skills against the best fighters out there. It’s the same thing we would like to see with Pacquiao.

Hopefully they take different paths.

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