Boxing is dead! Boxing is dead! Yep, that's what boxing fans have been hearing for the better part of the last couple years. And in fairness, these aren't the best of times for amateur and professional boxing. Yet, if Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather actually negotiated like adults and agreed to terms for a legitimate welterweight title bout, outside of this month's Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, it would be the most widely covered and watched sporting event of the year. In addition to that, a professional boxer (Manny Pacquiao) is still one of the five biggest stars in sports. The only problem is there's just not enough world class fighters who capture the public's imagination like Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather to a lesser degree.
Well, there just may be another fighter who's on his way to becoming must see. His name is Nonito Donaire 26-1 (18). Last weekend he scored a sensational second round knockout over a legitimate upper-tier world class bantamweight champion in Fernando Montiel 44-3-2 (34). Donaire's destruction of Montiel was purposeful, methodical and explosive. When Donaire's counter left-hook exploded on Montiel's temple, it was a forgone conclusion that the fight was over. To Montiel's credit, he summoned great reserve and courage when he managed to beat the count before he was met by Donaire's finishing left-hook and right hand forcing referee Russell Mora to stop the fight.
Immediately after the fight, former multi-division champ Roy Jones, who was working as a color analyst on HBO for the fight said, "Donaire, has to be considered one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in boxing if you still consider Floyd Mayweather an active fighter." And last week Ring Magazine released their list of the top-10 pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, and Nonito Donaire is slotted at number three after Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Since Donaire's signature left-hook relieved Montiel of his two bantamweight titles, he's become the next must see fighter in boxing, and for good reason, he can fight. Donaire's showing and overnight stardom is another undeniable layer of proof that boxing, at its best, is still the most exciting and thrilling sport of all to watch. With all the things that are currently an anchor around boxing and trying to keep it down, an explosive fighter who can consistently deliver exciting fights against the best boxing has to offer, can't be held down. And based on his overall body of work, Nonito Donaire appears to be the real deal.
There's only one foreseeable problem on the horizon for Donaire that might hurt him down the road. And it's something that he has no control over but will no doubt be a victim of, and that's the inevitable comparisons to Manny Pacquiao that he'll be saddled with based on the fact that he's an excellent Philippine fighter. We've seen this in the past and it's never fair to the fighter or athlete who's on the way up and making a name for himself. As great as former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes was, he never lived up to being the next Muhammad Ali. Roy Jones wasn't the next Sugar Ray Robinson and Floyd Mayweather, aside from being undefeated, wasn't the next Roy Jones when it came to his skill set and accomplishments.
So it would be best for Nonito Donaire and the sport of professional boxing if the bar being set for him is not him having to be the next Manny Pacquiao. Not only is it not realistic, but it's not fair. First, it puts pressure on him to be something he's not. Second, it doesn't take into account how fundamentally different Donaire is from Pacquiao stylistically.
Right now WBC/WBO bantamweight champ Nonito Donaire is must see. He's lucky to be fighting in a division that's loaded with some great match ups for him to the north and south of it. Mark my words, he's not going to win every one of his future bouts in the same fashion he did against Fernando Montiel. However, from what we've seen he'll be doing his best to do so. He's got dynamite in his left hand and is a great counter-puncher who can fight outside, which makes him very dangerous as we just saw.
It's great that two of the top three or four fighters in boxing are Philippine. But aside from both of them bursting onto the scene with sensational second round knockouts (Pacquiao KO 2 Hatton) that's really all they share. Donaire is not the next Pacquiao, but he is the real deal, so let's enjoy watching him fight as long as he's around and fighting at the highest level.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com