This Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California Nonito Donaire not only looks to defend his IBF and WBO junior featherweight titles against top rated Japanese star, Toshiaki Nishioka, he'll also be making a serious case for himself as 2012 Fighter of the Year.
While Nishioka may not have the name recognition of Guillermo Rigondeaux or Abner Mares, he is a legitimate world class fighter regarded, by many, as the top fighter in the 122 lb. division-- no. 1 to Donaire's no. 2 at the moment. A decisive win over Nishioka could even be regarded as, perhaps, the greatest achievement of Donaire's career thus far.
Add solid wins over former world champ, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and IBF champ, Jeffrey Mathebula, and that gives "The Filipino Flash" two good wins over legitimate Top 10 fighters in 2012 with the possibility of a third upcoming.
Another boxer with a shot at Fighter of the Year is Sergio Martinez, who scored a lopsided unanimous decision victory over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September and stopped Matthew Macklin in eleven rounds earlier this year. Chavez and Macklin were also legitimate top 10 fighters prior to their losses and, to Martinez's benefit, garnered more attention among mainstream fans than any one of Donaire's opponents.
Danny Garcia, if he beats Erik Morales decisively in their October 20th rematch, will have two solid wins over Morales to go along with his shocking TKO 4 victory over Amir Khan. The three wins will make him a candidate for year-end honors, but won't likely be enough to take the top prize.
Last year's winner, Andre Ward, is a long-shot, but is bound to get a couple of votes due to his dominant TKO 10 victory over Chad Dawson. However, having only one fight, against someone fighting one division below his optimal weight, all but eliminates Ward from serious consideration.
Adrien Broner, should he beat Antonio DeMarco on November 17, will also receive some consideration after a 2012 campaign that already saw him score one-sided stoppages of Eloy Perez and Vicente Escobedo.
Floyd Mayweather's name recognition and solid decision win over Miguel Cotto could also generate some votes, but he's clearly just a fringe contender for top honors.
Of course, there are almost three months left in the year and a lot can happen between mid-October and January 1st. A loss for any of the top candidates could throw the voting for a loop. But if everything happens true to form, it looks as though Nonito Donaire might have what it takes to be named 2012 Fighter of the Year.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, and a close follower of the sport for more than 30 years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The BoxingTribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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