COMMENTARY | Would it be unfair to suggest that "Filipino Flash," Nonito Donaire and his team are playing a high-stakes game of "Duck, Duck, Goose?" Or, in this case, "Duck, Duck, Darchinyan?"
Maybe it wouldn't be right to categorize the 2012 Fighter of the Year in that way, but appearance is a big thing in boxing. It's especially big among the fans, who only get to see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to contractual dealings and other behind the scenes issues.
When Abner Mares and Golden Boy Promotions walked away empty handed after trying to goad Top Rank and Nonito Donaire into a junior featherweight unification bout, there was, apparently, a silver lining to the storm cloud.
Team Donaire couldn't be coaxed into facing Mares for $3 million, but only because Donaire was already committed to a bout with the other junior featherweight titlist, Guillermo Rigondeaux. Right? That's what Top Rank bossman Bob Arum said, anyway. That's what the media reports indicated.
Now, as Mares has officially decided to move up to featherweight and the Donaire-Mares bout is forever left to message board debate, it appears as though the Rigondeaux fight is on shaky ground.
According to reports, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBA junior featherweight champ is pressuring Top Rank to settle their ongoing lawsuit with his previous promoter, Caribe Promotions, before officially moving ahead with any future fight plans.
Nobody on the outside quite knows why Rigondeaux is insistent on settling old scores before moving ahead, but it may have to do with the chaos and distraction prior to trying to put together his last fight. Last September's bout with Robert Marroquin was on-again, off-again several times due to threatened legal action from Caribe Promotions and officially confirmed less than two weeks before the actual date. It's fair to want a distraction-free environment prior to a legacy-defining bout with Donaire.
Arum, however, feels that Rigondeaux is somehow being manipulated by his former promoter.
"It's craziness. If he don't straighten out, we'll go to [Vic] Darchinyan," Arum told Boxingscene.com. "[Caribe] is trying to use the kid to put muscle on us to settle a lawsuit that we feel has no value. We offered him the fight. We've offered him a lot of money for the fight. If he doesn't take it, we'll move on to the next guy. He has to understand that he is very much the B-side."
The question in this whole matter is: Did Rigondeaux suddenly get this idea that Arum and Caribe should settle their lawsuit or has this been a point of concern for awhile? Nobody other than the actual participants knows the truth and timing of this, but if this has been an ongoing issue, then Arum knew all along that closing a deal for a fight with the Cuban was going to lead to a dead end.
In turn, that would mean that the underlying reason for passing on Abner Mares was pure fabrication. Rigondeaux, who just shook up his team with a change in trainers, might never have been on board. Darchinyan, quite possibly, was the plan all along.
Donaire-Darchinyan, a rematch of Donaire's 2007 TKO 5 breakthrough victory at flyweight, is not as awful as, say, Donaire-Arce, but it's not the type of fight a superstar, pound-for-pound talent takes in his prime. And it surely isn't the type of fight that gets made over Mares and Rigonedeaux bouts.
Maybe five years ago this was a worthwhile return feature, but not now. Darchinyan, despite a couple of solid wins here and there, is well-worn and hasn't looked very good at his higher weight. But we really don't know what's what in terms of Arum's efforts to find a worthwhile fight for Donaire. Maybe Darchinyan is the best opponent to be had. Or maybe we've fallen victim to the bait and switch-- Hint at Mares and Rigondeaux, give us Darchinyan.
But, getting back to appearances in boxing. Some may look at all this mess and refer back to the old quote of: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck." Fans don't concern themselves with contract talk and other such matters. They just want good fights, big fights, meaningful fights. And this is something that Team Donaire seems reluctant to give them.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Rick Reeno, Donaire vs. Rigondeaux in Doubt? Darchinyan Standing By, Boxingscene