COMMENTARY | For those expecting "The Filipino Flash" to build off an impressive 2012 into true superstar status in 2013, don't hold your breath. The two career-defining fights that could take Nonito Donaire to that next level are, apparently, off the table for the foreseeable future.
It appears as though high-octane match-ups with Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux will have to remain debate-fodder for social media sites and boxing message boards.
The talented 30-year-old, who took more than his fair share of Fighter of the Year honors after a 4-0 year against an overall solid level of opposition, is laying the blame for no Rigondeaux or Mares on scheduling conflicts and negotiation difficulties. And, from the sound of things, none of this is likely to change.
"We have Mares; that's the fight we really want to make, but it's (negotiations) getting difficult," Donaire told Boxingscene. "With Rigondeaux, he won't fight until June or July or something like that. They won't do it in March or April. We're looking at that schedule...We're looking at different names now, because those two are not available earlier in the year."
The translation to fight fans is that they will not be getting the match-ups they want and, instead, will be forced to watch as the mega-talented Donaire is carefully placed against opposition solid enough to keep him marketable, but nowhere capable of actually beating him.
Similar to 2012, when Donaire rode Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka, and Jorge Arce to career-high earnings and full HBO exposure, 2013 will likely feature the WBO junior featherweight champ in another series of decent bouts where he enters the ring as a heavy betting favorite.
Expect Hugo Cazares, Victor Terrazas, and Alexander Bakhtin to top the list of possible opponents. All are surely solid enough to be worthwhile opponents under normal circumstances. However, much more than "solid enough" is expected from a Fighter of the Year, pound-for-pound Top Five fighter-- Especially when two of the three best junior featherweights in the world are right in his face.
It was to be expected that a bout with Golden Boy's Abner Mares would be a tough one to get together. There is plenty of bad blood between Donaire's promoter, Bob Arum, and Golden Boy and no real reason to compromise on a bout that would be a legitimate risk to Donaire's standing atop the 122 lb. division. As long as Donaire can draw HBO TV dates while fighting lesser risks, there will never be any real urgency to get a Mares bout signed. Donaire-Mares will likely go the way of Mayweather-Pacquiao on the list of modern day classics never allowed to happen.
The Rigondeaux fight, though, should be fairly easy to make. Both fighters are promoted by Bob Arum and Rigondeaux, like Mares, has frequently expressed his interest in a Donaire clash. The desire to fight seems to be there, but the willingness to actually sign it appears to be just a sliver above "nil." Arum, in the past, has been stubbornly protective of his own fighters, putting off highly-anticipated clashes indefinitely in favor of easier bouts and hype that the "big one" may be next.
Donaire has recently made some noise about a possible move to featherweight and, should he decide to make the jump, bouts with Mares and Rigondeaux will be even harder to make. New challenges would await at 126 lbs., but who's to guarantee that the more difficult, legacy-defining bouts won't also be tossed aside as too difficult to make?
Sadly, Mares, Rigondeaux, and anybody else deemed too much risk for too little reward might be off the table for the Filipino-American star-- At least until the big HBO money for relatively low-risk opposition dries up.
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.
Dennis Guillermo, Donaire Says Mares, Rigondeaux Not Likely Next, Boxingscene