COMMENTARY | It would almost have been better if Nonito Donaire had been knocked out like proposed rival Abner Mares, who got splattered in one round last Saturday night in Carson, California.
Heck, anybody can get hit by a punch, anybody can go down. The greatest of the greats have found themselves down for the count at one point or another in their careers.
But what happened to Donaire was much more potentially career-crushing than the Jhonny Gonzalez left hook that removed Mares from his senses (and his WBC featherweight bout).
Last April, "The Filipino Flash," pound-for-pound pugilist and fast-rising star -- maybe even heir apparent to the world-moving Manny Pacquiao loyal fan base -- was taught a humiliating boxing lesson by Cuba's Guillermo Rigondeaux over the course of 12 long, ugly rounds.
The 36 minutes of actual fight time must have seemed like an eternity for WBO junior featherweight champ Donaire, as his every move was expertly countered and/or negated by the two-time Olympic gold medalist and reigning WBA junior featherweight world champ. If one were new to the sport and new to Donaire, it would've been impossible to explain why he was regarded at the time as one of the five best fighters in the world.
Befuddled by simple footwork and advanced placement ring positioning, Donaire looked to be sleepwalking for most of the bout, absolutely clueless as to how to actually apply any of his high octane offensive weaponry. Nobody could argue that Donaire wasn't a world-class fighter, but after watching a few rounds, it became apparent that he and Rigondeaux merely came from two different worlds.
As a result of the stifling unanimous decision victory, Rigondeaux has suffered a curious backlash of sorts, branded as boring and uninteresting by fans, media, and even members of his own promotional team.
Donaire, though, is ready to get right back on the road to stardom. It will take a bit of effort to remove the stink of his Rigondeaux loss, but Top Rank is fully behind him and HBO will also likely be back in the Nonito Donaire business as soon as humanly possible.
A new father with a newly repaired right shoulder (he suffered torn ligaments in his right shoulder following the Rigondeaux fight), Donaire is tentatively scheduled for a return to the ring November 9 against an opponent to be named. Expect that opponent to be of the flat-footed, glass-jawed variety.
Already rumored for the opponent gig is one-time Donaire KO victim Vic Darchinyan. The Armenian "Raging Bull" had been campaigning for a return bout since he lost his IBF flyweight title to Donaire via fifth-round knockout in 2007. The one catch this time around, however, may be that Donaire would like to have the fight at 126 pounds.
Darchinyan, who most recently competed at the 122-lb. limit, is 37 years of age and well above his ideal weight. The once heavy-handed and fearsome southpaw stalker has become increasingly pedestrian with each move up in weight and each advancing year. Another move up in weight at this stage of his career could be career suicide, especially against an offensive fighter in his prime like Donaire. But, of course, that's the idea.
What Donaire needs more than anything right now is a highlight reel knockout against a fighter with some name recognition. Darchinyan delivers on both fronts.
From here on out, expect Team Donaire to be a little more careful about matching their fighter against a pure boxer, although it's doubtful whether anyone else can do to Nonito what Rigondeaux did to him.
But Nonito Donaire's return to the ring is a welcomed one. Few fighters are as explosively good as the "Filipino Flash" and few little men can deliver the same level of one-punch excitement. Here's hoping that the bad taste of a Rigondeaux schooling doesn't push Team Donaire into some cynical matchmaking decisions.
If featherweight is his new home, Mikey Garcia, Jhonny Gonzalez, and even Abner Mares need to be on the upcoming opponent list. Otherwise, the rising star of Donaire may convert to a falling star.
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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Nonito Donaire
- Abner Mares
- Guillermo Rigondeaux
- Jhonny Gonzalez