Donaire Continues Lighter Weight Tradition

Donaire impressed against Montiel (pic Sumio Yamada)
Donaire impressed against Montiel (pic Sumio Yamada)
By Matthew Hurley: It was a left hand reminiscent of the one Manny Pacquiao launched that exploded on Ricky Hatton’s chin back in 2009. The comparison is appropriate because Nonito Donaire’s second round blowout of Fernando Montiel at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino thrilled and chilled a boxing public actively searching for new stars to brighten the pugilistic skyline.

The fact that Donaire is of Filipino descent and beginning to ride along the wave of the Pac Man’s enormous popularity marks him as the heir apparent.

In the wake of Donaire’s stunning performance comparisons with Pacquiao’s own explosive, crowd-pleasing style were inevitable. Couple that with Donaire’s charming, well-spoken personality and it seems everyone can agree – we’ve got a potential superstar on our hands.

As the aging elite continue to get closer and closer to that moment when their primes will suddenly pass them by the need for new, young stars to supplant them is of the utmost importance for boxing’s livelihood.

Fighters like Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather (who seems to be semi-retired anyway), Juan Manuel Marquez and even the surging Sergio Martinez (who checks in at thirty-seven years old) are ostensibly on the backside of their brilliant careers. Boxing needs new talent like Donaire to not only keep it relevant but also exciting enough to entice new fans to a sport often maligned because of the lack of a superstar heavyweight.

Fortunately, there always seems to be a wealth of talent in the lighter weight divisions. Forget the know-nothing sportswriters who assume that so goes the heavyweight division so goes boxing. Knowledgeable fans of the sport know that its heart beats most ferociously in the lighter weight classes. Speed, technique, virtuosity, courage and determination are not often words used to describe the behemoths of boxing. But dip down to middleweight and below and in every generation you will find gold.

With his amazing showing against the highly talented and accomplished bantamweight champion Montiel, junior bantamweight Donaire has stepped into a glorified realm inhabited not only by his idol Pacquiao but such recent great lighter weight fighters like Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan and Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez to name a few. The list goes on and on throughout the years so it was fitting that Donaire furthered his reputation in the same ring where, eleven years to the day, Morales and Barrera met in their first all-time classic war.

We didn’t get a back and forth slugfest in Donaire – Montiel but we did get an emphatic ending; and sometimes that’s just as good. It was also fascinating to watch Donaire lure Montiel closer and closer to him so he could drop the big bomb right on target. In fact, initially, it looked as though Fernando was regaining his poise after losing the first round. But Donaire, his ring experience now enlightening his boxing IQ, knew exactly what he was doing.

“That second round he was looking to take advantage,” he explained in the ring after the knockout. “I wanted to see where his body was going to be. I knew where he was going to be at. I timed him. You have to take some in order for you to gain some knowledge. I knew when the time came my punch was going to land.”

Once it did the fight was basically over. Although referee Russell Mora let it go on for a few more seconds after Montiel somehow willed himself to stand up on trembling legs. That gallant, instinctive effort to defend what was his was almost as astonishing as Donaire’s dominance.

Donaire, who currently resides in San Leandro, California, would later laud his countryman Pacquiao in the ring.

“I believe Manny Pacquiao has given me this opportunity,” he said with affection. “I’m happy being number two.”

Donaire’s immediate future is up in the air. After beating Montiel he said he would like to become the undisputed bantamweight champion, which would mean he would have to face off against the winner of the April 23rd matchup between Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko. Unfortunately neither of those boxers fight for Top Rank, Donaire’s promoter. Bob Arum and Top Rank, as of late, seem content to keep their fighters working in house so a fight with Mares, who is with Golden Boy Promotions, or Agbeko, who is with Don King, might just not be feasible at the moment.

This nonsense between rival promoters, in particular Top Rank and Golden Boy, continues to deprive boxing fans of some of the best matchups the sport has to offer. It’s pathetic.

A move up to 122 pounds looks to be more likely, but time will tell. One thing that does seem certain is that The Filipino Flash will not sit on this victory. He wants to fight and as soon as possible.

“I want to be undisputed in this weight class, but if that doesn’t happen I put trust and faith in Cameron Dunkin (manager). If that’s 122, let’s go. If that’s 126, let’s go. I think that keeps me moving. It makes me the best I can be.”

So here we have a brilliant young fighter, and an exciting one to watch, willing to fight anyone in order to be the best. Good for him. And even better, it’s great for the sport and great for the fans.

March 1, 2011
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