When Nonito ‘Fighting Flash’ Donaire bludgeoned Jorge Arce into retirement with a scintillating 3rd round knockout last week, he served notice to the fact that he was ready to go for the big-time bucks. Yes, the boxing world has taken notice of the Manny Paquiao heir apparent, and he won’t be fighting for crumbs anymore. Knocking out Arce netted him a seven-figure payday for the first time, and he certainly won’t be settling for anything less.
With an impressive 31 wins – 1 loss with 20 ko record, Nonito is currently rated 5th in The Ring’s Pound-for-Pound rankings. His knockouts over Vic Darchinyan, Wladimir Sidorenko, Fernando Montiel and Arce are now part of the sport’s highlight films, making him one of the most sought-after punch-artists of this era. He is one of only five pugilists who have been awarded the prestigious Diamond Belt, along with future Hall of Famers Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. His ring savvy plus his ability to articulate himself makes him a favorite boxing guest analyst for top TV sports outfits. A top prospect to make Boxing’s Fighter of the Year, Nonito has the world at his feet. What else can he do to top his stellar performance this year?
Nonito should strike while the iron is hot. With his growing popularity, it is imperative that he choose quality opponents who can further enhance his record. His call for a unification of titles resonates well with the boxing fans. His stand for stricter drug control measures is refreshing. With these, he has endeared himself among true-blooded boxing afficionados.
But he should also take into account the drawing power of his future adversaries. That said, it would be best for him to first take on the WBC Junior Featherweight champion, Abner Mares, before any other bout. A unification bout with Mares will be a bit tricky, considering that he fights from the Golden Boy Promotions, which has been at odds with Bob Arum’s Top Rank. However, this fight will draw infinitely more viewers right now, considering Mares’ Mexican pedigree, his unbeaten record (24 wins, no loss, 1 draw with 13 ko’s), plus the fact that he too has a title at stake.
Waiting in the wings will be the equally dangerous WBA titlist, Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigo is a stablemate under the Top Rank Promotions. He is a Cuban amateur standout, and is a two-time Olympic gold-medalist. Toting a less battle-scarred 11 wins, no loss record with 8 knockouts, Rigo needs at least one more fight to get him into the consciousness of the sports fans. A fight with Armenian-Aussie Vic Darchinyan on the same card would make this doubly interesting, giving it a Latino vs Asia-Pacific storyline. Should Nonito hurdle the Mares challenge, then a fight with the winner of the Rigo-Darko tiff will be in order. Enough to whet your appetites?
Nonito’s path next year could be dependent on the results of his first two bouts to clean up the junior featherweight division. Should he succeed, then it will be time for him to move up. “Bring it on”, as Nonito would say.
At the Featherweight Division, Nonito could opt for WBC’s Daniel Ponce De Leon or WBO’s Orlando Salido, both Mexicans. The other titleholders are Australia’s Billy Dibs, who holds the IBF crown; and Indonesian Chris John, who has the WBA crown. (Another Latino vs Asia-Pacific rivalry in the making here, but that’s a different story.) The Mexicans will have an advantage with their crowd-drawing capacity. Ponce De Leon (44 wins, 35 ko’s, 4 losses) has the body of a lightweight and will have a 3-inch reach advantage over Nonito. He has defeated 2 Pinoy fighters, upending erstwhile undefeated Rey ‘Boom-Boom’ Bautista in the very first round.
Salido (39 wins, 27 ko’s, 11 losses, 2 draws) will have a 1-inch height advantage with no difference in reach. He has faced only one Pinoy fighter so far, journeyman Weng Haya, whom he ko’d in the 8th round. Salido will have an advantage over Ponce De Leon, considering he belongs to the Top Rank stable. Both these Mexican warriors will give Nonito a good challenge.
With Nonito offering to fight four times next year, it looks like an exciting year ahead for the sports fans. This will surely be a big boon for our boxing diehards, seeing a topnotch boxing virtouso in Nonito opting to fight only the best of the best. The past years, boxing has been tainted by the huge non-fights (ie. Mayweather-Pacquiao, etc) which turned off a lot of fans. Nonito’s emergence, the excitement he brings to the ring, and his desire to unify the titles is a refreshing shot in the arm for boxing. If he sustains this, he could well end up to be the face of boxing in the year ahead.