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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

Mon, 02 Jul 2012

As the incredible career of pound for pound king, ?Fighter of the Decade? and eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao winds down, millions of Filipinos and fight fans around the world continue to wonder as to who will become ?another? Manny Pacquiao.

The overwhelming consensus, especially among knowledgeable boxing people which includes the media, is that in our present generation at least there can only be one Manny Pacquiao.

There are those who mention the name of Nonito ?The Filipino Flash? as heir-apparent to the top spot among Filipino world champions but Donaire himself has said time and again that there is only one Manny Pacquiao and that he wishes to carve his own name in the fiercely competitive sport, which is as it should be.

Nonito doesn?t hide the fact that he is determined to follow the path that Pacquiao has tread which means continuing his quest for more world titles, possibly six.

Currently Donaire is a four-division world champion but his ambition is to win titles in six weight divisions, hopefully winding up as the junior lightweight champion of the world which was the pinnacle of success reached by his longtime idol, Gabriel ?Flash? Elorde.

In fact Donaire, in a visit to our home several months ago, reviewed some of the fight tapes of Elorde in our library of classics and watched intently before imitating some of the slick moves of ?The Flash? even as he noticed that the shoulder roll which Floyd Mayweather Jr is famous for was actually perfected by Elorde in the 1960s.

Donaire first burst onto the scene when he effectively shut the mouth of cocky Australian IBF/IBO flyweight champion Viv Darchinyan with a spectacular 5th round knockout on July 7, 2007.

All it took was one, perfectly timed left hook to drop Darchinyan who tried to get up, rolled around the ring like a drunken sailor before crashing into the ropes near his corner.

It was a shocking outcome to a fight that most pundits thought the hard-hitting southpaw Darchinyan would win, pointing to his punching power as a telling factor. They never reckoned with Donaire?s own power which is accentuated by his timing and speed. Beyond that is the reality, as reinforced in subsequent fights, that Nonito is not just a skilled fighter but a thinking fighter who plots his every move and counter-move in the face of what his opponent brings into the ring.

The smashing knockout earned for Donaire the coveted award as ?Knockout of the Year? aside from being named the ?Upset of the Year? which provides an insight into what kind of an underdog he was in the fight against Darchinyan.

After dutifully battering Mexican challenger Luis Maldonado to score an 8th round TKO on December 1, 2007 Donaire fell upon some rough times as he and his promoter at that time, Gary Shaw, had an apparent falling out and it took eleven months before Nonito entered the ring to defend his IBF/IBO titles against little South African Moruti Mthalane on November 1, 2008.

It wasn?t the most convincing victory by Donaire although he broke Mthalane?s nose, cut him on his eye and generally bloodied his face, forcing referee Joe Cortez to call a halt in the 6th round.

The split with Shaw was consummated and Donaire linked up with perhaps the most astute promoter in the business of boxing today, Bob Arum of Top Rank.

Arum in partnership with Solar Sports decided it was time for Donaire to strengthen his links with the broad base of Filipino fight fans whose passion for boxing had been given an adrenalin rush by the exploits of Pacquiao.

In a championship double-header at the famed Araneta Coliseum where Brian Viloria who had fought and beaten Donaire in their race to a coveted berth on the United States Olympic team to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, stunned the world with an amazing 11th round knockout of IBF light flyweight champion Ulises Solis while Donaire put on a clinic, dropping previously undefeated Raul Martinez of Texas four times en route to a 4th round TKO victory on April 19, 2009.

Donaire decided it was time to begin his chase for more world titles and took on Panama?s Rafael Concepcion who had earlier won the WBA super flyweight interim title with a 10th round knockout of AJ ?Bazooka? Banal in Cebu.

Concepcion had other ideas. Rather than seek the WBA 115 pound title his goal was to beat Donaire by whatever means and decided the title didn?t matter, it was only the win that did because it would enhance his stature. It was with this frame of mind that Concepcion came in several pounds over the limit. Knowing the added weight and the bruising style of Concepcion could prove troublesome, Donaire decided to box and gave Concepcion a lesson in winning a unanimous twelve round decision.

After making short work of late substitute and clearly overmatched Manuel ?Chango? Vargas at the Las Vegas Hilton on February 13, 2010, winning by a 3rd round TKO, Donaire saved the day for the Philippines in Puerto Rico on July 10, 2010 when he became the only Filipino fighter to win while three others, including two-division world champion Gerry Penalosa were beaten rather badly.

Donaire cemented his hold on the WBA super flyweight title with a comfortable 8th round TKO of Hernan ?Tyson? Marquez who currently holds the flyweight title after deciding to go down in weight.

Donaire had always wanted the big names and obviously the big fights. One of the champions he long wanted to battle was veteran Mexican Fernando ?Cochulito? Montiel. But to get to Montiel, Nonito had to prove his worth by taking on former world champion Wladimir Sidorenko in a bantamweight title eliminator.

Donaire put on an exhibition of unparalleled skill, speed and power as he ripped Sidorenko to shreds, turning his face into a gory crimson mask and mercifully knocking him out in the 4th round.

That December 4, 2010 encounter set the stage for the next biggest challenge following Drachinyan. The long awaited showdown with Montiel, another facet of the riveting Philippine-Mexico ring wars took place on February 19, 2011.

In a devastating performance that duplicated in many ways Manny Pacquiao?s second round demolition of Ricky ?The Hitman? Hatton whom he separated from his senses in the second round, Donaire annihilated Montiel also in two rounds.

His vicious left hook counter that sent Montiel crashing to the canvas, his legs twitching just like Hatton?s did, was a crowning moment in his quest to dethrone the bantamweight king and capture his crown.

Nonito had cloaked himself with glory by winning the WBC/WBO bantamweight belts and once again being recognized as the fighter responsible for the ?Knockout of the Year.?

Undefeated two division champion Omar Andres Narvaez of Argentina effectively thwarted

Donaire?s planned explosive appearance at New York?s famed Madison Square Garden when he felt the sting in Nonito?s fists in the early rounds and backpedalled all night long with his gloves held up high in a sign of abject surrender.

A frustrated Donaire, cajoled in between rounds by trainer and former world champion Roberto Garcia not to do something rash was forced to content himself by scoring a shutout decision which irked the fans but which TV commentator and former champion and pound for pound king Roy Jones Jr made clear, was not Donaire?s fault.

With three titles in his trophy room Donaire who was having problems making the 118 pound limit decided to move up to the super bantamweight limit to confront former champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr and on the side to avenge the 4th round knockout suffered by ?Marvelous? Marvin Sonsona in a title fight.

Vazquez did a lot of talking with even his wife getting into the act and incurring the ire of Donaire?s taekwondo champion wife Rachel. Donaire didn?t let this bother him too much and he entered the ring at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas cool and collected.

He dropped Vazquez in the 9th round and handily beat him except in the eyes of one of the judges, Dr. Ruben Garcia, who inexplicably had Vazquez the winner 115-112, receiving a round of boos when his scorecard was read and upsetting WBO president Francisco ?Paco? Valcarcel with his incompetence if nothing else.

On Sunday, July 8 Manila Time, Donaire will take another path to glory by facing IBF champion Jeffrey Mathebula in a unification title fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California where the large Filipino community is expected to show up in support of Donaire.

It will be a different kind of test for Donaire as Mathebula is some 3-4 inches taller with a longer reach and has said he plans to use these advantages to the hilt. Donaire is unfazed as trainer Robert Garcia welcomes the opportunity telling us, ?Nonito likes to fighter taller guys. He is strong and in great shape.?

Arum was full of enthusiasm in the lead-up to the fight after watching Donaire train. He told the Manila Standard, ?He?s not just good. Nonito is sensational. He is terrific.?

Pacquiao? heir-apparent is taking giant steps on his own road to greatness.

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