On Saturday, Nonito Donaire, 28-1, 18 KO’s, claimed the WBO Super Bantamweight Title with a hard fought split decision over Wilfredo Vazquez, JR. Donaire is from the Philippines much like Manny Pacquiao and because the “PacMan” is about done with boxing, Donaire is slowly becoming the focus.
At 112 pounds, Donaire made a splash, crushing Vic Darchinyan in five rounds for the Flyweight title. Much like Pacquiao, Donaire made the move and won the Bantamweight title from Fernando Montiel.
There is no questioning the power of Donaire at 118 and below, but a struggle with the 122 pound Vazquez, JR., raised a lot of eyebrows, especially from those that were eying a showdown with Yuriorkis Gamboa, the undefeated 126 pounder. Donaire’s power did not follow him up and judging by the way that Vazquez busted him up with just a jab, you’d have to imagine that Gamboa would stop him early.
Not all great fighters need to move up in weight to prove it. Marvin Hagler remained a middleweight and is one of the best fighters of all time. Donaire doesn’t need to put on weight and conquer the divisions, but the boxing media and fans are demanding it because Manny Pacquiao did it. Pacquiao never had a Gamboa waiting for him. That’s one of the big differences. If he did, Manny would have not made it so smoothly.
I have to say a few things about the HBO broadcast of the Donaire – Vazquez fight. I consider HBO to be one of the best networks when it comes to presenting a story to the public in an entertaining way. The 24/7 series is outstanding but then we have the “Twitter War” between the wives of Donaire and Vazquez. Did we really need to shift back to Donaire’s wife after every round to see her reaction? Is this boxing or professional wrestling?
There are too many athlete wives that seek their own spotlight through association and Rachel Donaire falls right into that mix, along with Chris Byrd’s wife and Shane Mosley’s ex-wife. It’s a shame that so much of the boxing media focused in on this ridiculous Twitter conflict. It really felt like the WWE was involved somehow. Remember Thunderbox? It felt like that and shame on HBO for dedicating so much time to it.
There is plenty of pressure on Donaire from boxing and the fans. Pacquiao has very little time left before he retires or gets beat, and the Filipinos need a new star. Boxing writers that have been attached to Manny’s knob over the years need a new one to sit on. Donaire is the man, but the flaws in his game were on display with Vazquez, JR.
There is no questioning the ability of Donaire at 118 or below but the move up would not be an easy one. He also benefits and is hurt by the association with Pacquiao. The unfortunate thing is that Pacquiao had old established names like Oscar De La Hoya, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Shane Mosley, and Ricky Hatton to feast on. Those names, despite the fact that they were nowhere near their prime, helped make Manny a household name.
Donaire will have to make it up the hard way and the name opponents just aren’t there. A showdown with Gamboa would be a huge draw for die hard boxing fans, but mention either name to the casual fan and see what their reaction is. The most likely response would be “who?”
It’s an uphill battle for Donaire to become a PPV attraction and I can’t see him making it to the celebrity level of a Pacquiao globally. Donaire seems to be a sincere person with a lot of ability but where he goes from here is still a big question mark. At least if the writers get bored, they can still shift focus to the bickering wives of fighters. Perhaps there is a reality show there.