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Nonito Donaire: The Manny Pacquiao Replacement

By Geno McGahee

On May 7th, Manny Pacquiao will step into the ring with the old warrior, Sugar Shane Mosley, in a fight that nearly everyone expects him to win with relative ease, but even if he should win without concern, the odds of him continuing fighting are slim. If Floyd Mayweather, JR., comes back to the sport and shows interest in a bout, the fight may materialize, but there aren’t that many sellable fights to the public and the interest in the game may be declining for Pacquiao.

With all of the Pacquiao fans hanging on every word of their fighter and many boxing journalists finding time to only write about Manny because of his popularity, where do they go when Manny retires? The answer may have come last Saturday night.

In a WBO/WBC Bantamweight Title fight, Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire, 26-1, 18 KO’s, stepped into the ring to face the champion, Fernando Montiel, a man that came into the ring with a record of 44-2-2, with his defeats being by a majority decision and the other a split decision. He was a true champion at 118 pounds, but he had never seen anything like Donaire before.

After battering Montiel in the first round, a flush counter punch sent him to the floor and out cold in the second. He lay on the canvas, flailing his arms and legs in one of the scariest knockouts in recent memory. Amazingly, he arose, and the referee allowed it to continue but he was in no position to fend off Donaire. It was over shortly thereafter.

This is not the first time that Donaire has shocked the boxing world with his punching power. In 2007, he was the underdog against the pound for pound top fighter, Vic Darchinyan, and he pummeled him, stopping him in the fifth round. Much like Pacquiao, he has slowly made his way to the top of boxing and now is being rewarded with the recognition that he seeks.

Donaire’s Filipino following is strong and expect it to grow if Pacquiao hangs up the gloves. The question has to be: Can Donaire fill the shoes of the Filipino national hero, Manny Pacquiao.

Although he has expressed interest in dominating the bantamweight division, there is plenty of huge match ups in the featherweight class. Three undefeated fighters stand atop of the division and all three are considered to be three of the top fighters in the world. Donaire would have his work cut out but the risk may be worth the reward.

Juan Manuel Lopez, 30-0, 27 KO’s, is another in the long list of Puerto Rican power-punchers that we have seen over the years. Much like Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto, Lopez has struck fear in his opposition and has left the majority lying in the ring. He currently holds the WBO Featherweight Title and has been very impressive in his performances, most recently stopping Rafael Marquez in 8 rounds.

What makes Lopez so exciting is not just his power, but the fact that he can be hit and he can be hurt. He has been down but has gotten up to fight on and stop his opposition. He went twelve hard rounds with Rogers Mtagwa in 2009, surviving a late onslaught to take the decision and showing his grit as a champion. A bout with Donaire would be huge for boxing.

Yuriorkis Gamboa, 19-0, 15 KO’s, currently holds the WBA and IBF Featherweight Titles. His speed and explosive power have made him a huge attraction and he has a huge following. Gamboa is another fighter that brings excitement due to his vulnerability and ability to end a fight at any time. He has been down several times but usually comes back in style.

Gamboa vs. Donaire is another huge seller, and considering that we have Lopez and Chris John waiting in the wings, boxing fans would get super fight after super fight.

Chris John, 44-0-2, 22 KO’s, also has claim to the WBA version of the Featherweight title, and has chalked up some impressive wins including one over Juan Manuel Marquez. John is a stylish boxer from Indonesia and nobody has found the formula to beat him yet. Rocky Juarez found the mark several times but was never able to stop him and it would be an uphill battle for any featherweight to overcome his skill and in ring abilities.

Donaire vs. John would be an interesting outing. It wouldn’t have the buzz that a showdown with Lopez or Gamboa would, but it would still be a headlining fight and a huge test for the Filipino power-puncher.

When and if Manny Pacquiao retires, Donaire is there to fill the gap. He has the skills and timing along with the devastating punch to not only dominate his weight class but to move up and take on the three listed above in what could be the biggest four-way series of super fights since Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, and Marvin Hagler had their shots at each other. If we see Donaire make the move, his following will grow and boxing will flourish again. We may be onto something big this year.

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