Oh, what will become of Nonito Donaire?
After riding a six year wave of dominance that was kicked off by his complete nuclear bombing of Vic Darchinyan in late 2006, (and if you haven’t seen it, click here) Nonito suffered his first meaningful loss of his career, a 12 round unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Guillermo Rigondeaux. For Nonito, the loss looked like the result of both a lack of dedication and preparation and the fact that he was in there with Rigo, arguably the most decorated amateur in recent years and in my opinion the #3 pound for pound fighter on the planet right now. That said, what had the potential to be an epic confrontation between two of the 10 best fighters on earth ended up being more or less a showcase for Rigondeaux’ superior boxing prowess. Truth was, as anyone familiar with Donaire can tell you, he simply was not at his best that night.
After some time off to recover from injury, the Philipino Flash made his return last November, and in one of those circle-of-life deals, it was against the man who kicked off the Nonito phenomenon, Vic Darchinyan himself. This time around however, Nonito had a much rougher go of it and once again, it appeared he hadn’t fully invested himself in being in tip-top shape. Eventually, he got Darchinyan out of there with the same punch that launched his career all those years ago, but he had to come from behind to do it and honestly, his performance in no way evoked memories of the old Donaire.
What next, then? Well, Simpiwe Vetyeka is. While not a name that gets anyone up out of their seat, he’s still a solid fighte,r a legitimate title holder and the first man to (officially) beat longtime champ Chris John, stopping him on his stool and effectively sending him into retirement. On paper, it’s a fight Nonito should win but if you’ve seen his last two fights, you know that there is no guarantee that Donaire can recapture the form that made him the scourge of Flyweight and then Bantamweight divisions.
Can he be that guy again? More importantly, does he still want to be. You know the story. At 31 and with tremendous financial security, Doanire certainly isn’t the first (or last) man to suffer a malaise as a result of the trappings of fame. Thing is, he’s not too old to dominate as he did. 31 is not exactly old in Boxing if, like Nonito, you haven’t suffered many (or in his case, any) serious beatings. No, Donaire was the one dishing out the beatings, to the likes of Darchinyan and Luis Maldonado and a dozen other guys, including poor Fernando Montiel, who is still feeling this one when he closes his eyes.
What can I say man, Nonito Donaire was a human wrecking ball. Dude has as much power as any guy that size, ever. Good boxer, too, even if as time went on he became increasingly reliant on his one punch power, as was his downfall in the Rignodeaux fight. Still, in the course of being outboxed that night, he managed to floor Rigo and could have likely finished him had he landed another big shot. Such was the extent of his power.
Is that guy gone forever, or can Donaire get himself re-focused enough to bring him back? On May 1oth in Macau, we should get our answer.