Can Nonito Donaire Earn Style Points?
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 2, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor, DHB)
Nonito Donaire
In a couple of weeks, a highly anticipated bout takes place between IBF/WBO junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka (who held the WBC belt with distinction for several years) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California (headlining on HBO). However, to many, that night’s main event will be the junior welterweight contest featuring Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. The reason is simple; that match-up is almost guaranteed to provide back-and-forth action. And to be quite honest, in his last 36 rounds, Donaire has won but hasn’t necessarily been scintillating.
Yeah, he’s won convincingly (and picked up a couple of 122-pound world title belts in the process) but in bouts versus Omar Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and, most recently, Jeffrey Mathebula, the respective audiences in New York, San Antonio and Carson got restless and you could hear a scattering of catcalls and boos during various stages of those fights.

The “Filipino Flash” has yet to replicate the lightning in a bottle that was his eye-opening, second round stoppage of Fernando Montiel in February of 2011 and it may have created oversized expectations. Donaire doesn’t necessarily disagree “I think based on the Montiel and [Vic] Darchinyan fights or the [Volodymyr] Sydorenko fight, people want that kind of fight,” he said last Wednesday after his day’s work at the Undisputed Gym near the Bay Area in San Carlos, California. “But there is that expectation towards knockouts with me at least. But I’ve accomplished the things that I’ve needed to accomplish during those fights. Those guys are world champions; they’re not an easy feat. They are world champions. So it can’t be that easy sometimes but I’ve accomplished a lot of things I’m happy about with the victories.”
The manner in which Donaire halted Montiel, at the time, made him among the most buzzworthy boxers in the business. It also let everyone know: bring the fight to him at your own peril. Since then, those placed in front of him have counterpunched in a cautious and safe manner.
“With Narvaez, after the fight, he was happy. He was telling everyone that, ‘Nonito Donaire couldn’t knock me out,’ even though he lost the fight and what he had worked hard for, for so many years which was being undefeated and being a world champion. He didn’t care because Nonito Donaire didn’t knock him out,” said Donaire of the reluctant Argentine, who he faced last year at the small room of Madison Square Garden, his final bantamweight contest. In February, he took on Vazquez Jr. for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title and then Mathebula, who held the IBF strap, in July. Both men seemed content playing it safe for 12 rounds. Donaire says, “They came in there thinking, ‘Oh, I’m the bigger guy.’ Once they got hit, they started to run and cover up.”
At the world-class level, if a boxer wants to just survive and stink it out, it becomes almost impossible to score a stoppage. In his most recent fights, Donaire has almost had to fight for two men. Yes, it does take two to tangle (and make a fight).
“It’s more for me trying to figure out and learn the process of being a better fighter, how to dissect a fighter who blocks and I have figured out how to do things that way now after facing guys who don’t want to engage. And so I’ve learned a lot from it. I think that it’s definitely an experience; that’s for sure,” said Donaire, who understands that he has to be a steadier, more consistent fighter in his own right and not just fight in spots.
In other sports, winning - as Vince Lombardi once famously uttered - is everything. It’s the only thing that really counts. In the NFL, whether you win by a field goal or seven touchdowns, it’s all the same. 
But in boxing, just how you win and the manner in which you accomplish it means a lot. Yes, it is a bit of a beauty contest and style points do matter…
Donaire’s promoter, Bob Arum, doesn’t disagree, “Because in boxing, the event stands on its own and then you gotta sell the next event. So people judge you on how you did in the prior fight. With a team in a league, a 30-point win and a three-point win is the same. Maybe if someone’s betting on the game [a points spread might make a difference] but otherwise, a win is a win.” His manager, Cameron Dunkin, adds, “There’s a lot more to it than just getting a ‘W’; you need to be impressive and, listen, this is an entertainment business and the bottom line is people want to be entertained.”
Just think about it; it wasn’t just that Andre Ward beat Chad Dawson last month, it was the manner in which he dominated and stopped Dawson that really earned Ward the accolades he’s received. It left an impression. You wanted to see more. With Donaire’s recent outings, by the late rounds, you had had enough and wanted to move on. But that’s part of the deal; when you’re considered one of the best boxers on the planet, paid as well as he is and given the biggest platforms on which to perform, there is a certain expectation to deliver something beyond the ordinary.
“Definitely. To the viewers and to the experts, you gotta look grand because you’re one of the best in the boxing business and that’s how you gotta represent yourself,” said Donaire, who has won belts in four divisions. “But it is what it is. People will always have their opinion; I always take it at that and at the end of the day, a win is a win. Everyone in my camp is happy. That’s what I care most about.”
That said, is there pressure to do more than just notch a victory on October 13th? With this in mind, originally, Top Rank had planned to match Donaire with the always-crowd-pleasing Jorge Arce. Eventually, it was the highly respected Japanese southpaw (who never lost his crown in the ring) who got the assignment. Dunkin says, “I think [Nishioka]’s an excellent fighter and I think it’s going to make an entertaining fight. He stands and he bangs and Nonito’s going to stand in front of him and bang and counter and I think their styles mesh perfectly and Robert Garcia (who works Donaire’s corner on the night of the fight) told me it’s going to be a very entertaining fight. I agree with him.”
In the eyes of many observers, the one thing Nishioka brings is a level of credibility. He’s on a 16-fight winning streak dating back to 2006 and he held the WBC title for seven fights before voluntarily dropping the belt after defeating Rafael Marquez last October. “Donaire wants to fight the best guys out there, so does Cameron and Nishioka was the best guy available,” said Arum. “I mean, he hasn’t lost a fight in God-knows-how-many-years and we saw him with Rafael Marquez [in October of 2011]. It’s a real test for Nonito. The guy [Nishioka] wants to be considered among the best fighters in the world. You gotta fight opponents like that.”
But can Donaire recapture that magic he had when he iced Montiel?
“Well, obviously, the Montiel fight was sensational,” said Arum, who thought he had his next bona fide star after that contest but instead was embroiled in a legal dispute with Donaire that kept him out of the ring for much of 2011. “That was the pinnacle; he had a fighter like Montiel and with one punch, he caved his face in. So obviously, that’s a moment to be treasured if you’re Nonito Donaire and he’d like to replicate it.”
In two Saturdays, if he doesn’t, what is sure to be a predominantly Mexican-American crowd at the Home Depot Center will surely let him hear it. If Rios-Alvarado is the fight Dennis Green thinks it is and we crown it as such, well, the pressure will be on Donaire to deliver a memorable performance. But he says he can’t do it all by himself.

“Well, I’m always thankful of my fans because they understand; they know I try to go out there and tear these [off] guys’ heads. I try to knock them out. But again, the willingness to engage from my opponents is what makes it difficult and people can see that. But of course, they do want to see a different Nonito Donaire coming into this fight because I was the guy who fell in love with the power and they want to see that power. But it’s gotten old when people are blocking and it’s time for me to figure out and find another way to do it.”
This much is clear; it looks like Tim Bradley will defend his WBO welterweight belt on December 15th in Miami, Florida at the Fish Tank. The question is, against whom? There was talk of Robert Guerrero (who is promoted by Golden Boy) and then Andre Berto (who is promoted by...well, more on that later) facing the “Desert Storm” but not surprisingly, a deal could not be made between Top Rank and Golden Boy for a Bradley-Guerrero hook-up. I mean, because, know why...
Bob Arum told Maxboxing on Friday afternoon, “HBO was brokering the deal and knew what they could pay for the fight and the amount that [Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer was asking for his side was apparently too high. But I never talked to Schaefer; nobody at Top Rank talked to Schaefer. This comes from HBO.”
As for a Bradley-Berto clash, well, Schaefer was telling the likes of Lance Pugmire of the L.A. Times that he represented Berto and that he was also in possession of a November 24th date on HBO for a Berto bout with IBF junior middleweight champion Cornelius Bundrage. “We are holding Nov. 24 for a fight between Andre Berto and [Cornelius] ‘K-9’ Bundrage and Richard Abril against Sharif Bogere. That will be a tripleheader and we are currently working on the third fight as well and that’s with HBO,” he told Lem Satterfield of RingTV.
This, of course, was news to one Lou DiBella, who has been the promoter of record for Berto since the beginning of his career. When notified of Schaefer’s claims, he first made a phone call (I assume to Al Haymon) and then called back with this statement, “To my knowledge, I’m Andre Berto’s promoter. I’ve been assured of such. I certainly have been performing as his promoter and I am in daily contact with his management.”
This was news to Arum who said he had “no idea” that DiBella was no longer promoting Berto and had talked to him on Friday morning trying to consummate Bradley-Berto.
OK, keep this in mind: individuals like DiBella who “promote” fighters who happen to be Haymon clients aren’t traditional promoters (and oftentimes don’t have deals on paper) and really work for Haymon. Remember, Haymon giveth, Haymon taketh. And Schaefer and Haymon have entered into an alliance that seems unbreakable (for now). So the question is, does DiBella have a contract with Berto? And if so, is this tortuous interference on the part of Golden Boy? (Maxboxing sent Schaefer an email asking him to clarify his statements on Berto and has received no reply)
Regarding Bradley versus Guerrero-Berto, as Aretha Franklin once asked, who’s zoomin’ who? Right now, it looks like HBO could be stuck with Berto-Bundrage and Bradley against either Ruslan Provodnikov or Lamont Peterson instead of the fight they really want. No doubt about it; both Schaefer and Arum will point fingers at each other. So I wonder, is it time for Ken Hershman clear the air on just what really took place, similar to what his predecessor at HBO did when Ross Greenburg admitted negotiations for a [Manny] Pacquiao-[Floyd] Mayweather fight had taken place in the summer of 2010 between the two sides when some claimed no talks had occurred?
For now, what we have is Bradley and a stadium in mid-December.
“We have done big events in Dallas in Yankee Stadium and I think we specialize in big events in ballparks and football stadiums and if we do this event in Miami, we hope to replicate it, “said Arum, who said the ownership of the Marlins pitched the idea of doing an event to Top Rank. If this comes to fruition, Arum says that Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux would be on the co-feature.
On Friday morning, word leaked out that Orlando Salido - slated to face Mikey Garcia on November 10th at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas on HBO - had injured his hand in a car door, therefore forcing him off that card. So what does that mean for Garcia, who has patiently been waiting for his title shot?
Carl Moretti of Top Rank told Maxboxing, “He stays on the card and we’re trying to find an suitable opponent.” Dunkin, who manages Garcia, added, “We’re trying to do him for the interim WBO [featherweight] title and keep him on the show and keep him going.”
And when Salido is good to go, Arum says, “Sometime early next year we’ll reschedule [Salido and Garcia].”
This past weekend’s edition of “Boxing After Dark” was full of JAGs (as Bill Parcells would call them, for “Just another guy”) and suspects...It certainly wasn’t as eventful as this year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards: mentioned that Yuriorkis Gamboa (yeah, the guy who left Top Rank earlier and had Floyd and Fiddy pay a lot to get it done) could appear on the Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV undercard on Dec. 8th...Reversing course, Stephen Espinoza of Showtime told me via email that they have purchased the Amir Khan-Carlos Molina bout and will place it on Dec. 15th (at a venue yet to be determined)...Seriously, did Hasim Rahman even train for his bout with Alexander Povetkin?...Can you believe Stephen “The Miracle Maker” Morris? He might be inconsistent but geez, he makes things happen for the ‘Canes...Right now, this is Geno Smith’s Heisman Trophy to lose...Is this the year Matt Ryan becomes an elite NFL signal caller?...The Jets are kinda bad...“Treme” doesn’t have a lot of frills but it’s a solid show on HBO?

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