Following Nonito Donaire’s less than impressive performance against Vic Darchinyan this weekend, it bears asking the question; is Donaire an overrated fighter?
Nonito Donaire burst on to the mainstream boxing scene with his dramatic one punch destruction of the then unified flyweight king Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan. This win was arguable the biggest upset of 2007, and sparked Donaire’s meteoric rise to the top of the pound for pound list. He followed the win up by stopping unheralded opponents Luis Maldonado, Moruti Mthalane, Raul Martinez, and Rafael Concepcion. The bulk of these less than compelling match ups took place on the dreadful “Pinoy Power” PPVs that Bob Arum used to frequently stage. These pointless and often terribly run PPV events kept Donaire from being able to properly break out into the boxing big leagues. as they were seen by only the hardest of hardcore fans, and by Filipino Americans.
Donaire’s arguably second most impressive performance was his 2010 stoppage win over Herman “Tyson” Marquez. Marquez has only since lost two fights, although he has always failed when stepping up to the elite fighters in his division. The fight that made Donaire one of the stars of HBO, was his 2011 second round decapitation of Fernando Montiel. Prior to the fight both men were in the top ten of The Ring Magazine’s pound for pound list. While the nature of the knockout was extremely exciting and eye catching, Montiel at the time had to be one of the most overrated fighters around. He was a very solid top three bantamweight, who had absolutely no business whatsoever being in the top ten pound for pound.
In his next HBO showcase Donaire won a dreadfully boring unanimous decision against Omar Navarez. Navarez, the career super flyweight, moved up in weight to challenge Donaire and clearly was there for nothing more than a payday. Navarez played defense the entire night, throwing nearly no punches, and has since never fought above super flyweight since.
Donaire’s next bout came against Wilfredo Vasquez jr and was the beginning of a string of less than impressive performances. Donaire struggled mightily against Vasquez, although he did manage to drop Vasquez in the ninth round. Donaire escaped with a split decision victory that he may or may not have deserved.
Next up for the “Flash” was the unheralded South African Jeffery Mathebula. Donaire once again struggled to win rounds, as he looked very puzzled by the tall and rangy Mathebula. I had Mathebula ahead by a good margin prior to the ninth round stoppage scored by Donaire. Donaire followed up with a knockout win over the totally shopworn and washed up Toshiaki Nishioka, in what proved to be nothing more than a cash out for the once great Japanese champion. Next for Donaire was a completely useless fight against the average Jorge Arce. This fight was a joke from the very beginning and proved absolutely nothing. Arce had been nothing but a journeyman for years leading into this fight, and had done nothing to deserve the opportunity.
Everyone knows the rest of the story, Donaire finally agreed to face the most talented man in the division Guillermo Rigondeaux and received a boxing lesson for his trouble. Outside of a knockdown, which he scored by punching on the break, Donaire lost every second of every round. Rigondeaux boxed circles around him and had him running for his life in the last round. Donaire then proceeded to make excuse after excuse, all while claiming to not be making excuses. HBO support their money maker, turning down Rigondeaux repeatedly for dates on the network, while Jim Lampley even had the audacity to attack the performance of Rigondeaux on his farce of show “The Fight Game”.
Although, after his mindbogglingly boring and unimpressive performance against the undersized and declining Darchinyan this weekend, Jim Lampley and company may be forced to change their tune. Donaire hasn’t turned in a truly impressive performance in more than two years, and outside of his solid punching power, seems to have no weapons.
I have always felt that Donaire was a solid fighter, who just happened to be perfectly matched, quite like his welterweight countryman. Donaire managed to avoid the majority of the dangerous fighters who fought in his division throughout the years. Guys like Abner Mares, Joseph Agbeko, Yonnhy Perez, Anselmo Moreno, and Leo Santa Cruz. Any one of these fighters could have beaten Donaire on any given night. Now Donaire has moved to a new weight class, which features many tough and rugged challengers. Although instead of fighting guys like Ponce De Leon, Jayson Velez, or Jhonny Gonzalez; Donaire will instead fight the Nicolas Walter’s and Orlando Salido’s of the division.
Donaire has proven to be one of the most overrated fighters in recent years. His knockout power created excitement, and managed to bring fans to the smaller weight division. HBO and Bob Arum did their part to make sure he was in with the right guys. Although, as we have seen, there is only so long that you can protect an overrated fighter. After what I witnessed on Saturday night, I would be hard pressed to make Donaire the favorite over any top fighter in the featherweight or junior featherweight divisions. His lack of boxing ability and reliance on his power will not do him any favors when he finally faces a guy who he doesn’t have a size advantage over.