Sports

Can Nonito Donaire be Better than Manny Pacquiao?

| by Alex Groberman

Nonito Donaire Jr. has a lot going for him these days.

There is his bout against junior bantamweight titleholder Omar Narvaez scheduled for October 22 in New York. Then there’s his continued impressive rise up the hierarchy of current boxing greats, whom at times are as much as 10 years older than him. And, of course, there are the comparisons to another Filipino born and bred fighter – one widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

When Top Rank’s Todd duBoef announced that Donaire, the current unified bantamweight champion, would meet Narvaez this past Thursday, it didn’t raise nearly the same amount of scrutiny or attention that a pronouncement relating to Manny Pacquiao would have.

That being said, with a 26-1, 18 KO record to his name, The Filipino Flash -- who currently resides in Northern California -- had already done his part to raise his profile, particularly after a monstrous second-round demolition of Fernando Montiel this past February.

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On the surface, the comparisons between Donaire and Pacquiao are clear. Both are highly-rated boxers from Filipino backgrounds and possess similarly quick fists. They are roughly the same height and are both known for their ability to take punches in stride – on the rare occasions that an opponent actually lands. There is the weight class difference between them, obviously, but the manner in which they dominate larger opponents has often been strikingly identical.  

Plus, they both seem to agree that Pacquiao will destroy Juan Manuel Marquez when the pair meets on November 12 of this year.

"It’ll be an exciting fight. Marquez is slower now. He’s even chunkier. But he won’t fight Manny like (Sugar Shane) Mosley. Marquez will go out there trying to take out Manny. That’s why it’ll be a lot more exciting than Manny’s fight against Mosley. Manny won’t have a problem finding Marquez. It’ll be over in five to eight rounds." Donaire told The Philippine Star back in August.

The progression that both men have made through boxing is similarly comparable. Donaire initially made a name himself back in the summer of 2007 when he defeated the previously unbeaten Vic Darchinyan for the IBF and IBO Flyweight champions. It was at that point that he established himself as a force to be reckoned with and a fighter to keep an eye on in the future.

Like Pacquiao, Donaire used the big win as a catapult of sorts, setting off on an impressive journey that included eight more wins, a rise in notoriety and countless comparisons to the top-tier boxers in the land. In fact, it’s been a pretty smooth ride for Donaire aside from one bump in the road when he expressed his desire to switch from Top Rank to Golden Boy – a move that was met with a certain amount of scorn and legal ramifications from the former company’s loyalists.

Perhaps the greatest similarly between Donaire and Pacquiao, however, is the adoration they get outside of the ring. While The Filipino Flash clearly doesn’t possess the same international icon status that his counterpart does, he is likewise regarded as an upstanding guy and role model of sorts in a sport filled with sleazy, egomaniacal narcissists. They both make it a point to carry themselves with a certain level of dignity and esteem when they’re not punching people in the face, an increasing rarity in boxing.

Given all of these similarities, it’s clear why fans would opt to compare and contrast these two men who are so undeniably similar. For now and the foreseeable future, Pacquiao and Donaire will continue to rule as two of the top five pound-for-pound boxers in the world today.

Which, of course, makes this question all the more valid: Does Donaire have it in him to eclipse his Filipino counterpart and at one point become a more highly regarded boxer than Pacquiao?