The Filipino Flash Challenging Pac-Man’s Top Spot

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Manny Pacquiao is not just the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world today, he’s also a massive draw with fellow pros.

But he might just lose his status as No.1 in the hearts of fellow Filipinos soon, if Nonito Donaire continues his rise to fulfill his belief that “God has a plan and I have faith in God’s plan” to see him unify the belts at bantamweight.

Donaire, the newly-crowned WBO/WBC champ, arrived in Manila yesterday morning, his flight having taken the Bohol boxer all the way from Los Angeles to the Philippines to spend three weeks observing the Pac-Man in training.

Manny, who began his high-altitude training sessions last weekend in Baguio City, has also been joined, of course, by his trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, while British light-welterweight star Amir Khan came in on the same flight.

Khan has been lined up to face Northern Irishman Paul McCloskey back in England on April 14 to defend his WBA crown, but, as he is training under Roach, will join Manny some time over the next few days.

Pacquiao began light training last week as he gets in shape for his bout with American Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7. He has so far put in some morning roadwork, a few games of basketball, and a few sessions in the mitts with long-time trainer and friend Buboy Fernandez.

Also there are the Pac-Man’s frequent sparring partners, undefeated welterweight Shawn Porter, from Akron in Ohio, and David Rodela, who is also Khan’s sparring mate, as well as Filipina WBO bantamweight Ana Julaton – a recent winner against Francesca Alcanter.

However, although these coaches and boxers are there to work with or watch Manny, 28-year-old Donaire – who stopped Fernando Montiel in the second round to pick up the crowns on February 19 – is fast becoming a favorite with a nation now engrossed with their potent pugilists.

Donaire deserves the adulation, too, having become only the third Asian fighter – and second Filipino after the great man – to hold titles in three different divisions, with crowns also in flyweight and super-flyweight.

When Mexican Montiel landed a right to Donaire’s head in Las Vegas as month, the Filipino Flash responded with a devastating left he believes was “the hardest punch of my career” that left his opponent crumpled on the canvas. But Montiel somehow got back to his feet, only for Donaire to rush over and land a left then a right that resulted in referee Russell Mora stopping the bout just five minutes and 25 seconds in.

Now ranked No.3 in the world’s pound-for-pound ratings behind Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr, Donaire – $350,000 the richer after his latest victory – will return to the United States at the end of the month to prepare for his next fight, which he hopes will be a unification bout with WBA holder Anselmo Moreno, of Panama, at the Oakland Coliseum on May 28.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is attempting to set that clash up, although no contract has yet been signed, while promoter Gary Shaw wants Moreno to face Venezuelan Lorenzo Parra ahead of Donaire.

With Donaire’s contract with Top Rank up in a few months, there has been speculation that Golden Boy Promotions will sign the in-demand Filipino. But he’s just looking to get back in the ring to face whoever manager Cameron Dunkin and Arum sign up as his next opponent.

No matter who is lined up, though, three boxing legends believe Donaire is poised to become as big a star as Manny – especially after his destruction of Montiel.

Former world champion Roy Jones Jr reckons “God had blessed this kid with wonderful talent”, while Mexican legends Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera – while commentating on the fight – said Donaire gave “an amazing performance”.

The rightly confident Donaire described himself as “a monster” after the Montiel fight. Certainly, he’s set to become a monster box office star in the world of boxing very soon.