Don Stradley

The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Nonito Donaire

Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”

It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.

Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.

Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.

The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.

Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.

With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.

Today: Nonito Donaire. Tomorrow: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

NONITO DONAIRE
Bantamweight
24-1 (16)

TALENT: “The Filipino Flash,” currently ranked number four on THE RING’s pound-for-pound list, owns one of the most potent left hands in the business, and is one of the smartest counterpunchers around. He has also shown an ability to switch from righty to lefty, but as we saw in his recent win over Hernan Marquez, a bout that saw him stubbornly stay in southpaw mode for the entirety of the first four rounds, he’s much more destructive when fighting from the orthodox stance. Another troubling trend is Donaire’s new tendency to forget boxing and throw bombs, making some of his recent bouts tougher than they needed to be. Grade: A

ACHIEVEMENT: Donaire moved up in weight and stayed busy these past 12 months with a tough unanimous decision win over Rafael Concepcion (for the WBA “interim” junior bantamweight belt), a third-round stoppage of Manuel Vargas, and an eighth round stoppage of Marquez. Unfortunately, boxing politics have frustrated Donaire in his efforts to secure a big money fight. To his credit, Donaire has remained active and has beaten the opponents put in front of him. Grade: A-

MARKETABILITY: He’s been featured on Top Rank’s “Pinoy Power” pay per views and on Showtime, but exposing smaller fighters to a wide audience will always be an uphill endeavor in the US. As far as Pinoy pugs go, Donaire is second to Manny Pacquiao, but it’s a distant second. The Philippine press, which is heavy on gossip, depicts Donaire as a sort of cocky, outspoken kid, which is at odds with the Godlike man-of-the-people status given to Pacquiao. Worst of all, the excitement Donaire generated with his surprise knockout of Vic Darchinyan in 2007 has just about dissipated. Grade: B+

SUPPORT SYSTEM: The recent addition of Robert Garcia to Donaire’s corner raised some eyebrows in the Philippines, for Garcia had been training Brian Viloria, conqueror of Donaire in the amateurs. Some saw the hiring as simply a power play on Donaire’s part. Other sources suggested Garcia was brought in to take control of a training camp that lacked an anchoring voice. Camp turmoil is nothing new for Donaire. He traded Gary Shaw for Bob Arum in 2008, and dropped his father/trainer for the Penalosa brothers. But none of these changes have advanced his career to any noticeable degree. Longtime manager Cameron Dunkin remains Donaire’s biggest supporter, keeping a degree of optimism even as Donaire seems stymied by promoter squabbles and red tape. Even Donaire’s health has been under siege. Along with suffering a hand injury against Concepcion, he underwent a scary bout of Dengue fever last year. Grade: A-

GROWTH POTENTIAL: Top Rank throws a lot of names in the air when discussing Donaire’s future, everyone from Darchinyan to Jorge Arce to “JuanMa” Lopez. Dunkin feels Donaire can compete with featherweights and not lose his punch. First, let’s see him punch his way out of the career quagmire he’s in. Grade: B

Previous All-Star Report Cards

Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
David Haye
Tomasz Adamek
Andre Ward
Mikkel Kessler
Carl Froch
Lucian Bute
Sergio Martinez
Paul Williams
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Miguel Cotto
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Timothy Bradley
Amir Khan
Yuriorkis Gamboa
Juan Manuel Lopez

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