Boxing: Is Nonito Donaire Ready to Take Manny Pacquiao's Spot?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2012

Nonito Donaire continues to climb the boxing ladder.
Nonito Donaire continues to climb the boxing ladder.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Nonito Donaire is one of the most formidable boxing headliners, and his third-round knockout of Jorge Arce shows that he is ready to ascend even higher in his sport's hierarchy.

The Filipino Flash's profile has been raised by his own excellence and his countryman Manny Pacquiao's formidable knockout defeat at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8.

It seems quite obvious that Donaire and Pacquiao are moving in opposite directions in the sport.

Donaire, 30, fought four times in 2012 and his results were better every time he stepped into the ring. He started the year with a split-decision victory over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in February. He followed that with a unanimous decision win over Jeffrey Mathebula in July.

Donaire took down Japanese fighter Toshiaki Nishioka with a ninth-round TKO in October before stopping Arce in the third round on Dec. 15.

Pacquiao fought twice in 2012 and he lost a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley in June before suffering his brutal sixth-round defeat to Marquez.

Pacquiao has not said whether he will continue with his career and try to reverse his most recent results or if he will retire. He is clearly considering the possibility of leaving the sport. He has future options in politics and show business and his wife, Jinkee, would like him to retire.

Donaire and Pacquiao have more in common than just their home country and their high-profile status in the sport they share. Both have similar hard punching and attacking styles. Both men are stylish boxers who are looking for a spot to unload their heaviest shots.

Donaire is the WBO super bantamweight champion. He fought at 121.5 pounds when he defeated Arce, and he has the frame to add more weight. Perhaps he could go as high as 130 or perhaps even 135 pounds, but it would be tough for the 5'5.5" Donaire to put any more weight on his frame.

While Donaire is recognized by the sport as a champion and one of the up-and-coming pound-for-pound fighters in the world, he is a long way from having the recognition that Pacquiao had during his prime years.

Pacquiao became perhaps the No. 2 fighter in the sport behind Floyd Mayweather and if a fight between those two has been arranged in 2008 or 2009, it might have been one of those transcendent boxing moments that occurs so infrequently.

A fight between those two might not have been as big as Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier in the 1970s, but it might have approached that level.

It's not likely Donaire will ever have that kind of popularity.

He is a skilled fighter who puts one impressive show after another. However, he does not have the same level of charisma as his countryman so it's unlikely he will be able to carry the sport the way Pacquiao has throughout his career.