Nonito Donaire is clearly one of the contenders for Fighter of the Year and one of the rising stars in the sport.
His last performance was a spectacular third-round knockout of Jorge Arce in their Dec. 15 bout in Houston.
That performance capped off the WBO super bantamweight champion's year. Donaire was 4-0 in 2012, registering decisions over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jeffrey Mathebula and stopping Toshiaki Nishioka in the ninth round with a TKO when they met in October. Donaire knocked down Nishioka twice before the fight was stopped.
Donaire (31-1-0) is in the prime of his career at the age of 30. He appears to be gaining more popularity and respect for his performances in the ring and as more questions surround Manny Pacquiao and whether he can continue his legendary boxing career, Donaire is becoming the face of face of Filipino boxing.
But it's not just smooth sailing for Donaire. He is getting help from Victor Conte, the infamous BALCO founder/chemist who spent four months in prison for his role in providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes like Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Kelli White.
Conte claims he no longer helps athletes with performance enhancing drugs, but merely advises them on nutrition and other aspects of conditioning.
In addition to Donaire, Conte has been associated with boxers Zab Judah and Andre Berto.
Donaire has enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and will submit to testing on a 24-hour, seven-day per week and 365-day per year basis.
That's a strong and admirable statement, but why would Donaire want to be associated with Conte? Why would Arce want to be associated with Conte's rival Guillermo "Memo" Heredia, who also helped Juan Manuel Marquez prepare for his recent bout with Pacquiao?
Both Conte and Heredia have infamous backgrounds, but they are being employed by several of the sport's top fighters to help them reach peak condition.
Boxing has had more than its share of scandals over the years. Boxing has no centralized governing body to lay out rules and standards, so it's largely been a sport where athletes follow their own morals and conscience.
That means many fighters will do whatever they have to in order to succeed and survive.
Fighters like Donaire and Marquez may be clean, but their associations with Conte and Heredia at least raise the specter of cheating.
If they get tainted by their associations, they have only themselves to blame.
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