They are two of the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world and are close in weight. Boxing fans have been clamoring for them to get together in the ring for over two years, but somehow the fight has always fallen through.
No, I'm not talking about Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. I'm talking about Ring Magazine's No. 4 P4P fighter Nonito Donaire and No. 9 Fernando Montiel, the two greatest boxers in the world under 120 pounds.
Perhaps because of weariness about the on-again-off-again nature of this fight, or perhaps because of the relatively low profile these fighters have in the U.S., there hasn't been much talk about this fight lately. However, in his weekly divisional rankings, ESPN's boxing guru Dan Rafael has laid out a very plausible scenario for how this fight can take place, and has even laid out a date—February 19 on HBO.
There are still a number of pieces that will have to fall into place, including both fighters winning December matches and going ahead with the fight. Still, this is very promising news.
Montiel has seen his profile rise lately, fighting a very active schedule and pulling off a major upset of former divisional No. 1 Hozumi Hasegawa earlier this year. He is often mentioned as a 2010 Fighter of the Year candidate. Though he was recently injured in a dirt bike accident, he is expected to be stepping into the ring in December. He is fighting the always-intimidating "opponent to be announced," so the odds are he will prevail in this fight. There's arguably no one in any of Montiel's divisions who can hold a candle to his fighting talent.
On the other hand, Donaire has seen his profile drop as his activity rate has stagnated in the years since his stunning knockout of previously-undefeated Vic Darchinyan three years ago. To some fight fans, it seems longer than that. Donaire really hasn't done much lately, to the point where even though Donaire hasn't lost in years, Vic Darchinyan is now ranked No. 1 in the junior bantamweight division by Rafael and many other sources. Donaire, like many fighters, has stalled under Bob Arum's Top Rank promotions and needs a big fight.
Donaire is facing 22-2 Volodymyr Sidorenko in December. Sidorenko is a talented fighter, and it won't be an easy task for Nonito, especially since we haven't seen him fight major opposition in a while, but Donaire should still be favored to win the fight.
If both fighters win their December matches, and the fight doesn't fall out of negotiations, fight fans could be in for a real treat in February if this long-anticipated bout finally falls into place like Rafael has lain out. It would most likely happen in the bantamweight division, where both fighters have fought comfortably recently, but they are so close in weight (only three pounds differentiates Donaire's natural junior bantamweight division and Montiel's bantamweight division) that the fight could happen in several divisions.
Most importantly for fight fans, our biggest hope is that the fight takes place at all. We've been waiting for a long time to see these two talented fighters step into the ring, and it could be an instant fight of the year candidate and has major pound-for-pound implications.