Despite being ranked by Ring Magazine as the fifth best pound-for-pound boxer in the entire world, the name Nonito Donaire is still a name not recognized and known by mainstream sports fans, and a name that is not known as much as well by mainstream boxing fans.
The Filipino fighter, who fights out of San Leandro, California is frequently in the shadows of fellow Filipino and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, and many of those who do know the name Nonito Donaire know him for one punch: A perfectly-timed left-hook which knocked out previously-undefeated Vic Darchinyan back in 2007, a punch which has left Darchinyan's career spiraling down as a result.
Even as a two-time world champion in two divisions (Donaire won the IBF and IBO Flyweight titles in the victory over Darchinyan, defending it three times and took home the WBC Super Flweight Interim title after a decision victory over Raul Concepcion, defending it two times), the name Nonito Donaire is still not a name that is as famous at it really should be.
However, that could all change come February 19th.
As Donaire's stock continues to rise among boxing die-hards, he prepares to engage in what clearly is the biggest-battle of his career so far: A fight with a fellow underrated boxer in Mexico's Fernando Montiel on the 19th of February.
The fight will be fought at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada and Donaire's WBO and WBC Bantamweight title's will be on the line.
The fight is expected to be an electric one—Montiel himself has a lot of power, winning 34 of his 44 victories by knock-out and packs a powerful punch and makes up for his lack of quickness by bringing with him quick, sudden powerful punches which surprises his opponents, like Japanese fighter Hozumi Hasegawa for example, whom Montiel took the WBC title from.
Only one of Montiel's previous 11 fights have gone the distance (a decision over fellow Mexican Juan Alberto Rosas in Aguascalientes back in November 2008), and is ranked Ring Magazine as the 7th best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
Donaire himself will respond to Montiel's strengths by trying to use his size advantage over Montiel (Donaire's height is 5''6 while Montiel is 5''4, Donaire has a reach of 68-inches while Montiel has a reach of 66-inches), along with trying to use his strong chin to withstand Montiel's powerful punches and his ring generalship which has brought him to this stage.
Also talking about the height advantage Donaire enjoys, Montiel has struggled a bit in fights against taller opponents such as Jhonny Gonzales, Z Gorres and even Hozumi Hasegawa—who have all given the Mexican champion fits, despite all but Gonzales falling prey to Montiel.
Meanwhile, Donaire himself is capable of power-surges, though is more of a technical boxer, while fighting with high levels of thoughtfulness and has faster hands and feet than Montiel.
On paper, Donaire has every advantage in the fight outside of power in the book and as a result many die-hard boxing "experts" are picking Donaire to win this fight, possibly by knockout.
Meanwhile, Donaire also can adjust skills whilst in the middle of the fight. He can overwhelm opponents with supreme and powerful boxing ability, but also does not get lost when the action gets heated. Donaire's slashing power—mainly coming from his left-hook—gives him a decided advantage should a fight head into a brawl.
Just watching the early-rounds of the Darchinyan fight, it was clear that Donaire used his ring generalship to stave off the early attack by a slugging Darchinyan, which ultimately led Donaire to dominating the then-undefeated flyweight king and ultimately winning by knockout via a powerful left, which is still regarded as one of the best punches that division has seen.
Should Donaire come home with the win, it should propel him to a higher stature than he enjoys now. Coming into this fight, Donaire's opponent lists and choice-of-opponents have not been the best and it is a fair criticism.
Fighting the likes of Wladimir Sidorenko (although a former champion), Hernan Marquez, Manuel Vargas, Rafael Concepcion, Luis Maldonado and Moritu Mathalene certainly will bring out critics and the criticism is fair.
However, the lack of a big-name opponent after the Darchinyan win can be attributed to Donaire's pretty tumultuous change of promoters from Gary Shaw Promotions to Top Rank Promotions, which promotes fighters such as Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. Along with that, there simply were not many top-fight opponents to chose from in the flyweight and super flyweight divisions—something that Donaire will fortunately not face in the bantamweight division.
The division is full of stars such as Montiel; Mexican Abner Mares (21-0, 13 KO), Mexican veteran Eric Morel (43-2, 21 KO's) and Ghanian Joseph Agbeko (21-0-1, 13 KO's) may lay await should Donaire get past Montiel.
Certainly, Donaire will not face the problem of a lack of quality opposition he faced in the flyweight and super flyweight divisions.
Donaire himself has the look of a potential star, possibly one that can take the reigns of the Philippines' top boxer and athlete at the conclusion of Pacquiao's proud career.
Donaire has the looks of someone that can either dominate a star-studden bantamweight division, or move up in weight—depending on what he chooses to do. His patient style, his ring generalship, and the left-hook that has caused a once promising career for Darchinyan to never end up being the same can all drive Donaire to a seat among the top of the boxing world in the near future.
Should Donaire get the job done against Montiel, expect HBO World Championship fights to feature Donaire, and as the main event—not as the undercard feature, such as in the Sidorenko and Marquez fights.
Donaire clearly has the chance and style to become one of boxing's top draws, as the interest of the American mainstream public has clearly turned from the heavier boxers such as Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones Junior, Bernard Hopkins to lighter divisions and fighters such as Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Junior, Miguel Cotto and others.
Donaire himself has the skill, charisma and flair to turn into one of boxing's future stars. A win over Montiel and many more to come after that should help in that aspect.
However, he must get the job done against a credible opponent in Montiel, a man he shares the similarity of a lack of mainstream knowledge and lack of mainstream attention, and one that is surely hungry for the biggest fight of his career—a distinction this fight is also thought by Donaire.