(UPDATED) Donaire is ESPN's Boxer of the Year
MANILA, Philippines – Junior featherweight titlist and 4-division world champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (31-1, 20 knockouts) was named ESPN "Boxer of the Year" after his scintillating victories over the best of the best in and around his weight class.
"Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) began the year having vacated his bantamweight belts and preparing to move up to junior featherweight. Four fights later, in an exceptionally busy year by modern standards for an elite champion, the quick-fisted and powerful Donaire stands atop the 122-pound division and was the easy pick for 2012 ESPN.com Boxer of the Year," ESPN said on its website.
It was an easy choice, as Donaire has fought plenty within the last 12 months - a total of 4 times to be exact.
Fighting more than twice a year is unheard of given a fighter of Donaire’s caliber, but the Filipino speedster says he’d do it all over again and plans to have at least just as many fights in 2013.
(Read: Rappler names Donaire's rise among its top sports moments of the year)
ESPN also commended Donaire for being the only fighter to allow random urine and blood testing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association making him certifiably clean.
"This in an era when every great performance unfortunately comes under the suspicion of possible performance-enhancing drug use – except, of course, Donaire's," the network added.
4 fights, 4 victories
Donaire started the year with a convincing win over highly regarded Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., which saw the Puerto Rican dance away from Donaire’s vaunted left hook for the majority of the fight. Donaire knocked down Vasquez Jr. in the 9th round and cruised to a wide points victory to capture the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight title in Donaire’s first foray into the 122 lb. class.
He next took on rangy South African champion Jeffrey Mathebula in defense of his recently acquired belt.
The longer limbed Mathebula posed height and reach advantages, but Donaire bullied his way inside to do his damage and as a result, got hit a little bit more than he was accustomed to. The South African also got in his bicycle after tasting Donaire’s power which led to a knockdown in Round 4.
Donaire added the IBF Super Bantamweight strap to his mantle with the Unanimous Decision.
Next Donaire took on long-running Japanese champion Toshiaki Nishioka, a man regarded as the absolute best in the division, ranked #1 at Super Bantamweight. Donaire was #2, making their matchup a hardcore fan’s dream as it pit the two best fighters in the division against each other.
Donaire took apart the crafty Nishioka with smart boxing and ring generalship. Nishioka was over cautious of Donaire’s counter left hook and as a result left much to be desired. He took matters into his own hands and upped the pressure starting in the 6th round and from then on it was all she wrote.
The proud Filipino-American champion stopped Nishioka within 9 rounds to gain the victory and the WBC Diamond Super Bantamweight title.
Then just a week after Manny Pacquiao suffered a shock knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Donaire took on Mexican legend Jorge “El Travieso” Arce.
Donaire needed just 3 rounds to dispose of the tough Latino warrior, bludgeoning Arce with a sick left hook lead square on the chin to end the fight. After the match, Arce announced his retirement.
It was icing on the cake for Donaire.
Dawn of a new era
No other fighter has had as many quality fights as Donaire had in 2012. Ring magazine has Donaire up at #5 on their mythical pound-for-pound list and have dropped Pacquiao to #7.
It’s strange to think that the best Filipino fighter this year was not named Manny Pacquiao, but we may truly be witnessing the dawn of a new era with Donaire leading the charge.
Other fighters in the running for the award were Danny Garcia, Andre Ward, Robert Guerrero and Juan Manuel Marquez.
Donaire continues to surge forward and eyes blockbuster matchups against the crème de la crème as he makes his ascent into the higher weight classes. Superfights with Abner Mares and Guillermo Rigondeaux are on the horizon as they promise all-action and high-drama.
Has Donaire truly surpassed Pacquiao as the Philippines’ #1 pound-for-pound fighter? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section. – Rappler.com