Why Donaire (and his win against Vasquez) matters

Natashya Gutierrez

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Pacquiao may have put the Philippines on the map with his incredible performance in the ring, but Donaire is helping keep us there.

MANILA, Philippines – In a country that quite literally worships Manny Pacquiao, it is difficult to get noticed as a boxer.

But Nonito Donaire Jr.—also known as the ‘Filipino Flash’ because of his speed and power—is making his mark. Donaire’s split decision win over Puerto Rican fighter Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., on Saturday, February 4 at Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas (Sunday morning in Manila), makes Donaire a world champion in 4 different weight divisions. 

Two judges had Donaire winning 9 of the 12 rounds and scored the fight 117-110 for Donaire, while one judge thought Vasquez beat Donaire in 7 rounds, and had it 115-112 for Vasquez. 

But the scorecards barely reflect Donaire’s impressive win.

Donaire pulled off a victory despite having hurt his hand in the early rounds. He barreled his way through the end, almost dropping Vasquez on the 3rd round and knocking him down on the 9th, throwing punch after punch with a left hand that was bloody red underneath his gloves by the final bell.

What more, the victory did not only give Donaire the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior featherweight title, but also his 28th win out of 29 total fights. He has won 27 bouts in a row. 

And neither do the scores talk much about what Donaire’s win means for the Philippines. 

Someone aside from Pacquiao

Pacquiao may have put the Philippines on the map with his incredible performance in the ring, but Donaire is helping keep us there.

With Donaire’s rise in the sport of boxing, Pacquiao is no longer an anomaly but in good company. Donaire is the punctuation mark to the statement Pacquiao is making: Filipinos can’t just box, they can box well. Very well.

The Ring, also known as “The Bible of Boxing,” has Pacquiao sitting on the #1 spot of their pound-for-pound list. American pugilist Floyd Mayweather Jr. is ranked 2nd, while Argentinian Sergio Martinez is #3. Donaire solidly occupies the #4 seat.

That puts two Filipinos on the top 5 of what is arguably boxing’s most prestigious ranking, but Filipinos tend to stop looking further down the list after seeing Pacquiao at #1, consequently overlooking the importance of Donaire.

Donaire’s success speaks volumes of the country’s capability of churning out world champion boxers. With 2 fighters waving the Philippine flag inside the ring, boxing is becoming a sport worth developing in a country obsessed with basketball.

Low-cost and not dependent on any particular physical characteristic like height, the dominance of Donaire and Pacquiao in the international boxing scene proves that sheer will-power, determination, and guts are enough for the common Filipino to make history.

With the dawn of Donaire, Filipino boxing fans don’t have one—but 2—reasons to celebrate Pinoy pride. While the crime rates don’t drop in the country when Donaire is fighting, his fan base in the Philippines has continued to grow over the years.

Perhaps it would be bigger if the California-based boxer lived in his hometown of General Santos, but the important thing is that Donaire bleeds Filipino through and through. He declares his heritage with conviction, and Filipinos are beginning to notice.

The nation was awash with congratulatory messages for Donaire including an official statement from Malacanang. “Congratulations sa ating Filipino Flash, si Nonito Donaire… This is something that, of course, will bring happiness and pride again to our country,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview.

Twitter users also expressed their pride like @tootsyangara who wrote, “Another good day for Filipinos! Donaire, you make us proud!” while netizen @officialFLOREDy expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting, “Congratulations, Nonito Donaire for bringing pride to the Filipino people around the world.” Indeed.

This can very well be Donaire’s peak. Or not. He may win 27 more fights. Or he may lose all his other fights from here on out. But we’ve got another warrior, folks.

And this is exactly why you should care about Donaire. Because he’s #4 and he makes #1 all the more important. Because he is 29 years old and he has lost only one fight in his career. Because he battered Vasquez with a bloody left hand, which speaks of the man’s resilience, strength, spirit.  

Pacquiao isn’t going to last forever. – Rappler.com 

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.