Friday, October 21, 2011

Nonito Donaire Not Anything Like Manny Pacquiao But Getting There

By Rich Mancuso

Nonito Donaire should not be put in the category of Manny Pacquiao, though Top Rank and promoter Bob Arum did their best this week in New York City to showcase their bantamweight champion. Donaire, (28-1, 18 KO’s) defends his WBC and WBO titles at the WalMU Theatre at Madison Square Garden on HBO Saturday night against two-time champion Omar Narvaez of Argentina

And the comparisons continue to be made about Donaire and Pacquiao. It is the New York City debut for Donaire, a native of General Santos City, Philippines now residing in the Bay area of San Leandro California. Pacquiao continues to prepare for his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in a few weeks but there is limited communication with the two fighters.

“You name it, the place has its history,” commented Donaire Thursday afternoon about the Garden. He referred to Jack Dempsey and some of the other legends of boxing that have made history at the arena known as the Mecca of boxing. Arum has a history also of showcasing champions at the Garden. Miguel Cotto has sold out the arena over the past few years and Arum has showcased featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa at the Theatre.

The current renovations at the Garden put boxing on a hiatus at the historic venue. The next major Top Rank card of boxing at the Garden will be December 3rd when Cotto defends his title against Antonio Margarito. That is expected to be sold out. The Donaire-Narvaez fight, as of late Thursday night still had 500 seats available in the 5,500 seat Theatre.

Not to worry. There should be an enormous contingent of New York Philippine boxing fans and a contingent of Latino boxing fans that will make the fight that more interesting. We know about Donaire, a consensus top-five pound for pound fighter with a nine-year, 25-bout winning streak. This will probably be his last fight at bantamweight, and Arum is looking ahead for Donaire to fight at featherweight, possibly taking on Gamboa next year.

Maybe this is not one of your more marketable fights of 2011. Donaire, as much as they try to make comparisons with him and Pacquiao, is his own fighter. Don’t expect the 26-year old to reach milestones that Pacquiao has accomplished. He is quick and strong, much like Pacquiao, but moving past 126 is out of the question. So for Donaire to continue as a marketable fighter, pay-per-view of course is the goal, it will have to be in what should no longer be considered with the mediocre fighters of bantamweights and featherweights. Donaire and Gamboa, both in the Top Rank stable are making strides to provide the lower divisions in boxing with some marketing punch.

“I know the quality of Nonito Donaire,” says Arum. “He has the ability to be a three-time champion.” But Arum does shy away from comparisons to Pacquiao. He sees a potential superstar now appearing in New York for the first time and continues a plan to market Donaire the proper way. The fight will also be broadcast live by the Philippine channel ABS-CBN that will be seen in the country Sunday morning.

Narvaez, (35-0-2, 19 KO’S) is one of those unknown and good fighters from Argentina, a 36 –year old legend in his country making his U.S. debut. He is not intimidated or in the spotlight. The two-time Olympic champion has stayed away from the media this week holding private workouts at the hotel where he and his camp are staying across the street from the Garden. He will be a challenge for Donaire, a formidable opponent that was sought after hearing about his exploits from Miguel Diaz the reputed Top Rank cut man and trainer from Argentina.

“I know about his career,” says Narvaez about Donaire. He has a translator and does not comment much. “I know the quality of Nonito Donaire. This is a real opportunity to show the world my boxing,” he says. There is a respect for Donaire, but Narvaez has not been accessible to the media who want to know more.

So the spotlight in New York City this week has been on Nonito Donaire, as would be the same if Manny Pacquiao was fighting in the Big Apple. Narvaez quickly left the upstairs room at Gallagher’s Restaurant. Donaire conducted more interviews with the media and went downtown for a photo shoot on top of the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Those at Top Rank who are responsible for getting the world to know more about Donaire enjoy his personality and ability to cooperate. He, like Pacquiao is very receptive. Donaire is devoted to his wife, plays a guitar and sings a tune when traveling with Top Rank brass on the way to media events in New York. Perhaps those are the only similarities to Pacquiao, though Donaire credits a lot of his accomplishments to his fellow countryman.

“He showed me how to fight a southpaw,” says Donaire. Narvaez is a southpaw, so adjustments were made. “Narvaez is a true fighter. He knows how to win. He is a legend in Argentina. He has pride and I can’t take him lightly. I too have my pride as a Philippine fighter,” he says, though Pacquiao still resides in his country and represents his people as an elected member of Congress. Donaire left the Island at the age of 10 and resides in California but still labors on his pride as a Filipino.

“This is about boxing and representing our countries,” he says anticipating the fans of Latino and Filipino descent from the tri-state area that will be at the WalMu Theatre Saturday night. “He has his own agenda, I have mine.” And Donaire intends to make a statement.

He may not be Manny Pacquiao but a good show at the Garden, in New York, and on HBO may be what Top Rank and Arum intended from the beginning for Nonito Donaire

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