"Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in." (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Those who counted Nonito Donaire into the Golden Boy camp may have jumped the gun -- including Donaire. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reports that an arbitrator has ruled in favor of Donaire's supposedly former promoter, Top Rank, which prevents Golden Boy from promoting the pound-for-pound star.
"We are pleased with Judge Weinstein's carefully considered decision," Top Rank attorney Daniel Petrocelli said in a statement. "Top Rank hopes it can put the lawyers and legal fight behind it and return to doing what it does best -- promoting the most talented boxers and the most entertaining boxing matches in the world today."
Basically, Top Rank signed Nonito Donaire to a three-year deal in June 2008, and also had the right to extend the deal one year, which they said they did last month, prior to the Golden Boy would-be signing of Donaire. Daniel Weinsten, a retired judge experienced in overseeing conflicts between these two parties, has ruled that Top Rank does in fact still have a valid contract with Donaire.
Now what becomes interesting is that Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank, didn't exactly bide his time waiting on a ruling for this situation, publicly trashing Donaire and his wife, Rachel, in the media. He has said that Donaire can't draw, has no connection to Filipino fight fans, and that his wife dresses "like a tart." Rachel Donaire is a key part of Nonito's management squad, along with star manager Cameron Dunkin, so...you know. This isn't done playing out. Not by a long shot.
What we have now is a fighter who is either going to sit and try to fight the ruling, or who is going to be fighting for a promoter he almost surely no longer cares to fight for -- how could any man want to put money in the pocket of someone who said the things Arum said? Even apart from the personal stuff about Rachel -- which I maintain never, ever should have been said and shows poor judgment at the very least -- Arum has all but explicitly stated he doesn't really believe in Nonito Donaire as a star fighter. That may or may not be true, but he said it in public is the issue.
Donaire was tentatively set to fight again on HBO on May 28, with Top Rank. The fiasco with Golden Boy has likely curbed that date for the time being, but you never know. Maybe Donaire will look at this another way, and just fight until the deal is up and he's free to go where he wants. If he chooses to fight the ruling or sit out, Donaire could be putting himself into a very bad spot. If he just goes about his business, maybe he just ups his value before getting out from under the Top Rank banner. And maybe Top Rank doesn't even really care to promote his fights -- you have to wonder now about that above-and-beyond purse that Top Rank said they were prepared to pay Donaire for his 5/28 date, because by Arum's account the $500,000 guarantee they were set to give him was well over what they had to give him.
And so the world turns. I expect we'll hear more about this before we hear anything about Donaire fighting again, which is the real shame for boxing fans.