Nonito Donaire will be back on HBO on November 5. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HBO has exercised their option on Nonito Donaire's next fight, which will take place on November 5 (one week before Pacquiao vs Marquez III on HBO pay-per-view), and the network has been presented with a list of possible opponents. Dan Rafael has that list, so let's examine:
Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 19 KO): This is the biggest and best fight being offered. The 36-year-old Narvaez currently holds a super flyweight title, and was a long-reigning flyweight titlist, but he's been a homebody over his career and has had a few decisions go his way that were seen as a result of hometown bias. He's never faced anyone near Donaire's level and having seen Narvaez fight several times, he's a solid and crafty guy under his own terms, with his own level of opposition, but Donaire would likely destroy him in short order. Donaire is too big, too strong, too fast for Narvaez. The only reason I could see Narvaez taking this fight is money, and apparently he's been offered a big payday for the bout. He's not getting younger. Narvaez has never fought in the United States, and his only trips out of Argentina have been fights in Italy, France and Spain.
Silence Mabuza (23-3, 19 KO): 33-year-old Mabuza isn't really a contender anymore, having not done much since losing a second time to Rafael Marquez back in 2006. He's gone 4-1 since then, and was doing well in the loss to Yonnhy Perez in 2009, but he blew that one down the stretch. His best win since losing to Marquez has been over Eden Sonsona, and his last fight was a win over Lwazi Mzolisa (7-3, 5 KO, 1-3 in his last four).
Christian Esquivel (23-2, 17 KO): Esquivel, 24, is a decent fighter on a pretty good run, but he's not near Donaire's class either.
Sebastian Gauthier (21-2, 13 KO): Gauthier, 29, is basically a club fighter. He's fought all of two times scheduled for over eight rounds, with one of those last two rounds (a win) and another lasting four (a loss).
Alexander Munoz (35-4, 27 KO): Munoz, 32, has fought much of his career in Japan, and though he's been a legit contender in the past at 115, he's past his prime and has only fought in the States twice, where he's 0-2. His last fight was a loss to Koki Kameda in December, and it wasn't particularly close.
Juan Mercedes (26-3, 17 KO): 29-year-old Dominican who just struggled a bit against Luis Maldonado, who hasn't won a fight since 2007.
Do any of these fights really tickle your fancy? The problem is that Donaire is so good that most of these read as mismatches even though the fighters are pretty decent at worst. I'd like to say I'd be interested in Donaire vs Narvaez, but I'm not really. It's a function of Donaire's tremendous talent. Honestly, I'd personally prefer he just go ahead and go up to 122 if he's not going to fight someone like Anselmo Moreno or Vic Darchinyan (Top Rank says they have no interest in negotiating with Darchinyan again), and it's not like Donaire has been off some absurd amount of time, requiring a "soft touch" upon return. He's going up to 122 after this fight, anyway. If these are the potential opponents, I wish they'd just take the leap.