What can we say about the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight division? Stacked, difficult, talented, one of the best in boxing; all of the above apply in this regard. And for one star fighter in that weight division it's been sort of an inconclusive narrative about just how much better he is compared to the obvious talent around him. Nonito Donaire stole our attention when he knocked out Fernando Montiel. Boxing writers and fans were ready to put him on the pound for pound list that night because he dispatched the former champion in such a way that gave the perfect combination of brutality and poetry. He left Montiel flopping and floundering about on the canvas like a fish out of water; his introduction onto the boxing stage was a knock out on HBO.
But since then Donaire, who is the 4th best pound for pound fighter in the world, although I would move Andre Ward ahead of him based on resume alone, Donaire hasn't really had that follow up performance to match what he did to Montiel early last year. So far in fact his competition hasn't really gotten all that better either. Whether its a true flyweight like Omar Narvaez, or Cristian Mijares, his opponents aren't the names people want to see him fight. No one questions Donaire's talent, and I think it's a joke whenever fans or writers question the talent of a fighter because that fighter doesn't fight the second or third best guy in his division. There are plenty of factors that go into play when it comes to why or why won't a fighter face certain opponents.
However in Nonito Donaire's case he simply refuses to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux for whatever reason, although Donaire cites Riggy's lack of name recognition and drawing potential. Now we all know Guillermo is the second best Super Bantamweight in the world and some see him as the number one in that division. He's a late blooming amateur legend who hits hard, has speed, and is technically sound and intelligent. I don't see many around his weight beating him right now but that isn't to say he can't be beaten. So that brings me back to Nonito, there are several questions one must ask:
-Are the likes of Abner Mares, Anselmo Moreno, and Guillermo Rigondeaux catching up with the Filipino Flash?
-Did We hop on the Donaire Bandwagon Too Soon After the Montiel Fight? (Rating him above Andre Ward, Juan Manuel Marquez, Tim Bradley)
-Is Donaire Still the best at His Weight?
All important questions that need answers from Nonito. I never doubted his talent or his place among the very best at 118 and 120lbs, but at some point he'll have to face those elite names like Mares, Moreno, and Rigondeaux in order to separate himself from the pack. To be honest if I were to list the top Bantamweights and Super Bantamweights in the world right now, without looking at their resumes and focusing on projection and talent alone I would rate them in the following order:
One of the things we see in boxing is the climate of doubt on the part of many fighters who would otherwise take on equal opponents if not for the added pressure of avoiding a loss. One of the things I like about mma and the UFC in particular is their focus on actual fights rather than the need to focus on the record of their star fighters. Whether the fighter is undefeated or on a hot streak, promoters like Bob Arum are deathly afraid of someone with equally talent coming along and beating one of his fighters. Today it's more about the record than who you fought and that has taken a lot of the wind out of the sails in our great sport.
Hearns, Hagler, Duran, and Leonard, all equally great, all fought each other, all four in the Hall of Fame and all four of their legacies were elevated because they all fought each other. Holyfield, Lewis, Tyson, they all fought each other, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, they all fought each other, Barrera, Morales, Marquez, and Pacquiao, they all fought each other. These fights create superstars because they validate the fighter in ways a routine match up cannot. It's not a pox on the house of Donaire is he should face either of the big names in his division and lose. There's nothing wrong with losing to equal greatness or skill. Manny Pacquiao lost to Erik Morales and yet look where both men are today. Morales went on a late career tear, won a title and further proved his place as one of the great Mexican fighters of all time. As for Pacquiao well, the rest is history.
I hope Rigondeaux and Donaire share the ring sometime before the year is out. I mean yes I believe Riggy would beat him but there's nothing wrong with losing to a guy who in the grand scheme of things is in that same exclusive club of "The Fantastic Four": Donaire, Rigondeaux, Mares, and Moreno. i don't see anyone coming along and beating any of those guys because they are the four best Bantam and Super Bantamweights in the world bar none. A few weeks ago I mentioned Barry McGuigan and his man crush Carl Frampton, Frampton couldn't hang with those four guys, neither could Scott Quigg or Rendall Munroe. That's not to say Quigg, Munroe, and Frampton aren't capable of beating the other world level 118 and 120 pounders, but I wouldn't give them much of a chance against the little "big" four.