Don't look now, but just as Nonito Donaire enters the potential superstar circle of boxing, he might be getting a bit ahead of himself.
Donaire is currently involved in a contract dispute with Top Rank according to numerous sources, and both sides are starting to get their positions cemented in the media. The fighter's wife Rachel Donaire had this to say to The Manila Bulletin:
Donaire could not answer if he is indeed under contract with Top Rank, stammering with his response and turning to his wife Rachel, who was seated beside him, to air their side on the issue.
Rachel also could not answer the question straight-on but was a bit more composed than her celebrated husband, who rose to the pound-for-pound ranks with a smashing second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel last month.
"The contract is for three years with three fights a year. The contract ends if the contract is fulfilled," said Rachel, stressing that Top Rank failed to give her husband the three fights a year that was agreed upon by the two sides.
His promoter, Bob Arum, has his own take, of course. Arum told Michael Marley of the Examiner that there is definitely a contract in place:
"It's clear there is no breach of the contract, I mean really clear," Arum said. "In fact, in the first year, Donaire was supsended twice physically so that twice tolled the contract," adding in the time we lost it pushes the contract to 2013.
"What this kid has to do now is live up to the contract," Arum said.
Donaire has in the past been criticized for some ego issues, or for focusing less on his in-ring career and more on becoming a big-time star. The fact is, he's becoming that big-time star because of his in-ring exploits. His demolition of Wladimir Sidorenko in December set up a long-awaited fight with Fernando Montiel in February, his first fight on HBO, and he made mincemeat of his Mexican foe inside of two rounds.
So here we are with Donaire once again at a new level of stardom, and once again the rumblings start coming from his camp. As good a fighter as he is, he's always been a bit inconsistent in the media. Donaire's purse for the Montiel fight was $350,000, and Arum says that although a tentative May 28 date back on HBO only calls for a $250,000 guarantee for Donaire, the Filipino pound-for-pound contender will make a $500,000 purse.
Marley believes, as most will believe, that if Donaire were actually a free agent, rivals at Golden Boy Promotions would be banging down his door. They know the value of the Filipino market -- hell, they still make money every time Manny Pacquiao fights. Golden Boy is short on stars, particularly those not in the twilight of their careers. At this point, their biggest stars who are American TV regulars are Juan Manuel Marquez (37) and Bernard Hopkins (46), and it seems like everyone and their mother and their mother's best friend Betty expects Marquez to "pull a Mosley" and leave the firm if that's what it takes to land a fight with Manny Pacquiao. They do have Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (20), but with Alvarez having made money before he came to Golden Boy, and establishing himself as a star attraction further with them, there are already those speculating that once his contract is up, he may test free agent waters himself.
While Donaire hasn't yet proven to be a major draw, the potential for it is there in spades. He's charismatic, he's exciting, and he's got his best years ahead of him still. At 28, he's not a baby, but he really has taken very little punishment in his career, so he's a young 28. There's no doubt that Golden Boy would come with a big offer, I don't think.
But that doesn't appear to be the case right now, at any rate. And Arum also told Marley that any promoter who speaks to Donaire would hear from Top Rank's lawyers. Bob's position is set. Is Nonito's?
As for the possible May 28 Donaire fight, Anselmo Moreno turned down an offer reported to have been at least $300,000, and some are saying $350,000. For the record, that sort of tells me that Moreno has no legitimate interest in fighting Donaire, and probably never did, but wanted to see if he could wrangle some kind of ridiculous money offer to take the risk. Donaire says he's willing to move up to 122 pounds next if he can't find an opponent at 118, and with four of the top names tied up in the Showtime tournament on April 23, Moreno out, and Koki Kameda all but surely not a realistic option, the cupboard is very bare at 118. But realistically, it's not much better at 122. Most of the top fighters there also have scheduled fights in the near future. Top Rank could try to pull off Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux, I guess, if they're willing to risk Rigondeaux (and Donaire), and if Rigondeaux escapes largely unscathed on Saturday against Willie Casey.
Also, Donaire recently reconciled with his father, which is a nice story.