THE DILEMMA OF NONITO DONAIRE

Donaire, dubbed as the “the Filipino Flash”, entered the ring as the underdog, which is surprising, given the fact that his exploits are near legendary. He started as flyweight and is now fighting as featherweight. He is a four-time champion in different divisions, and his skills are at par or even better than Manny Pacquiao.

At the receiving end of his ring prowess were the likes of Fernando Montiel, Vic Darchinyan, Jorge Arce and countless more. These oppositions were no patsies. You fight the best to be the best, and Donaire had done that. His counter right hook is his primary weapon. At times, when a fight seemed lost, his vaunted right hook had bailed him out.

Donaire’s excellent footwork and hand speed are qualities that make him an elite fighter. His number four ranking as pound for pound fighter attests to these skills. Roy Jones, Jr., a former light heavyweight champion, claimed that Donaire’s skills are similar to his. His recklessness adds a different a dimension to his arsenal – an advantage rather than a weakness because of his cat-quick reflexes.

His opponent Nicholas Walters, dubbed as the “axeman”, is an up-coming star. Walter is strong but Donaire was looking to exploit his lack of good footwork. Walter’s lack of mobility is indicative of his firmly planted feet that are wide apart. But this is the reason why he generates more power, and this stance can either be a boon or bane for Donaire – depending on his fight strategy.

Walking down memory lane, this fight was reminiscent of the Manny Pacquiao vs Erik Morales fight. An established star Erik Morales against Pacquiao, the rising star. Pacquiao was an offensive juggernaut, but Morales was a seasoned fighter fresh from his war with Marco Antonio Barrera. Morales neutralized Pacquiao’s power with sniping from the outside and a dose of bravado that left Pacquiao disheveled and flustered.

Whenever Pacquiao charges, Morales would back step and fire with abandon with three-punch combinations, then slides away. Pacquiao was frustrated to no end. Morales footwork then was superior as Pacquiao was just developing his under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. The fire-away and back-away sequence would be the signature of the fight and Morales would come away with a unanimous decision.

That’s why when a similar fight with Oscar De la Hoya happened later, when Pacquiao’s footwork has evolved and fully developed, De la Hoya was unable to dictate the tempo, unlike Morales.

The aftermath of the Pacquiao vs Morales fight should have been the result of Donaire’s fight with Walters. Donaire should been the Morales in this fight – sniping from the outside and giving the typical Donaire bravado from time to time, just to make Walters doubt his plan of attack. Instead Donaire went all-out and his weak body is unable to sustain it. Donaire claimed later that he made a mistake in the strategy employed.

Donaire has a granite-like chin, but his eyes have always been his Achilles heel. Engaging in inside fight would expose his eyes, and eventually affect his vision as what happened. When vision is impaired a fighter tends to plod with his punches, like wading in the dark, exposed to counter punches.

It is not the end of Donaire yet. He should go down to a weight where his power and reflexes are not diminished by added weight, and he should protect his eyes in the first half of the fight where punches are still powerful enough to create cuts.

Donaire had contemplated before of retiring. This fight was a crossroad, and where he leads, north or south, will depend on how his frail but young body feels.

Unlike Pacquiao, Donaire’s body is fragile, especially his eyes. His body is young but effect of punches seemed to linger in his body even years after a fight. If he is to continue fighting, he should abandon his reckless style. He should refrain from engaging a phone booth fight when the tempo of the fight begins to tilt against him. His cat-quick reflexes and footwork will be served more when it is incorporated in a scientific way of fighting rather than on impulse.