Larry Merchant: Nonito Donaire should embrace the Rigondeaux fight


    Some say Nonito Donaire is too good for his own good. Ever since his destruction of top caliber fighters like Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel, none of his opponents have opted to slug it out with the ‘Filipino Flash’. If you don’t believe the notion check out his last couple of fights and you’ll find they all have the same blueprint. Donaire comes to fight, while his opponents resist until Donaire sees an opening.  If he doesn’t stop them he certainly lands a punch that makes them touch the canvas.

    With talent like that, one would think Donaire should be on the brink of superstardom. Earlier this month, Donaire dismantled a credible foe in Toshiaki Nishioka, but the performance was overshadowed by the “Fight of the Year” contender of Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. Larry Merchant feels following that act is almost unfair to Donaire. “He suffered from having the warm up act being impossible to surpass. Donaire is a very good fighter, he fought a guy like some other guys he fought, seems intimidated early and was there just to survive as long as he could,” Merchant told

    In a post fight interview with his colleague Max Kellerman, Donaire totally dismissed the notion of fighting WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux. However, Merchant feels Donaire should embrace the idea. “I do think Rigondeaux and Nonito will happen. I don’t know if any other fight is as meaningful. It’s the fight that if Donaire can get over that hurdle, he can move up to featherweight. I think it’s a challenge he would intend and would meet. I don’t think Donaire has transcended the boxing world where he can ignore the big fight. He’s one of the best fighters out there. He’s not a huge box office star so he’s got to keep fighting the best guys, the way Sergio Martinez did until something comes along that gives him a chance to break free to a higher level. We don’t know what that is.”

    One would think with the talent that Donaire possesses along with one of the most passionate fan bases in the Filipino population behind him, coupled with being with one of the best promoters in the business Top Rank, that Donaire’s star should be shining much brighter than what it is today. But Merchant feels it’s unfair to think Donaire will follow in the footsteps of Filipino icon, Manny Pacquiao.

    “To compare Donaire to Manny Pacquiao is like asking why Larry Holmes didn’t follow into Muhammad Ali’s footsteps.  Pacquiao is original; he’s the biggest star in pop culture to ever come out from the Philippines. That’s hard to follow, maybe impossible to follow, no matter how good you are. Can somethings happen in the future that suddenly vaults him into a higher plain, yea. But I think it’s unfair to him to compare his fan base to that the Filipino fan base for Pacquiao in America and he should be able to exploit that base, but I don’t think it works that way.”

    With Rigondeaux being a counter puncher by trade, many fans have been buzzing that the fight will play out similar to a few of Donaire’s past fights, as an opponent who does not open up. Merchant can see the sentiment but says that may be the ‘it’ fight Donaire needs. “Rigondeaux is not an easy guy to fight. He’s very skilled. He’s going out to win and he’s going out not to try and prove anything. In the boxing world it would be an opportunity for Donaire to show what kind of class he is. For example, it could be similar to what Ward did in his fight against Dawson when he stopped him. Suddenly, everybody sees Ward in a different light. We thought he might get there but we didn’t know until it happened. That might be a parallel of what could happen and what Donaire should make happen against a highly regarded opponent.”

    The fight that many feel could raise the awareness of what kind of class fighter he is would also have to include the winner of Mares-Moreno, or even a move up in weight to fight a guy like Orlando Salido — as has been mentioned recently. However, Merchant feels it all comes down to the promotional entities that be. “With Mares and Moreno, that’s a question whether these fights could be made, whether you can make a fight with two different promoters. With guys like Rigondeaux and Salido it’s a question within the same promoters. I don’t know what the dollars and cents of it is, and where those fighters see their self-interest at,” explained Merchant.

    It’s a reality that when guys fight dangerous explosive champions they may come in trying to be a worthy challenger. But when they can’t they surrender early on and just try to survive. We’ve seen it many times before and not just with Donaire’s opponents, but Merchant explains, “We’ve seen it with Pacquiao opponents. We see it deep down with top fighters, they think they can find a way to beat them. More often than not their answer is to try and survive. No one has stood toe to toe with either one of them. So it becomes harder to demonstrate that kind of explosion, the electrical charge people want to see. Eventually they will and we’ll see what kind of explosion that brings outside the ring. But to me, the fight with Rigondeaux might just be that fight to elevate Nonito to another parallel.”