In the shadow of past MMA champions such as Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, new stars such as Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz stepped into the forefront. And when it was time for those stars to walk away, in stepped fighters like Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen and Georges St. Pierre.
Meanwhile, since the retirement of fighters like Lennox Lewis and Oscar De La Hoya in the earlier part of this century, the Sweet Science has struggled to establish a foothold.
And while fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and the Klistscko brothers are widely known, their constant inability to put test their skills against relevant and credible opponents (and in some cases each other) has alienated the general public, with the majority of casual fans turning off boxing in favor of the upcoming and much more bruising sport of MMA.
Enter Nonito Donaire.
Possessing fanatical footwork and a thunderous left hand that can attack from any angle you can measure in geometry class, The "Filipino Flash" has reeled off 29 consecutive victories dating back to 2001.
Pictured: The Filipino Flash Nonito Donaire Donaire, left, lands a left against Jeffrey Mathebula
Courtesy of Chris Farina, Top Rank
His victories over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane and Fernando Montiel have secured him world titles in 3 different weight classes. Unlike his contemporaries, Nonito Donaire has gone the straight and narrow, fighting several undefeated fighters in his wake (Darchinyan and Raul Martinez were undefeated and had never tasted the floor up until their fights against Donaire), as well as consistent top 5 fighters in the weight classes (Montiel was a 2-time world champion and arguably in the top 5 of the 118 lb. division before fighting Donaire).
With that kind of resume, it can be assumed that his status as an icon in his native Philippines is solidified (and second only to the aforementioned Pacquiao), as well as the mantle of Top Rank's top draw once the man known as "Pacman" decides to finally trade the back and forth trading of the ring for the back and forth jabbering of politics.
Or does it?
Pictured: Nonito Donaire vs Toshiaki Nishioka official fight poster
Saturday night sees Nonito Donaire face his stiffest challenge against current 122 lb. world champion Toshiaki Nishioka.
The 36 year old Japanese native carries a record of 39-4 into the bout, and has not tasted defeat in over 8 years (March 2004 to Veeraphol Saraprom). In his most recent bout, Nishioka handled Raphael Marquez with ease en route to a unanimous decision victory.
It should be also noted that unlike other Japanese champions, Nishioka isn't adverse to fighting in hostile territory (his fight with Marquez was his 3rd trip to the US. And he has fought in Mexico and France with respect to defending his title).
The prospect of Donaire vs Nishioka is guaranteed to be fireworks. Donaire definitely likes to mix it up and throw power punches from the inside, while Nishioka is a classic counterpuncher who likes to throw to the body and flow in and out of his opponent's offense.
While it's a guaranteed Fight of the Year candidate, the majority of casual fight fans won't watch this free HBO televised card. Because, while Donaire vs Nishioka is guaranteed to generate excitement, the majority of the fight world's eyes will be peeled in Brazil, as UFC 153 goes down.
While the main event of this UFC is non-title, the fact is that it stars the promotions biggest draw: Anderson Silva.
Pictured: UFC's Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva being interviewed by Joe Rogan. Silva is regarded by many in MMA as the top mixed martial artist in the world.
The fact that Donaire is fighting on the same night is an unfortunate mistake. While the original main event of the UFC (Jose Aldo vs. Eric Koch, then vs. Frank Edgar) was an appetizing one, the main even with Silva is nothing more than a short notice bloodbath, as they are pitting "The Spider" against a 205 lb. journeyman that many pundits are giving little to no chance (Stephan Bonnar).
While Bonnar has only a slight chance of pulling off what would be a monumental upset, PPV buys that night will be only for one thing (to see how long Silva plays with his opponent before finally putting the fight to an end).
Pictured: UFC's Stehan Bonnar. He will be a big underdog against Anderson Silva Saturday night.
Its unfortunate that Donaire is the victim of bad timing, as every fight he is in generally is exciting. Top Rank should do more to expose him to the general public., and extoll the virtues of a potential fight between him and Guillermo Rigoudeaux (which will happen in the very near future).
Donaire is no doubt the best boxer left in boxing that fights the pinnacle of competition, a trait that most of his peers should follow.
Why this card wasn't re-scheduled for the week of Oct 20th, rather than Oct 13th, is a mistake that may haunt Bob Arum. For, if he were able to showcase Donaire to the masses, he would certainly be a star.