Why Donaire will never be a Pacquiao
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-07-10
Manny Pacquiao has set the bar for Filipino pugilists. Every Filipino boxer would simply relish earning the fame and fortune of Manny Pacquiao. One of those often bruited about as Pacquiao’s likely successor is Nonito Donaire, the winner in last Sunday’s super bantamweight unification bout with South Africa’s Jeffrey Matheluba.

Donaire may have established a clear win last Sunday, as seen in the judges’ scorecards, against the awkward and the clearly underpowered Matheluba. However, Donaire had accomplished little in trying to approximate Pacquiao as a fighter. Simply put — Donaire lacked the brains, the balls and the killer instinct.

Donaire could have knocked out Matheluba in five rounds had he fought the South African the way Joe Frazier fought Muhammad Ali in their first fight. In the Ali-Frazier match up, Ali enjoyed the height and reach advantage, as did Matheluba over Donaire. Matheluba was easily five inches taller than Donaire, with a proportionate edge in reach. Frazier had good reasons to avoid plowing into Ali’s defenses because Ali packed power punches in his left jab and right cross, the very same right hand that floored the then seemingly invincible George Foreman. However, Frazier knew that unless he gets near Ali and deliver those wicked body punches — there was no way he could setup Ali for the kill or outpoint him.

Joe Frazier would take two to three Ali punches every time he applied the in-your-face fighting style. But every time he was kissing distance from Ali, Frazier would connect enough body and head punches to hurt Ali and even the scorecards. Donaire was under no such pressure last Sunday against Matheluba. Matheluba doesn’t unleash power punches like Ali. Donaire simply lacked the brains, the balls and the killer instinct to execute the strategy that would have transformed a simple, clearly lopsided win into a spectacular knockout victory. Donaire failed to excite the boxing world. 

The world’s greatest boxing champions — among them Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano — had brains, balls and killer instinct. Nonito Donaire demonstrated last Sunday how deficient he was in all three categories. He didn’t even learn from the lesson of his fourth round success, when he floored Matheluba after connecting with three strong body punches. Tall fighters usually have weaker torsos but Donaire didn’t take advantage of this last Sunday. Instead, he stayed mostly in the distance where Matheluba could have peppered him with jabs that would score points. Lucky for Donaire that Matheluba does not even have the basic skills to utilize his height and reach advantage.

Donaire should watch Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, which starred Russell Crowe. The big lesson Maximus, the gladiator, learned from his master, played by the late Oliver Reed, was that to excel he must win the crowd. Last Sunday, Donaire failed to win the crowd and it wouldn’t surprise me if his future fights register similarly anemic sales. With such a mismatch — fast becoming the Bob Arum formula for dipping into our pockets — the least Donaire could have done was to make a bloody spectacle out of it.

George Foreman was such an awesome puncher that most of his fights were mismatches that ended within three rounds. You didn’t mind the Foreman mismatch because you reveled at how he disposed of his opponents — mercilessly. Boxing’s DNA is rooted to the gladiatorial games and if you were looking for acts of mercy or Christian charity — you did not look for those in a boxing fight. Boxing is the spectator sport that the beast in us seeks in order to release seething negative energy.

Donaire was to throw more body punches in the later rounds when he should have done this in rounds one to three. By the later rounds, Donaire had considerably slowed down and was tiring and Matheluba’s body made an easier target. He needed the body punches to set up Matheluba for a spectacular finish. Instead, he resorted to body punches only when was unable to connect as easily to the head after round eight. His corner was shouting to him to use body punches. Commentator Ronnie Nathanielz was saying the same thing — Donaire should be connecting with more body punches.

If Nonito Donaire wants to approximate the now legendary Manny Pacquiao, then he should watch Pacquiao’s greatest fights and also the movie Gladiator. Pacquiao regaled the crowd in his greatest fights. He went for the kill when he smelled blood and was willing to take as much as he dished to his opponent. Pacquiao was disappointing in his last two fights and that was because he no longer exhibited that “eye of the tiger” quality that makes mortals immortal.
My favorite definition of humility is this: “Be no less than you are.” Alas, Nonito Donaire showed us last Sunday just how much of an under achiever he was. He doesn’t have what it takes to be a great boxing champion. His style of fighting is destined to just land him a line in boxing history as the champ in a given weight category during a particular period.

Immortality, or something close to it, is attained with brains, balls and a killer instinct.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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