By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Inspired by the incredible achievements of pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao through the years, boxing has once again been the savior of Philippine sports in the international competitive arena.
Four world champions is by any means a minor achievement and even though his own performances this past year haven’t been as dominating as we would have liked, one cannot deny the fact that Pacquiao has proved to be the one daring inspiration to all our boxers.
If we are to venture to select the Philippines “Fighter of the Year” it would seem to be an extremely difficult task because two fighters by their performances in the ring and their demeanor outside have proven to be worthy of the honor.
WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire and WBO flyweight champion Brian Viloria put on magnificent displays in the ring, overcoming perceived odds to prove not only their skill and ring savvy but their courageous Filipino hearts. It is therefore probably fitting that we don’t attempt to separate the two but rather recognize them as joint “Fighters of the Year.”
When Donaire moved up in weight to face veteran Mexican Fernando “Cochulito” Montiel who, like Donaire, was ranked in the Ring Magazine pound for pound top ten, most fight fans felt Montiel had the edge although there were many of us who believed that Nonito was in a class by himself and would prove to be a worthy heir-apparent to Pacquiao. This he did in unmistakable fashion.
Donaire dropped Montiel with a patented left hook counter that sent him crashing onto the canvas in a quivering heap and only the incompetence of referee Russel Mora allowed Montiel to continue to suffer for a few seconds longer before he stepped in and called a halt to the onslaught of Donaire.
Pacquiao knocks down Mosley.
Donaire knocks down Montiel.
Viloria TKOs Segura.
Nietes captures title in second weight class in Bacolod city.
It was another spectacular repeat of the same, perfectly-timed counterpunch that on July 7, 2007 sent the cocky Australian world flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan on the seat of his pants and staggering across the ring before crashing into the ropes in a heap like some New Year’s eve drunk who had one too many to drink.
That singular performance made the boxing world sit up and take notice and recognition came quickly, as the fight was declared the “Upset of the Year” and the stoppage of Darchinyan the “Knockout of the Year.”
Four years later, Donaire’s demolition of Montiel was also chosen as the “Knockout of the Year’ and one which catapulted him into the No. 4 ranking in Ring’s pound for pound list behind Pacquiao, undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr and middleweight champion Sergio Martinez of Argentina.
While Donaire’s title defense against former undefeated two -division world champion Omar Andres Narvaez wasn’t as imposing as his destruction of Montiel, it proved Donaire’s unquestioned superiority as Narvaez was in survival mode throughout the twelve rounds at the jam-packed theater in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, enabling Donaire to win by a twelve round shutout.
Most fight fans and even the grizzled veterans in media had Brian Viloria a decided underdog against hard-hitting former light flyweight champion Giovanni Segura of Mexico in Viloria’s first WBO title defense at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City on December 10.
But Viloria who had won the title via a unanimous twelve round decision from equally dangerous Julio Cesar “Pingo” Miranda of Mexico in July after stunning the champion with a first round flash knockdown, proved that what he termed his “hidden punching power” was for real as he battered Segura into a hopeless situation prompting referee Samuel Viruet to stop the beating in the 8th round.
Viloria’s victory was as efficient as it was spectacular, turning the tide after the opening round with a masterful display of skill, working behind an accurate left jab, excellent movement and a new high in ring smarts.
Segura, it must be remembered, is the first fighter to ruin the undefeated record of Puerto Rico’s Ivan Calderon by scoring back-to-back knockouts to win the WBO light flyweight crown – the first by an 8th round TKO and the rematch by a 3rd round knockout.
Viloria is eyeing a unification bout against WBC champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand or Hernan "Tyson" Marquez of Mexico with a possibility, according to Viloria’s manager Gary Gittelsohn, of the exciting light flyweight champion Roman Gonzales moving up to take on Viloria sometime in March.
Donaire too, having hurdled one weight division after another in a path that he himself conceded aimed to follow in the footsteps of Pacquiao, moves up to the super bantamweight division to battle talented Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in a clash for the vacant WBO 122 pound title which Vazquez had earlier won with a 4th round knockout of a less than marvelous, former WBO super flyweight champion Marvin Sonsona.
The Donaire-Vazquez fight on February 4 at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas which was the site of Pacquiao’s memorable 11th round TKO of Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003, will hopefully take Nonito one step closer to the five or six world titles he aims to win.
One of the nicest young men in boxing and a terribly underrated fighter Donnie Nietes, from the famed ALA gym of renowned boxing patron Tony Aldeguer became a two-division world champion when he too moved up from minimum weight to light flyweight to challenge Mexico’s Raul Garcia Hirales, twin brother of Raul Garcia, the WBO minimum weight champion at that time.
The title fight took place on October 8, 2011 at the St. La Salle Gym in Bacolod City and Nietes out-boxed Garcia to win his second world title with a 12 round unanimous decision.
Nietes had won WBO minimum weight title with a 12th round unanimous decision over Thailand’s Pornsawan Porpramook on September 30, 2007. But far more striking was the fact that he had four successful title defenses, three of which were in the hometowns of his Mexican opponents all of whom he beat handily.
Then of course there is Manny Pacquiao. Long being used to utterly dominating ring exhibitions as in his fights against Oscar De La Hoya whom he pulverized into quitting in the eighth round, Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton whom he destroyed in two, Miguel Cotto whom he stopped in the final round of a near classic performance and Antonio Margarito whom he cut to shreds in a twelve round masterclass, we were collectively disappointed that the trend didn’t continue.
He dropped veteran Shane Mosley in the third round and had to chase the former world champion who kept running for the rest of the fight, forcing Pacquiao to settle for a shutout on the scorecards of two judges and a third judge who somehow saw Mosley winning one round for a 119-108 scorecard.
The one that still lingers is Pacquiao’s controversial majority decision over Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez in the third fight of what must surely rank as one of the most gripping trilogies of the modern era at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 12, 2011.
All three encounters were full of action and perhaps even fuller with controversy with the last fight being the most divisive both among fans and the media. But as we pay tribute to our fighters it is not the time or the place to dig up controversies but rather to extol achievements.
For all the disappointments of the year, in retrospect Pacquiao has probably become his worst enemy by setting such lofty standards that anything below that invites criticism.
As the late Chairman Mao Tse Tung once told President Marcos during a one-on-one meeting in Beijing in 1976, “the tallest tree in the forest catches all the wind.”
That just about sums up Pacquiao’s lofty standing but the bottom line must surely be his incredible achievement of winning eight world titles in eight separate weight divisions. That in itself is a record that nobody can deny the “Fighter of the Decade.”
2011 was a good year for Philippine boxing and with several young contenders on the fringes of world title shots, 2012 could be a banner year.
Happy New Year to all our champions and indeed all our fighters, promoters and managers and may you be blessed with the success you richly deserve in the twelve months ahead of us.
God bless you all.Tags: Manny Pacquiao , Nonito Donaire , Brian Viloria