By Jake Donovan
The upcoming December 15 showdown between Nonito Donaire and Jorge Arce is gaining buzz as a surefire Fight of the Year contender. The expectation for their HBO-headliner at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX is for mass amounts of blood to be shed from the moment the opening bell sounds.
For their part to make the fight, the two fighters have chased each other for the past four or so years and have spent the past several weeks trading barbs through the media. Yet to watch them carry on in each other’s presence before and during the press conference to officially announce the fight, you’d think they were old friends in town to catch up on good times.
That’s probably because… they are good friends.
“It just comes down to business,” Donaire explains. “We all respect each other, we just talk shit. It’s just how it is. We’re good friends and we’re always clowning. At the end of it all, we’re going to give each other a big hug.
“While we’re in there, we’re going to try to tear each other’s head off, just kill each other.”
Donaire (30-1, 19KO) fights for the 4th time in 2012, all of which has taken place on HBO and against bona fide Top 5-10 competition in and around the 122 lb. division. His latest achievement came just last month, scoring a one-sided 9th round stoppage over Toshiaki Nishioka, widely regarded as the division’s best fighter heading into the bout.
A win on December 15 would make the charismatic Fil-Am fighter a slam dunk choice for Fighter of the Year. Friendship aside, Arce has no intentions of allowing that to happen
“A lot of fighters are intimidated by him; they’re scared of getting hit by him,” Arce (61-6-2, 46KO) insists. “I’m not afraid, I love getting hit. I’m going to be right in his face. I have respect for him but I’m coming right after him.
“Nonito and I are good friends, but unfortunately this is a business. Expect the Fight of the Year on December 15 and I'm going to win this fight.”
Both fighters showed respect for each other as well as the promotion during their kick-off press session in Houston. Donaire was dressed sharp in a gray and black suit, while Arce was decked out in black and pink business attire.
The pair of future Hall of Fame fighters are always professionals in the ring, but had no problem finding time to treat the podium as their own personal sandbox. Donaire took advantage of a TV Azteca camera momentarily lying on the ground, playing reporter in a mock interview with Arce.
“Jorge, what do you think of Nonito Donaire?” Donaire jokingly asked the former four-division champion. “I think he said he’s going to win this fight. What do you think will happen?”
Arce did his best to play it straight while practicing his ever improving English. He went one-for-two on the session.
“Donaire, I don’t know if that happen. It’s bulls**t,” Arce bursted out as the two laughed it up several moments after most of the room had already cleared.
The obvious respect on display between the two is reminiscent of the well wishes shared between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado prior to their eventual war last month in California. That fight took place on the undercard of Donaire’s aforementioned win over Nishioka, but was treated as the evening’s main event given the industry-wide anticipation.
The main event on December 15 is believed to carry that same vibe. Early returns suggest as much, with two floors worth of fans on hand during Thursday’s press conference at the Toyota Center. The rabid atmosphere on display for what amounted to a 30-minute press session further justified Top Rank’s decision to bring a fight of this magnitude to Houston.
“We’re very excited to bring this event to Houston,” stated Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “It’s going to do extremely well. It’s a fight I’ve waited to see for three years. I’m excited.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox