by Lem Satterfield
Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire are among boxing's premiere performers, ranked as Nos. 1, and, 2, according to some experts.
But at a time when their Philippines nation should be united in celebration behind two of the most accomplished athletes in the sport, the Filipino nation appears to be torn by an ugly rivalry that has materialized between them.
The 32-year-old Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 knockouts) is the current WBO welterweight champion, having earned his record eighth crown over as many different weight divisions and his 14th straight win during a run that has included nine knockouts with November's unanimous decision over ex-champion, Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) for the WBC's junior middleweight belt, which he has since relinquished.
The 28-year-old Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs), meanwhile, earned his second title over as many weight divisions, his 25th straight victory, and his 10th stoppage in his past 12 fights with February's second-round knockout over WBO and WBC champion Fernando Montiel (44-3-2, 34 KOs), who was stopped for the first time in his career in Donaire's bantamweight debut.
Like Pacquiao, Donaire had been promoted by Top Rank Promotions, this, until recently signing with rival Golden Boy Promotions, which, similarly, has battled over the rights to promote Pacquiao in the past.
Much of the animosity is culturally-based, according to noted Filipino boxing scribes, Ronnie Nathanielz, and, Dennis "D-Source" Guillermo.
Pacquiao was born into poverty in General Santos City, Philippines, where he has become a congressman and international hero. Donaire was born in Talibon, Bohol, Philippines, arrived in America at the age of 10, and lives in San Leandro, Calif.
BoxingScene.com sought the perspectives of the the 29-year-old Guillermo and the 75-year-old Nathanielz [Nathanielsz Interview Here] on the Pacquiao-Donaire rivalry in separate Q&As.
BoxingScene.com: What is your perspective on why there is a rivalry between the two best boxers in the history of the Philippines?
Dennis Guillermo: It's culture, man. This is generation gap. You also have to understand that the Filipino fans who criticize Nonito Donaire often are the type who are more the older and the more traditional, Manny Pacquiao fans. The Philippines is a country comprised of more than a thousand islands.
It's a country comprised of different dialects, different religions, different mentalities, different everything. Think about that. That in itself can create a divide. The whole Manny Pacquiao-Nonito Donaire rivalry is a clash of cultures.
Nonito Donaire is a Filipino American, so he comes across differently compared to Manny Pacquiao. And Manny Pacquiao , as much as he appeals to every Filipino, most of his fans are like the old school and conservative. They're religious and traditional people.
Right now, Manny Pacquiao still is on top of his game. They're all hardcore Manny Pacquiao fans. Anybody who wants to sort of step in, not just Nonito Donaire, but it's not going to be allowed.
It's Manny Pacquiao, Manny Pacquiao, Manny Pacquiao. I mean, he's the man right now. I can understand that, because Manny Pacquiao's accomplishments are hard to question. The problem is, though, why do you have to compare?
BoxingScene.com: You mean, why can't they be on the same team?
DG: Exactly. That's where the cultural differences kick in. Where Manny Pacquiao says, 'I thank God,' and, 'Thank you very much,' and,'I just got lucky,' you have what Nonito Donaire would say, which is, 'Yeah, I studied him,' and, 'I expected to knock him out.'
You know, Nonito Donaire has been in America for most of his life. He's got that swagger. In the Philippines, it's more about the humility and stuff like that. I was born in the Philippines, but I just came to America in 2002.
All of my life before that, I lived in the Philippines. But when I started out over here, I was like Manny Pacquiao, you know, soft-spoken and respectful to everyone. Now this is just my experience.
But when I was like that over here, people took advantage of me. They took advantage of my kindness and my nature. They saw it as a weakness. So you can't be like that over here in America.
You have to stand up, speak up and be straight forward. But in the Philippines, people aren't like that. The culture is different. People over there, they would let them abuse them and say nothing. It's a difference in culture.
They give you everything before they complain. It's like Manny Pacquiao.
BoxingScene.com: How much time have you, as a reporter, spent with Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire?
DG: I came in late to the game with Manny Pacquiao, so, whatever time I've spent with Manny Pacquiao is more or less controlled. He's got a ton of people around him. With Manny Pacquiao, I'm just a reporter.
I don't get as much access. But I am cool with a lot of people around him, it's just that with Manny, himself, it's hard to get any real personal time like it is for me with Nonito.
With Nonito, I have definitely spent more time with Nonito and have gotten to know Nonito on a more personal level. But I know that Manny Pacquiao from just observing over the years and years and years.
BoxingScene.com: How is all of this affecting Nonito and Rachel Donaire?
DG: Nonito Donaire is a human being like any of us. Nonito really is proud of being a Filipino, but at the same time, he's the type of person who is not going to change himself. He keeps it real.
Nonito Donaire is not going to try and evolve and act like Manny Pacquiao just to please people and to make people embrace him. What you see is what you get with him. With that camp, they don't really have a P.R. person, perse.
If you think about it, what you see is what you get. That's why what Rachel Donaire might say to the media becomes controversial, because she has no filter. But in terms of how people have judged Rachel and Nonito?
I think that, as people, they have been unfair to them, because every single thing that Nonito does, they scrutinize. With Manny Pacquiao, he's done a lot of crazy stuff too, but they've given him a pass.
But that goes back to culture. Manny Pacquiao, he presents himself as humble, soft spoken, and a little bit naive. So people are more sympathetic to him. Now, he's definitely accomplished so much.
He's the first one to really kick the door in, so people's loyalty is with Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao appeals to the masses, and they love him no matter what.
Nonito is well-spoken, but he's also more outspoken. He's smart, but he's flashy, and in the Filipino culture, that's sort of frowned upon. If you really think about it, the way that Rachel is being judged is really unfair.
When they were sort of labeled by some biased Filipino media, I've sort of stood by them. They labled me as a Donaire P.R. guy. But I've never received a cent from them or worked for them in that capacity. I simply understood their struggles to connect with the Filipino masses.
You know, Nonito is not going to change, but he's not necessarily done anything wrong. He represents the Filipino flag, and he doesn't cheat on his wife. He's a good kid. The way that Nonito has been treated is unfair.
But that's what happens when you've got Manny Pacquiao in front of you. There are hardcore Manny Pacquiao fans who will never consider anyone but him to be the best.
So, Nonito is a victim of Manny Pacquiao's success and being in Manny Pacquiao's era, just like in the N B A, K arl Malone was a victim of being in the M ichael Jordan era.
At the same time, he does appeal to the Filipino Americans. And if he just keeps on winning, he can still recapture that love from Filipinos.
I will say that if they really want to capture the Filipino masses, they do have to tone things down. If they don't, then they should just focus on the United States side.
BoxingScene.com: Should either side step forward and extend the olive branch to the other?
DG: What's that saying? If you're not saying something to prevent it, then you may as well be part of it? Manny Pacquiao probably could have ended it a long time ago by squashing it. But that's the thing.
That's not in Manny's nature, you know? Manny has got a lot of other things to worry about. He's just doing what Manny does and being who Manny is. But do I think that there is a rivalry there? Yeah, I think so.
You can tell with all of the interviews that I've done with [Manny Pacquiao's adviser,] Michael Koncz. There is a dislike there. Michael Koncz tried to sign Nonito back then for MP Promotions.
But Nonito said, 'You know what? I'm doing my own thing. I'm not going to sign with you. I'm sticking with Cameron Dunkin.' And, you know, since then, they haven't really been supportive of Nonito.
So, there is something there. And as far as Nonito is concerned, you know, he loves Manny, and he idolizes Manny, but there is just the fact that that whole experience has fired him up also.
He wants to reach as far as he can on his own, and that's really what's been going on. If you think about it, everything that Nonito has done has been on him. All the way to the Fernando Montiel fight.
That would have been his biggest accomplishment, and he did it on his own, and he's never done it on Manny Pacquiao's under card. Nonito has support among Filipino Americans because they relate to him.
To be honest with you, a lot of the Filipino Americans love Manny, but they don't relate to Manny as much as they do Nonito Donaire. To them, Manny is like their uncle's idol, you know?
To the second-generation Filipinos, they don't relate as much to Manny as they do to Nonito. They love him, but they don't necessarily see that Manny resembles them.
BoxingScene.com: Was this comparision inevitable, as in many sports, when athletes of similar cultural backgrounds achieve greatness?
DG: I think that overall, it's great. It's like what Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya did for Mexican boxing fans. It shows that there are different sides to this culture.
I think that Nonito's move to Golden Boy was done right. I personally think that if Nonito has a valid contract with Top Rank, then he should honor it. But if he did, in fact, handle it the right way, then it's not a bad move.
It's his way to have two prominent promotional companies promoting more Filipinos. Golden Boy is going to have to get more Filipino fighters in their gaurd. Think about that. Top Rank's promoting all of these Filipinos.
Golden Boy has Nonito Donaire. If Nonito Donaire and Manny Pacquiao do ever fight, then, that would be great for boxing. The thing is, Nonito is already considered among the top three or four fighters, pound-for-pound.
He's just beaten Fernando Montiel. He can definitely go up to 135, or, 140, in three or four years. As a Filipino boxing fan, I'm not the type that would be like, 'I don't want to see Manny get beat,' or, 'I don't want to see Nonito get beat.'
I want to see a great fight. It's a long shot. And Nonito is definitely not on Manny Pacquiao's level yet. But down the road, imagine that? Two Filipinos in the biggest fight in boxing, you know what I mean?