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 75-year-old Nathanielz, and, the 29-year-old Guillermo 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?
Ronnie Nathanielsz: Frankly, the two fighters respect each other very much. They respect each other a great deal. Nonito Donaire has always said nice things about Manny Pacquiao, and Manny Pacquiao has said good things about Nonito Donaire.
Sometimes, what happens is that a comment or two -- perhaps by Nonito Donaire's wife, Rachel, for example -- is taken to the next level. You know, she does talk. Now, a couple of things that she has said may have been taken out of context.
But, then, she actually has said some things, and they may have been blown up by some of the members of the media. But the two fighters respect each other a great deal, no question about that.
I've spoken to both of them separately, and they have had nothing to say about each other as fighters. That's a real sign that they are appreciative of each other's skills even at a time when they may seem to be at odds with each other.
BoxingScene.com: Given their popularity, and the fact that all of the sports world, in general, is watching, is this necessarily a bad thing for boxing in the Philippines?
RN: In many if not all sports, when two guys from the same cultural backgrounds, you can expect comparisons. There is nothing wrong with that. So it's alright to compare them as long as you're comparing them as far as their talent.
It's alright if you are talking about their abilities in the ring. But if there's a hint of jealousy or envy that somehow appears to sneak into the comparison equation, then, it is not good for the sport.
It becomes bad for the sport.
BoxingScene.com: How do you mean?
RN: Well, especially when you look at the nature of the Filipino culture. When it comes to Manny Pacquiao, he has never, ever said one single nasty word about an opponent. He has always been kind, caring and very, very proper about the opponents he faces in and out of the ring.
Manny Pacquiao has been very, very good with that. His humility has been at the utmost. He is always the same way. Now, Nonito Donaire seems to be a little bit more American in that way.
Nonito Donaire says things like, 'I'm going to knock the stuffing out of him,' and, 'I'm going to beat the s**t out of this guy or something like that.
BoxingScene.com: So you believe that Nonito Donaire's swagger is born of his American exposure and that Manny Pacquiao's humility is more true to the Filipino culture?
RN: Yes, because Manny Pacquiao would never say those things. Nonito Donaire, meanwhile, has spent many of his years in the United States, and some of the American fighters talk that way.
There is nothing really bad about what Nonito Donaire says, but it just different. It is the result of the environment in which he was raised and brought up.
BoxingScene.com: Do you think that there is a generational difference in that the older Filipinos relate to Manny Pacquiao, and the younger, to Nonito Donaire?
RN: No. No. Everybody relates to Manny Pacquiao -- young, old, very old. They all relate to Manny Pacquiao because he came at a time when they needed a hero and satisfied that heroism that the Filipinos were looking for.
Now, in fact, Manny Pacquiao has earned that respect around the world because of what he has achieved in the ring and outside of the ring. He has made the Filipinos gravitate toward him.
And, so, for many Filipinos, it is their hero worship of Manny Pacquiao. Nonito Donaire is a little different.
BoxingScene.com: How so?
RN: People look at Nonito more strictly as a fighter and because of his skill, which is somewhat different in how they view a Manny Pacquiao. Nonito doesn't have the impact or attract anywhere near the following that a Manny Pacquiao does.
He doesn't have anywhere near that sort of appeal either as a person or as an athlete. But there is no question that there are a number of fans and people in the sport as well as Filipinos who appreciate him for the skills that he brings into the ring as a fighter.
BoxingScene.com: Do you see any similarlities to the division that surfaced between Mexicans when it came to the Julio Cesar Chavez-Oscar De La Hoya scenario?
RN: I do. I do. That's a very good question. Julio Cesar Chavez and Manny Pacquiao are similar and have a lot in common because they were loved by their people and they both became legendary to their people.
Nonito Donaire and Oscar De La Hoya had more of a stylistic approach to the game of boxing. They were not as down to earth or simple in style or substance as Julio Cesar Chavez and Manny Pacquiao.
They have a different air about them, Nonito Donaire and Oscar De La Hoya. There is a certain cockiness if I might say about those two guys.
Oscar De La Hoya and Nonito Donaire had a certain manner that separated them from the more down to earth Julio Cesar Chavez and Manny Pacquiao.
BoxingScene.com: Is it incumbent upon either Manny Pacquiao or Nonito Donaire to publicly make peace with the other guy?
RN: I don't think that there is any need for any of them to do that. But, if anybody should talk, then it should be Nonito Donaire. It should come from Nonito Donaire and not Manny Pacquiao.
BoxingScene.com: Is Nonito Donaire at a disadvantage having had to create his own identity in the wake of what the trailblazing Manny Pacquiao has accomplished?
RN: Manny Pacquiao is sort of the senior citizen. He has achieved so much. As I said, he came at a time when Filipinos needed a hero. Nonito Donaire has come on rather lately on the scene. And, of course, Nonito Donaire is younger.
So if anybody needs to approach the other then it should be Nonito Donaire to approach Manny Pacquiao. But in fairness to Nonito Donaire, when I was in Bob Arum's office with him recently, Nonito Donaire said very clearly.
Nonito Donaire said that he wants to follow the path carefully that Manny Pacquiao has laid out before him. Nonito Donaire told me that Manny Pacquiao is the greatest Filipino boxer in the world, and that he wants to follow in his footsteps.
Publicly, Nonito Donaire has said that. He didn't say that he wanted to go his own way, but that he wanted to follow the footsteps that Manny Pacquiao has laid out. But he also has said that he is not Manny Pacquiao.
He is Nonito Donaire and has a separate identity. That's fair enough.
BoxingScene.com: What do you make of Nonito Donaire's desire to leave Top Rank Promotions for Golden Boy Promotions?
RN: One of the problems, I am told by [Manny Pacquiao's adviser] Michael Koncz, is that Nonito Donaire wants to be on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's fights.
Michael Koncz has explained to me that under his agreement with Top Rank Promotions that any Filipino fighter who fights on a Manny Pacquiao card must go through MP Promotions, which is Manny Pacquiao's promotional company.
They've got quite a few Filipino fighters under MP promotions. If they give one of the slots to Nonito Donaire, then that will automatically deny another Filipino fighter a chance of appearing on the Manny Pacquiao fight card.
That, to me, is fair enough. Why would you deprive another Filipino fighter an opportunity by giving Nonito Donaire a spot? As Bob Arum says, I don't think that it would add many Filipino fans to the pay per view.
Manny Pacquiao is the draw. I don't want to be unfair to Nonito, but the fact remains that he is coming in on a Manny Pacquiao card, and that's not going to add any more fans to the pay per view buys.
So, it's an investment that would be a lot of money paid to Nonito Donaire and his opponent, which would give Bob Arum nothing in return. It may make Filipinos happy, but it won't add anything for Bob Arum financially.
Bob Arum is a businessman, and boxing is a business. So you can't fault him from that point of view. And, well, I don't know the legal implications of Nonito Donaire signing a contract with Golden Boy, especially since Bob Arum still claims that he's still got a valid contract with him.
But Bob Arum appears to have filed some legal case against him and it is apparently under litigation. But I can't comment either way. I guess, to each his own. It was his decision to make, and, now, he needs to defend it, or Golden Boy needs to defend it.
BoxingScene.com: In your conversations with Manny Pacquiao, have you detected that he is in any way affected by any of the negativity involved in this?
RN: You know, I don't think that anything really bothers Manny Pacquiao. No, I don't think that this bothers him. I don't think so. There was a recent awards dinner in Manila, the Gabriel Elorde Dinner of Champions.
It is an annual award night, and all of the Filipino world champions, regional champions and national champions from around the world usually show up and they are greeted and given awards and they are celebrated at the banquet.
And I was looking forward to seeing Nonito Donaire and his wife there. Manny Pacquiao was the guest speaker, and it would have been great for both of them to have stood there together.
But apparently, and, unfortunately, they didn't show up. But I found out from the mother of Rachel Donaire that they had left for the United States.
I think that that could have been a fine moment, because they could have been seen publicly, together, and that would have helped.
BoxingScene.com: How do you see this thing playing out?
RN: I don't think that it's that much of a problem or that much of an issue that is being talked about. Nonito Donaire hasn't said a thing, and neither has his wife, for the past couple of weeks since the controversy over his signing with Golden Boy Promotions.
They've both kept quiet and they don't seem to want to talk. They don't want to say anything to anybody. So, from that point of things, you are not going to hear anything from their side.
As far as Manny Pacquiao, he's not the kind of guy who is going to talk about things such as this. He isn't bothered about this at all. Manny Pacquiao is training for the Shane Mosley fight.
He couldn't be bothered by this. It's more or less an extraneous distraction to his training camp.