By Hamilton Nolan
Nonito Donaire is one of the most beautiful fighters in all of boxing. He stalks his opponents with the footwork of an NBA guard doing cone drills. He dips, whirls, bounces, dodges and attacks comfortably from a gyroscope’s worth of angles. And he throws a perfectly horizontal left hook that hits like a bowling ball on a chain. It’s why, after some of his more impressive wins, Donaire has flirted with the #3 spot on some pundits’ pound-for-pound lists, right behind the very best.
But few would rank Donaire there now. Not because his skills have eroded or because he’s been in any danger of losing, but because some of his own flaws have become clear. Last October, Omar Narvaez exposed Donaire’s lack of effective body punching simply by covering his head in a stubborn shell for 12 rounds and then leaving the ring beaten but unscathed. And in his last fight, in February, Donaire proved that cockiness does not equal defense, allowing his face to be lumped and swollen by Wilfredo Vazquez, who did not fall for the mesmerizing head movement of The Filipino Flash. In order for Donaire to re-ascend the pound-for-pound rankings, he will need to win a superfight. And there are superfights to be made: with Guilermo Rigondeaux at 122 pounds, or with Yuriorkis Gamboa or Mikey Garcia at 126 pounds. In order to get one of those superfights, Donaire needs another convincing signature win. That means he must direct all of his attention toward destroying Jeffrey Mathebula.