2012 Fighter of The Year: Nonito Donaire

Last night Nonito Donaire gave For The Suits a real nice Christmas present. What was it? Taking away any chance of even discussing anyone else as our Fighter of the Year for 2012. Going into the fight we felt the same. After he blasted our Jorge Arce in three rounds any sort of inkling of doubt was immediately erased from our minds. It’s been a banner year for the Filipino Flash.

Donaire started off the year winning the WBO Super Bantamweight title in his first fight at 122lbs. It was a tough fight for Donaire, seeing as he had chosen a very game Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. to make his debut in the division against. Vazquez certainly wasn’t the absolute best the division had to offer but one doesn’t normally move up in weight and immediately take on the biggest and baddest in the division.

Donaire instead used Vazquez to feel out his power after moving up a weight class. It nearly turned into a dangerous proposition as Vazquez’ trip to the canvas in the ninth round gave Donaire the breathing room he needed to win the split decision.

Following the fight many commentators and journalists started to question just whether or not Donaire would be able to compete in the 122lbs division the way he had so easily competed at 118lbs. It was a bit shocking to not see a completely dominant Donaire. He put those fears to rest when he met one of the top ranked boxers in his new division, Jeffrey Mathebula, and put him down for the first time in his career in the 4th round.

Such is the enigmatic power of Donaire. Mathebula got up and the fight went the distance but by the end of it Mathebula had a cracked tooth and lost a unanimous decision. Donaire was starting to find his feet, picking up his second title in the division in his second fight.

Toshiaki Nishioka was long considered to be the top dog of the Super Bantamweight division. Ever since Donaire announced his decision to move up in weight, this was the fight fans were waiting for. The true test of Donaire as a 122lber was coming in his third fight in the division. For a prodigious talent like Donaire that was no problem.

He put down Nishioka in round 6 before putting him down again in the 9th and being declared winner courtesy of a TKO. His Japanese opponent had literally bee knocked from his perch, absolutely flustered by the power possessed by Donaire. He announced his retirement after the fight. Donaire collected his third title and became the Ring Champion.

Donaire finished the year off by defeating Mexican warrior Jorge Arce. It wasn’t pretty. Arce has proven himself a game competitor time and time again. But as he nears the end of his career, he has never fought someone with the power of Donaire. It was over almost before it began, Donaire’s left hand once again leaving nothing up to the judges.

Four fights, four titles collected throughout the year. Most fight fans are use to seeing those at the top fo the sport fight once, twice if we’re lucky. Donaire is a throwback to a different era. There is no “walk around” weight for him. He is constantly in shape, in the gym, a drive very few can relate too pushing him to prove he is the absolute best. He moved up a division and completely dominated it in a year, winning every title of note in it.

All of this occurs against the backdrop of Donaire’s commitment to VADA testing. He’s the only professional athlete in the world that has agreed to 24/7/365 testing. He allows his drug tests and subsequent results to be broadcast. He truly has nothing to hide, because he couldn’t hide it even if he wanted too.

That sort of transparency is what is so sorely lacking in the sport nowadays. That’s why Donaire, on top of his in ring exploits, had to be 2012’s FOTY. We would generally not consider anything that occurs outside of the ring in matters of determining who has been the absolute best fighter of the course of the year. But Donaire had already ran away with the award. His commitment to drug testing was just the icing on the cake.

As he moves into 2013, there are still challenges abound in the 122lb division. Showdowns with both Guillermo Rigondeaux and Abner Mares, as unlikely as a fight with Mares is to be made, would put Donaire near the top of many publications P4P lists. It also isn’t out of the question that he meets Rigondeaux and then decides to move up to the 126lb division to face the likes of Siri Salido and Mikey Garcia. Either scenario could see him win this award back to back.

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