Filipino star Nonito Donaire returns to the ring next week, and the 40-year-old is already being dubbed as a sure-fire future Hall of Famer.
Donaire has won 42 of his 49 pro fights in a career that now spans an astonishing 22 years.
The Filipino has been added to the hugely-anticipated Errol Spence-Terence Crawford bill in Las Vegas next week (July 29), facing 27-year-old Alexandro Santiago for the vacant WBC title at bantamweight.
Donaire is a puncher who has scored some thrilling knockouts and been in some of the biggest fights of his era.
Here’s a look at why many think he is nailed on for a plaque in Canastota.
1. Naoya Inoue I L PTS 12 (Nov 7, 2019)
Some feared for the veteran Filipino’s safety ahead of his World Boxing Super Series clash with the unbeaten Japanese puncher, but Donaire gave Inoue the fight of his life in what would widely be heralded as the best fight of 2019. Donaire was down in the 11th from a bodyshot, but displayed bucketloads of courage, ambition and skill to hang with the awesome Inoue. Inoue stopped Donaire in two rounds in their 2022 rematch.
2. Vic Darchinyan I W TKO 5 (Jul 7, 2007)
Donaire was actually moving down in weight to challenge the outspoken Australian, who was making the seventh defence of his flyweight title. There was a grudge heading into this, but a superb Donaire left hook ended matters in the fifth round in what The Ring recorded as both the Knockout of the Year and the Upset of the Year.
“There’s a lot of Filipino’s out there who didn’t believe in me, and that’s how I reacted,” said Donaire. Nonito also stopped Darchinyan seven years later in nine rounds.
3. Fernando Montiel W RSF 2 (Feb 19, 2021)
4. Moruti Mthlane W TKO 6 (Nov 1, 2008)
Donaire’s fast hands allowed him to run up an early lead and he cut the South African on his eyelid in the sixth and the fight was stopped, with the wound said to have come from a punch. The victory certainly aged well. Mthlane would not lose again in 16 fights over the next 13 years until Sunny Edwards outscored him in London, England.
5. Jorge Arce W KO 3 (Dec 15, 2012)
Arce might well be headed to Canastota himself in the future, but he couldn’t handle Donaire’s power. “Every Donaire combination is thrown with knockout intent,” said Jim Lampley, on commentary for HBO. Arce was dropped twice in round two before unloading a huge left hook that separated Arce from his senses, leaving him flat on his back, and Arce announced his retirement before he left the ring. Arce took a year off but came back and would fight four more times before calling it a day.