This upcoming Thursday, from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, future Hall-of-Famer, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) will take on one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound in Naoya “Monster” Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs).
The storyline that follows the Inoue-Donaire bout is nothing new in the sport of boxing.
The narrative of the older fighter who will be enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame as soon as he decides to hang up the gloves against the new up-and-coming superstar looking to add a name to his list of accomplishments is as old as the sport itself.
The question will be if Donaire’s story will end up like that of Muhammad Ali when he faced George Foreman in 1974 or Roberto Duran when he met Davey Moore in 1983.
Or will Donaire end up like Ray Leonard when he faced Terry Norris in 1991, an aging fighter who came up against a younger opponent that proved too much for him.
Looking back throughout Donaire’s career, taking a risk and fighting against the odds is more of the norm than an outlier for the Filipino.
Seven years ago, in 2012, Donaire was on top of the boxing world, ranked as one of the best in the world.
He was awarded Fighter of the Year honors after having fought four times against top contenders at Super Bantamweight.
The train came to a proverbial halt in 2013 when he faced off against two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux.
That night, Donaire was thoroughly outboxed and his stature as one of the best in the world slowly faded away.
As fighters begin to age, they usually don’t move back down in weight.
However, with four out of five of Donaire’s losses coming above the Bantamweight limit, when the opportunity arose to join the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight tournament, it was a chance for the Filipino to enhance his legacy further.
“Fighting Naoya Inoue has given me motivation,” said Donaire at the final press conference for his bout with Inoue. “I’ve accomplished so much, so I needed someone to motivate me. It’s brought back my youth again because I have to be at my best.”
Since returning to Bantamweight, Donaire won the WBA Bantamweight title against Ryan Burnett, after Burnett sustained a back injury in the fourth round, putting the bout to a stop after the round.
Donaire followed up the win over Burnett with a sixth-round knockout over Stephon Young, who was a replacement for South Africa’s Zolani Tete, one of the tournament favorites.
While Donaire’s recent victories have been more about circumstance than his prowess in the ring, the Filipino at Bantamweight or below only has one loss.
That defeat came in his second professional bout.
The two victories that Donaire is best known for are his knockouts over Fernando Montiel in 2011 and Vic Darchinyan in 2007.
The knockout over Darchinyan was Donaire’s introduction to the boxing world as a name to be recognized.
The win over Montiel was even more significant as it propelled Donaire as one of the best fighters in the world.
Donaire is one of only four fighters of Asian descent to have won titles in four weight classes.
And along with Manny Pacquiao and Donnie Nietes, one of only three Filipino fighters to do so as well.
The man known as the Monster is arguably the best fighter Donaire will have faced in his career. No one has made it past the second round against Inoue since moving up to Bantamweight.
On Thursday morning in Japan, many will expect to see the coronation of Inoue as the best Bantamweight in the world.
But standing in his way will be a fighter who has proven not to be intimidated or scared to face any opponent–win or lose.
Similar to his fellow Filipino pugilist Manny Pacquiao, who turned back the clock with a win over Keith Thurman this past summer, Donaire will need to show glimpses of his former self to earn a victory.
At 36 years of age, Donaire will need one more flash of brilliance to pull off the upset against the Monster.