From the standpoint of a chemist, the term “flashpoint” refers to the lowest temperature at which vapors of a volatile material will ignite when given an ignition source. From the standpoint of boxing fans, a “flashpoint” is what Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. needs to resuscitate his career.
Donaire needs to find the spark, the “flashpoint” that will ignite his career and set it on fire again. He recently parted ways with Top Rank Promotions and is actually a free agent today. The next step Donaire will take is critical as his career now hangs in the balance.
Early this year, just before his deal with Top Rank expired, Bob Arum offered Donaire a March showdown with reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight (126 lbs.) champion Oscar Valdez. Coming off a decision loss to Jessie Magdaleno in his last fight, Donaire was given a rare opportunity to fight for a world title in his very next outing. That Donaire turned down the offer was quite surprising, but from where this writer sits it was the best decision to make given the prevailing circumstances.
It can be deduced that Arum was looking to feed Donaire to the rising and unbeaten Valdez (21-0, 19 knockouts). Donaire had expressed concerns about immediately jumping to the heavier featherweight class after a previous experiment in the weight class backfired by way of a numbing loss to Nicholas Walters. Donaire had said that moving up in weight is enticing because it means he no longer has to cut weight to meet the junior featherweight (122 lbs.) limit, but the resident featherweights walk around at almost 140 pounds come fight time making them a huge burden for someone who added just enough bulk to make it to 126 pounds. Had Donaire ignored his weight concerns and accepted Arum’s offer, he would have ended up as sacrificial lamb to Valdez. Donaire would have ended his contract with Top Rank with a brutal loss and his marketability would have taken a serious hit in the free agent market.
Donaire’s decision to turn down the Valdez fight was thus a preservative act; to hold in abeyance the end of his career. At age 34, and having lost two of his last six fights, Donaire now has the time to meticulously plan his comeback. He arguably has few fights left in him, but Donaire needs to make each fight count.
The guess is that Donaire (37-4, 24 knockouts) will momentarily stay in the junior featherweight ranks and perhaps take on a safe but credible opponent to bring back his confidence. Donaire was the favorite to prevail over the inexperienced Magdaleno, but for some reason he failed to find an offensive rhythm. The old Donaire who dissected foes like a doctor assessing a patient was nowhere to be found. Instead, he kept looking for the big shot that did not come.
Donaire may also have to address his penchant to switch trainers. Just before the Magdaleno fight, he again jettisoned his father Donaire Sr. and tapped the services of Cuban Ismael Salas. Whether it was the switch in trainers or plain Father Time creeping in, Donaire didn’t appear to have a clear strategy against Magdaleno.
A blazing finish for Donaire is still possible, but he needs to convince himself that he is willing to go through the grinder again. Donaire needs to rededicate himself to the sport; muster that hunger again. If he can do this, he will find that “flashpoint.”
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