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Does Donaire deserve Fighter of the Year?

By Rob Smith: I was kind of surprised to hear WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire’s name being mentioned by a lot of boxing fans as being a shoe-in for the 2012 Fighter of the Year award. While I think Donaire is a good fighter and has obviously had a good 2012 year in beating all four of his opponents put in with him, I don’t think the quality of his opponents is high enough for Donaire to deserve the Fighter of the Year award.

It’s nice that he fought four times, which is a lot more than other fighters that are up for the award such as Floyd Mayweather Jr, AndreWard, Tim Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero. With that said. I think quality counts more than just fighting a ton of times against a bunch of old guys or fighters coming off of knockouts.
These are the fighters that Donaire beat in 2012:

Toshiaki Nishioka – Once considered the best in the super bantamweight division, Nishioka was an old 36 when Donaire fought him this year. Nishioka hadn’t fought in a year when he took on Donaire, and in his last fight, Nishioka had really struggled badly against an over the hill Rafael Marquez. Nishioka may have been the top guy in the super bantamweight division but he got old, and he wasn’t the same fighter he once was when Donaire fought. We really don’t know how Nishioka really was in his prime because he never fought guys like Guilermo Rigondeaux, Donaire or Abner Mares while he was younger, but I have a feeling that Nishioka would have lost to all of them quite badly. As such, I don’t rate this as an important win. It’s a scalp for Donaire but an old one.

Jorge Arce – Little Jorge was way his past his prime by the time Donaire fought him this year, and he was fighting out of his natural weight class. Arce didn’t look good before this fight, and it’s not surprising that Donaire drilled him.

Wilfredo Vazquez Jr – Donaire looked awful in this fight, and ended up getting his face badly swollen by Vazquez Jr’s jabs. I think this is a good victory for Donaire, but hardly enough for him to be given Fighter of the Year. The reason being Vazquez Jr. had been knocked out recently by Arce, so that right there disqualifies him as being a worthwhile win. I didn’t understand why Donaire was fighting him to begin with given that he’d been knocked out by Arce shortly before Donaire fought him.

Jeffrey Mathebula – This was the IBF super bantamweight champion, but he was only a decent fighter and nothing special. I still can’t believe Mathebula was a world champion, but given the watered down divisions with four times in each weight class, it’s not surprising that less than excellent fighters briefly get a hold of titles. Sorry, I don’t rate Mathebula as a fighter and I don’t consider this a worthy victory to give Donaire Fighter of the Year honors.

The Fighter of the Year award for 2012 should go to either Robert Guerrero or Juan Manuel Marquez. Their victories were much more important against much higher quality opposition than the guys that Donaire beat. Guerrero defeated unbeaten Selcuk Adyin and Andre Berto, and both victories were huge. Marquez defeated Manny Pacquiao and Sergiy Fedchenko. The win over Pacquiao is enough to give Marquez my vote as the Fighter of the Year for 2012.

I would gladly have given the award to Donaire had he stepped it up and Rigondeaux or Mares, but he didn’t. He had the opportunity to fight Rigondeaux, but chose to fight an older Arce and Nishioka. I don’t rate victories over old fighters, and I don’t rate victories over obscure paper champions or fighters that have been recently knocked out. Therefore, Donaire isn’t even my list for the Fighter of the Year for 2012.