Donaire anxious to fight

By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star

Nonito Donaire Jr.
Manila, Philippines - WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. said the other day he’s willing to fight anyone and “I’m anxious to get my next fight date” but a cloud of uncertainty hovers over his future because of a promotional conflict with Top Rank.

Last March 16, Donaire inked a four-year contract with Top Rank’s archenemy Golden Boy. A key condition is Donaire will be guaranteed a $1 Million purse in the first year of the deal. Donaire claimed an existing contract with Top Rank was null and void because of a breach, allowing him to negotiate a new pact as a free agent.
Donaire justified his claim by pointing to Top Rank’s failure to arrange at least three fights a year since they signed a three-year contract with a one-year renewal option on June 26, 2008. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, however, said Donaire was under medical suspension for at least 300 days, preventing the to-the-letter execution of the agreement. Arum said the medical suspension automatically extended the life of the contract up to 2013.
To settle the row, Top Rank and Golden Boy went to arbitrator Daniel Weinstein, a retired California superior court justice. Weinstein subsequently ruled that Golden Boy violated an agreement with Top Rank not to poach on each other’s fighters. He confirmed that Donaire remained under contract with Top Rank and was not a free agent.

A source close to Donaire said the ruling was only to determine the nature of the contract with Top Rank. “It was just round one,” said the source. “Now, the next issue is if Top Rank violated the conditions of its contract with Nonito. The claim by Nonito is there was a breach and because of the breach, the contract became null and void, making him a free agent able to negotiate a new contract with any party of his choice.”
Golden Boy owner Oscar de la Hoya said he’s not bothered by Weinstein’s ruling. “The truth will prevail,” he said, quoted by Robert Morales of the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press Telegram and “We’re confident that the right thing is going to happen at the end and this is not the end. We believe in Nonito and we’re behind him 100 percent.”

Donaire, 28, was set to battle “super” WBA bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno of Panama in Atlantic City on May 28 but when the conflict erupted, the bout was called off. Now, he’s in limbo. “I just want a fight,” he said. “Most people want to see me fight (Abner) Mares next.”

Mares, 25, is promoted by Golden Boy so he would be an easy opponent to arrange. A former Olympian, the Mexican has a 21-0-1 record, with 13 KOs. Last December, he beat Donaire knockout victim Vic Darchinyan via a split 12-round decision to win the IBO 118-pound crown.

This weekend, Donaire is in Carson City, near Los Angeles, to cheer for his friend Andre Ward who is defending his WBA supermiddleweight title against Armenia-born German Arthur Abraham.
Donaire, who now has a condo unit in Las Vegas, was conspicuously absent at the Manny Pacquiao-Sugar Shane Mosley fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last Saturday. There was talk that he applied for accreditation as a press photographer but was turned down by Top Rank because of no affiliation with a publication. Instead, Donaire spent the week vacationing with his family in Hawaii. Las Vegas sources said Donaire has been spotted working out in Johnny Tocco’s gym under Filipino trainer and former world superlightweight champion Morris East who handles IBF lightwelterweight titleholder Zab Judah.
Weinstein’s ruling prohibits Golden Boy from promoting or dealing with Donaire. A source said a fight for Donaire is being scheduled in June or July, possibly against Mares. Arum will definitely go to court to stop it unless Top Rank is the promoter.

If Donaire accepts Weinstein’s decision and returns to Arum’s fold, it won’t be a problem with Top Rank. “We’re professionals,” said Arum, quoted by Morales. “Our relationship is strained. We’ll still do a good job promoting Nonito. We’ll get him the right fights and put him in fights to get him maximum exposure. We’ll do the best possible for him.”

In his Facebook, Donaire said four opponents loom in the horizon – Mares, “regular” WBA bantamweight champion Koki Kameda of Japan, IBF bantamweight king Joseph Agbeko of Ghana and Moreno.

Kameda, a 24-year-old southpaw, has a 25-1 record, with 16 KOs, and will likely insist on fighting only in Japan. Agbeko, 31, regained the IBF crown on a unanimous 12-round decision over Yonnhy Perez last December and has a 28-2 record, with 22 KOs. Moreno, 25, has a 30-1-1 record, with 10 KOs, and is scheduled to stake his “super” WBA title against Lorenzo Parra in Panama City on June 17.

Last February, Donaire zoomed to the top five of the world’s pound-for-pound ratings by knocking out Mexican hero Fernando Montiel in two rounds for the WBC/WBO bantamweight titles in Las Vegas. The win raised Donaire’s record to 26-1, with 18 KOs.

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