Monday, Feb. 14, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
There will likely never be another boxer that equals Manny Pacquiao's celebrity and success in the eyes of his loyal fan base, especially in his native Philippines.
But fellow Philippine fighter Nonito Donaire is drawing comparisons heading into his fight Saturday against Fernando Montiel at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Several feel that Donaire, the challenger in the WBO and WBC bantamweight championship match against Montiel, has the credentials to be a superstar.
“The face of boxing today is Manny Pacquiao and he comes from the Philippines,” said Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, which is promoting the fight. “But right behind him in the Philippines is a man who comes from the same city as Pacquiao (General Santos) and is becoming more and more endeared to the Philippine fans. He’s a great fighter, a tremendous technician and a hard puncher.”
The 28-year-old Donaire (25-1, 17 KOs) is a two-division world champion who is favored by odds makers to beat Montiel.
“(Pacquiao) is definitely an inspiration in my career, an inspiration in boxing and how I want to be,” said Donaire, who moved to the United States from the Philippines as a 10-year-old. “I am inspired to see no impossibility.”
Beating Montiel will be no easy task in arguably the most difficult matchup of his career.
The 31-year-old Montiel (43-2-2, 33 KOs) is considered one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world, also winning flyweight and super flyweight titles during his lengthy career. Montiel’s veteran presence in the ring and experience, natural boxing instincts and technical boxing supremacy give him an advantage.
“Montiel is the most complete fighter I will have faced,” Donaire said. “This is the biggest fight of my career. People say he may be shot because he has been fighting for such a long time, but no, he has been fighting guys at the top of his weight class. I know he is up there and capable of anything.”
That’s something Donaire showed in his most recent fight, overpowering former WBA bantamweight champion Wladimir Sidorenko with three knockouts before the fight was stopped in the fourth round.
What’s even more impressive is that Donaire enters on a 24-fight winning streak, with his last defeat coming nine years ago.
“He is obviously a fighter that has a lot of speed. He moves around the ring and is an intelligent fighter,” Montiel said. “The question to me is what is going to happen when he fights a guy that is just as intelligent, just as strong and just as good as he is. That is the question -- when he fights someone that is equal to him. I think it’s the first time he will find a fighter that is just as good as he is.”
Donaire knows what another victory would bring. He’ll likely move up from the 118-pound bantamweight division for stiffer competition. And, of course, there is the growing celebrity for “The Filipino Flash.”
“My marketability will skyrocket,” Donaire said. “My name will get bigger and I will get bigger fights. People will come after me because that’s what happens when you’re on top. My name is in the top pound-for-pound lists and no one can take that away from me after I beat Montiel. “