Donaire vs Vetyeka fight preview: The fall of Nonito Donaire?

Ethan Miller

This Saturday, HBO presents the return of Nonito Donaire. But will this be a proud return, or the fall of this former fighter of the year?

Saturday May 31, Bloody Elbow presents live fight coverage of HBO Boxing After Dark Froch vs. Groves II, featuring Carl Froch vs. George Groves and Nonito Donaire vs. Simpiwe Vetyeka. The show airs on HBO this Saturday, May 31 with a special fight time of 4:00 p.m. ET / PT for US fans. Bloody Elbow will have live fight coverage, including results and discussion.

Saturday's big international double-header may be more firmly focused on the major Froch vs. Groves rematch from Wembley Stadium (understandably), but the story in Macau, China is a big one as well. That's where Nonito Donaire makes his return to the boxing ring, fighting for the first time since last November.

Donaire's sudden fall from grace in boxing circles is fascinating, and a study in how quickly the world of boxing can turn. Flash back three years ago to February 2011. There, you had a hot talent out of the Philippines rising up the ranks. Much like that other rather well known Filipino boxer, Donaire was moving through the weight classes, winning world titles at every stop along the way. He was doing it with incredible speed and skill, earning the nickname "The Filipino Flash." That night, Donaire made sure everyone knew that he was not just a fast fighter - he was a powerful fighter. His KO of Fernando Montiel in Las Vegas is the stuff of highlight reels forever.

One year later, Donaire embarked upon an incredible run. His 2012 saw him defeat 4 opponents, 2 with that nasty stoppage power. It saw him take a stand for stricter drug testing in the increasingly lawless world of professional boxing. For these efforts, it saw him praised as the fighter of the year in many circles. Truly, the future could not have been brighter.

So how is it that today, just 18 months after winning Fighter of the Year, Donaire is fighting for the 2nd time on an HBO undercard? Not only that, but he's not even being given the honor of fighting live, as his bout will be tape delayed from China?

More Froch vs. Groves coverage:
Bloody ElbowBad Left Hook

The answer is not easy. To start, there's the infamous loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux is one of the best in the world, and there should be no shame in losing to him, but that one loss completely derailed Donaire. Many observers, including, notably, HBO brass, were bored by that fight and felt neither combatant deserved praise. After that, Donaire took some much earned time off before returning with an average, but not spectacular win over Vic Darchinyan.

After these two fights, the script on Nonito Donaire has completely flipped. Once praised for his willingness to fight, his speed, his power, his morals, Donaire is now, in some circles, almost forgotten. He's seen as a fighter who fell in love with his power and abandoned his technique, who has lost so much of his speed that he's no longer effective, who is just not that great anymore. Most of all, he's seen as a fighter whose heart may just not be in it anymore. And for many fans, that's the most damning part. Because fighters struggle - we all know this, and we appreciate it. But when a fighter starts to give up on the sport, the fans start to give up on the fighter.

Has Nonito Donaire given up on the sport? It's entirely possible that he has. He's a father now, and has a lot of focus on his family life. If that focus is too split - if he is stepping in to the ring in person but not in mind Saturday night - then he is putting himself in a dangerous position. A fighter who is not all there is a fighter who is ready to be upset, and though Donaire is justifiably the favorite here, Vetyeka is the kind of live dog who can pull off that upset.

If that happens, then mark down May 31 as the end of the road for the brief but bright superstar run of Nonito Donaire: a fighter who reminds us all how quickly things change in this sport.

Join us here at Bloody Elbow for Donaire vs. Vetyeka and Froch vs. Groves II results, discussion, and live fight coverage this Saturday, May 31.

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