MANILA, Philippines – All eyes will be on Filipino boxer Nonito Donaire Jr. when he collides against potential future hall-or-famer Jorge Arce of Mexico on Sunday.
Donaire will not only fight to defend his title, but he will also be fighting to raise the country’s pride following the heartbreaking losses of Manny Pacquiao and the Philippine Azkals to their respective foes.
The bout, which takes place at Houston’s Toyota Center, will also be the perfect stage for Donaire to shine after years of fighting under Pacquiao’s shadow.
“Ngayon ang opportunity niya,” said boxing analyst Ed Tolentino in dzMM’s Sports Chat. “Hindi na siya magse-second fiddle kay Manny Pacquiao.”
Tolentino said the whole country is looking for someone who can ease the pain of the successive defeats of Pacquiao and the Azkals.
“Right now naghahanap tayo ng ‘pain reliever,’” said the analyst.
Donaire, who weighed in at 121.5 pounds for the fight, will be staking his World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight title against Arce.
Also at stake in the 12-round fight is the World Boxing Council (WBC) Diamond super bantamweight title.
Arce, who weighed in at exactly 122 pounds, seeks to duplicate Juan Manuel Marquez’s knockout win over Pacquiao.
"What happened last week in Las Vegas with Pacquiao and Marquez is going to happen again," the Mexican said in ESPN. "A new surprise."
Donaire, for his part, said he understands the pressure that comes with the expectations of his fellow Filipinos.
“I hope all the Filipinos can smile, that they can enjoy the fight, and we can give them a good show,” he said.
But the Filipino Flash said he won’t let the emotions get the better of him.
He said it could be costly when fighting someone like Arce.
"I am here to win the fight, but not with that mentality. I won't put that revenge status in my mind. That just gets me off my game. I want to go out and win and then raise my flag,” said Donaire.
"I'm in there to knock Arce out because I want to and that's what I plan to do."
Donaire (30-1) is heavily favored to win against the Mexican brawler because of his exceptional boxing skills.
But ring experts said it would be unwise to count Arce out because he is a veteran of 70 fights (61-6-2-1 no contest).
“It will be a very competitive fight kasi si Arce lumalaban ‘yan eh,” said Tolentino. “Walang ino-honor na stop light ‘yan eh, pasok ng pasok 'yan until the final bell.”
ESPN's Bernardo Pilatti said that what makes Arce a stand-out is his warrior spirit in the ring.
“Arce has a huge heart, as he has proved many times before,” he said. “This time he'll also have to maximize his courage, motivation, trust and belief in himself to the hilt.”
The Donaire-Arce fight card will be aired locally by ABS-CBN Channel 2 on Sunday starting 11 a.m.
There will be replays on Studio 23 on Monday, 9:30 p.m. and on Balls Channel on Friday, 6:30 p.m.