MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire was the "easy pick" for ESPN's "Boxer of the Year" after a sensational 2012 that saw him solidify his position as one of the sport's top pound-for-pound fighters.
Donaire, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and RING super bantamweight champion, was named Boxer of the Year by ESPN, beating other top contenders including Juan Manuel Marquez, Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero.
"It might sound strange, but no, Manny Pacquiao was not the best fighter from the Philippines in 2012,” wrote ESPN’s Dan Rafael. "That honor goes to 'The Filipino Flash,' junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire, who had a year for the ages."
"Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs) began the year having vacated his bantamweight belts and preparing to move up to junior featherweight. Four fights later, in an exceptionally busy year by modern standards for an elite champion, the quick-fisted and powerful Donaire stands atop the 122-pound division," Rafael wrote.
Rafael said Donaire "was the easy pick for 2012 ESPN.com Boxer of the Year."
"Donaire easily handled the move up in weight, winning all four of his fights in dominant fashion. He dropped each of his foes – scoring seven knockdowns in all – won twice by knockout and collected two world titles," Rafael wrote.
'The Philippines' best boxer'
In his first fight of the year, Donaire defeated Puerto Rico's Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. by split decision to claim the vacant WBO belt. He then decisioned South Africa's Jeffrey Mathebula in July to claim the International Boxing Federation belt.
In October, Donaire knocked out top Japanese boxer Toshiaki Nishioka in the ninth round, then capped off his year with a sensational third round knockout of Mexican warrior Jorge Arce last December 15.
"It was the exclamation point on a year in which Donaire seized the mantle from Pacquiao, his idol, as the Philippines' best boxer and continued to assert himself as one of the best fighters in the world, period," Rafael wrote.
Rafael also commended Donaire for being the first and only boxer in the world to undergo random drug testing with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on a year-round basis.
"This in an era when every great performance unfortunately comes under the suspicion of possible
performance-enhancing drug use – except, of course, Donaire's," he said.
Donaire becomes the second Filipino fighter to claim the award, after Pacquiao, who won in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Edged Marquez, Garcia
Mexico's Marquez became a contender for the Boxer of the Year award after his stunning sixth-round knockout of Pacquiao in their fourth encounter last December 7, a punch that Rafael called "the shot heard 'round the world."
"In the most stunning scene of the year, Marquez earned the first definitive result in his epic four-fight series with Pacquiao," he wrote. "Marquez may trail the all-time series 2-1-1, but the knockout in their welterweight fight is the most memorable moment from the four fights."
Rafael also noted that the knockout was "one of the most significant moments in boxing in recent years."
Undefeated American Danny Garcia was also a contender for Boxer of the Year after winning all three of his fights in 2012. He decisioned Mexican legend Erik Morales in March, knocked out Amir Khan in July, and then knocked out Morales in their rematch in October.
Meanwhile, Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero also had a strong 2012 after proving himself to be a true contender at the welterweight division. Guerrero defeated Selcuk Aydin and the decisioned former champion Andre Berto.
Another Filipino fighter, Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria, was also a contender for Boxer of the Year.
"'The Hawaiian Punch' scored knockouts against quality opponents in both of his 2012 fights. In May, Viloria retained his flyweight title by stopping Omar Nino Romero in the ninth round to exact revenge from a previous loss and no-contest,” Rafael wrote.
"In November, in an exceptional fight, Viloria stopped Hernan 'Tyson' Marquez to unify 112-pound titles."