Nonito Donaire has finished up a solid 2012 and very well could win Fighter of the Year honors. Over the course of the year, the 30-year-old talent has scored victories over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka, and Jorge Arce.
Sure, none of these opponents were the "big" ones, but three of the four were legitimate top ten fighters and "The Filipino Flash" handled all four solidly. However, critics are still around, pointing out that there are still some major opponents Donaire has yet to fight.
Here are five opponents that Donaire should face within the next eighteen months to two years:Abner Mares
Mares is 27, undefeated, and the reigning WBC world junior featherweight champion. He's also regarded as the best 122 lb. fighter in the world not named Donaire. Actually, in some circles, Mares is regarded as the division's best. However, whether you have him ranked No. 1, 2, or 3, there's no denying that Mares is working at the elite level of the division and should find his way to a high-profile clash with Donaire. This would be a legacy fight for both young pugilists and an outstanding match-up for the fans. Yeah, Mares is with Golden Boy and Donaire is with Top Rank. Both sides need get over themselves and ditch the promotional turf war just this one time.Guillermo Rigondeaux
Cuba's three-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBA junior featherweight champ is in a similar position as Mares. Ranked in the Top 3 of the division in every intelligent rankings list, Rigondeaux has displayed world class skills and a champion's pride. A bout with Donaire would be outstanding and it definitely would settle a lot of bets as to who is the best at 122 lbs. If the Cuban's chin holds up, he could very well upset the current division top dog, Donaire.Vic Darchinyan
Back in 2007, Donaire first became a known commodity when he scored the major upset by knocking out the fearsome and heavy-handed Armenian "Raging Bull." But that was at flyweight. A lot has changed since then and roles have been reversed, with Donaire now as the favorite and Darchinyan cast as the major underdog. Efforts have been made to revisit Donaire-Darchinyan, but nothing could ever be worked out. Fast forward a couple of years -- Darchinyan recently reversed a two-fight slide by beating highly-regarded prospect, Luis Orlando Del Valle, for the vacant NABF junior featherweight title. The win gets Darchinyan back on the main stage and also places him, once again, in the same division as Donaire. Avenging his knockout loss to "The Filipino Flash" may be a major long shot, but the bout would be an emotional, compelling battle for as long as it lasted.Jhonny Gonzalez
Former two-division world champ Gonzalez is coming off a frustrating technical decision loss to Daniel Ponce de Leon-- a decision that cost him his WBC featherweight strap. Now, the Mexican battler will be looking to avenge the loss and/or recover lost professional ground. A bout with Donaire would be a well-received, significant contest and a shortcut back to the main stage of the sport. Gonzalez is talented, skilled, and tough. Whether Gonzalez can get down to 122 lbs. to fight Donaire is another issue, but Donaire could easily move up to 126 to take the challenge.Gary Russell Jr.
This one is a bit of a pipe dream, but just imagine the ultra-talented featherweight former Olympian taking on pound-for-pound talent Donaire. Russell, with his world class athleticism and growing skill set would be an outstanding challenge for the elite-level talents of Donaire. Right now, the Filipino-American would have to be the favorite, but as time passes, Russell would be more and more likely to score the victory.http://sports.yahoo.com/news/five-fight ... --box.html