They are not exactly Batman and Robin, but the combination of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire is certainly a formidable 1-2 punch when it comes to the all-time best boxers from the Philippines.
Pacquiao, an international icon and boxing's only eight-division world titleholder, is the unquestioned king. He is not only the best ever from the Philippines, but one of the greatest fighters in boxing history, period.
Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, the 1960s junior lightweight world champion, and 1920s flyweight king Pancho Villa -- both enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame -- would also be near the top of any list of the Philippines' finest fighters.
Donaire is in the conversation as well. While he may not have accomplished what Pacquiao has, the "Filipino Flash" has packed a lot into his own possible Hall of Fame career, including winning 2012 fighter of the year honors and claiming world titles in four weight classes from flyweight to featherweight, five if you include the interim belt he claimed as a junior bantamweight.
"Elorde is legendary in the Philippines, but I didn't see him fight, although I have met his family," said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and Donaire. "When I judge fighters I judge it by my era in boxing. And in my era in boxing, and I've been promoting for 50 years, Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire are 1-2 among the greatest Filipino fighters."
They are both winding down their impressive careers, though they remain among the best in their respective divisions, but it has taken until now for Arum to schedule Pacquiao and Donaire on the same card despite spending many years together in the Top Rank stable.
Filipino fans will finally have a chance to see two of their best on the same night for the first time as Pacquiao seeks to reclaim his welterweight world title -- the one he lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2015 -- when he takes on reigning titleholder Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) in the main event while Donaire will defend his junior featherweight belt for the second time when he faces mandatory challenger Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs) on the undercard on Saturday night (Top Rank PPV, 9 ET) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
"This is a good boxing card because not only am I fighting on the card but (so is) my fellow Philippine boxer Nonito Donaire, who is the pride of the Philippines. I think it is a good present for us and for the Philippine people for us to fight on this card together." Manny Pacquiao
"This is a good boxing card because not only am I fighting on the card but [so is] my fellow Philippine boxer Nonito Donaire, who is the pride of the Philippines," Pacquiao said. "I think it is a good present for us and for the Philippine people for us to fight on this card together."
Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs), like probably every current Filipino fighter, considers Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) to be his boxing idol. He is excited to be on Pacquiao's card.
"It's incredible. It's something you look forward to," Donaire said. "I'm just excited. We can give the people what they've wanted. When I signed with Top Rank [in 2008] one of the reasons I signed was to be on a card with Manny, but it never happened until now. I am focused on my outcome and beating Magdaleno but when I heard I would be on the card with Manny I was very excited."
The pairing has been a long time coming and should have happened many years ago, but once Pacquiao rocketed to superstardom and Donaire got to the point where he was headlining his own cards it became cost prohibitive for Top Rank to do it.
But earlier on, when it was cost effective, Arum said he faced resistance from Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, who wields significant influence over Pacquiao's events and could have vetoed the move.
"Up until now my efforts to have Donaire on a Pacquiao card were blocked by Michael Koncz, who made the argument that most of the money being made is for Manny Pacquiao, so why spend money having another Filipino on the card when it doesn't add anything to the bottom line, and that's a cogent argument," Arum said. "But with this fight we are on our own. No HBO involvement. I told my guys we are on our own here with this pay-per-view. I told them, 'No f------ around with the undercard. I want the marquee fights, I want championship fights.'
"The top fight they came up with was Donaire-Magdaleno, two guys living in Las Vegas, two good punchers, a real pick 'em fight. A really good fight that could headline its own card. When I called Michael up I said, 'I'm putting Donaire on.' It has nothing to do with him being Filipino. Donaire-Magdaleno is on the card because its one of the best world title fights I could come up with, period, end of story. It could have been a Swiss fight. It has nothing to do with them being the two of the greatest Filipino fighters. That was not my motive.
"I am thankful to Manny for giving me that vision that I could do anything even at my size. It got me to where I'm at. If he could make it happen why couldn't I, and I worked hard for it." Nonito Donaire
"I wanted to build as strong a card as I could come up with. Koncz has never articulated it to me why, but there is clearly animosity there between him and Donaire so that was another reason I believe he never wanted him on one of Manny's card."
Arum also contractually owes Donaire another fight this year and the bout is a mandatory, so he needed a place to put it and did not have any other realistic options.
Koncz downplayed any animosity but made it clear he was not a fan of Donaire's fight being on the card.
"It wasn't my or Manny's choice to put him on the card," Koncz said. "It doesn't help generate any additional funds, whether [from television] abroad or here. From an economic perspective it doesn't bring anything to the table, but we agreed to put him on as a courtesy to Bob and to Top Rank."
Koncz did say he took exception to recent comments he said Donaire made in a video he saw in which he was critical of some of Pacquiao's political views -- he serves in the senate in the Philippines -- and questioned the severity of the rotator cuff injury that required surgery following the loss to Mayweather.
Donaire sided with Arum in his belief that Koncz has a beef with him. Donaire said he thinks it stems from years ago when he spurned signing with Koncz.
"I declined it and from then the relationship between the Manny camp and myself soured," Donaire said. "I already had my manager in Cameron Dunkin, and my loyalty is to him. I asked Manny before about being on one of his cards, and he said, 'I'll get you on my card.' I asked him a few times. They said you're good to go but nothing happened."
Koncz denied that he ever tried to sign Donaire.
"I didn't try to sign him," Koncz said. "He came to us and asked us to help him. We didn't even consider signing him."
Regardless of what went down, Donaire said he has enormous respect for Pacquiao and that he has been his inspiration as a fighter.
"We're cordial. We're nice to each other, but we don't know each other that way," Donaire said. "We don't call each other but we have respect for each other. But I look up to the man. He has done so much for the Filipino community, the Filipino fighters. My goal now is to inspire people like he inspired me. I dreamed big because of Manny. I'm proud of those visions and they brought me to where I'm at.
"I am thankful to Manny for giving me that vision that I could do anything even at my size. It got me to where I'm at. If he could make it happen why couldn't I, and I worked hard for it."
Donaire said wherever he goes he hears from Filipino fans excited that he is on Pacquiao's card.
"They're very excited because this is the first time," Donaire said. "It's like a gift to them. They're huge fans of both of us."
That is one thing Donaire and Koncz can agree on.
"It is a treat to all boxing fans that they are on the same card," Koncz said, "Especially the Filipino fans."