Nonito Donaire, Top Rank end dispute
Unified bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire and promoter Top Rank are back in business together after the "Filipino Flash" signed a multiyear contract extension, ending a dispute and his bid to leave the company to sign with rival Golden Boy.
"I am very happy and pleased to announce a recent reconciliation between Top Rank and myself, and I am also extremely excited to announce that I will be back in the ring this coming October," Donaire said. "There were some details that required attention, and I feel confident now that my professional goals are being understood and respected by Top Rank. And we have likewise come to a mutual understanding and agreement as far as our common objectives in boxing and how we can work better together as a team."
In February, Donaire scored a sensational second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel to claim his two 118-pound belts with a single punch in his first HBO appearance. It was such an impressive knockout that it shot Donaire into the top five on most pound-for-pound lists. HBO, which has rarely televised fights in the bantamweight division, was so taken with Donaire that it hoped to bring him right back for his first defense on May 28.
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However, just two weeks after the victory, Golden Boy announced it had signed Donaire, who claimed his contract with Top Rank was over and that he was a free agent. That sparked a nasty legal dispute between the rival promotional companies for whom legal battles have been common.
When the case went to arbitration, Golden Boy was enjoined from promoting Donaire and Top Rank's contract, which began in 2008, was upheld.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef was adamant that Top Rank still had a valid contract. He did not want to do a financial settlement with Golden Boy. He wanted to retain Donaire's services and was pleased to get it done.
"We are thrilled to move forward with Nonito, his team and capitalize on what we have built together," duBoef said. "Nonito has unlimited ability and charisma, which was on display in his last thrilling performance against Fernando Montiel. A bright future lies ahead for Nonito and Top Rank."
No date has been set for Donaire's return, but HBO holds an option on his next fight. If HBO does not have room for him, Donaire could go to Showtime or fight on one of Top Rank's pay-per-view undercards in the fall.
After Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs), who is from the Philippines but resides in San Leandro, Calif., signed with Golden Boy, the prospect of a Top Rank-Donaire reconciliation looked bleak after Top Rank chief Bob Arum made disparaging remarks about Rachel Donaire, Nonito's wife.
However, Rachel Donaire told ESPN.com that Arum apologized and she holds no grudge.
"When Bob said something about me, it was all on emotion and I don't think he was thinking clearly," she said. "Bob is emotional. He apologized to us. I shrugged it off. It was not a big deal. It wasn't a dealbreaker. He was emotional at the time. We just moved past it."
Donaire's new deal was brokered by Rachel Donaire and duBoef, who met at length and worked through the various issues.
"I could see in Nonito's eyes that he just wanted to fight and I said what can I do," she said. "I talked to (Donaire's manager) Cameron Dunkin. He told me there was an open door from Todd and we got together. I sat with him for like three or four hours and we talked about what was important to Nonito. That was in mid-June and we were able to finish everything up."
Said duBoef: "We were able to settle the differences that occurred and now it is time to get back to the moment that we all created after his spectacular victory against Montiel. It's all about communication. Rachel and I spent numerous hours together working through the issues and it helped a lot. No hard feelings. Now we're just looking for great opportunities for Nonito."
Rachel Donaire said the deal was agreed to in late June and signed on July 15 before being announced this week.
"Nonito is happy with it," she said. "He's not hard to please. He was not asking for crazy stuff. We've been with Top Rank for three years and I see what happened as like we have a marriage with Top Rank and it was just miscommunication.
"There were a lot of little things he was getting irked about. He wanted more fights, he didn't want to fight B-level opponents. Nonito believed he had been shorted on (the number of) fights owed to him. Top Rank believed he wasn't. That was a big thing, but we worked it out. He just wants to be active and fight top fighters," she said.
Rachel Donaire said she wrote to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer to explain the situation. She also said the $350,000 signing bonus Golden Boy gave to Nonito would be returned.
"Golden Boy accommodated us and were really nice to us," she said. "But it was important for Nonito to get back to the ring. The belts mean a lot to him and he didn't want to be stripped because he was inactive."
Said Nonito Donaire: "I was able to sit down and figure out the fight map, which both Top Rank and I could agree with. Having a shared goal now, and working together, I'm certain will only make for better fights and better boxing, now and in the future. I am really happy with and proud of my team, especially my manager Cameron Dunkin, and my wife, Rachel, for helping us come to the best solution to recent issues we addressed together."
Donaire won his first world title in 2007 when he starched Vic Darchinyan with one punch in the fifth round to win a flyweight belt. He made three title defenses before moving up to junior bantamweight, where he won an interim belt with a decision against Rafael Concepcion in August 2009. He made one defense before moving up to bantamweight in December to score an impressive fourth-round knockout of former titlist Wladimir Sidorenko, which set up his shot at Montiel in February.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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