The Boxing Writers Association of America has named San Leandro’s Nonito Donaire the Sugar Ray Robinson Award recipient for 2012 Fighter of the Year.
The 30-year-old “Filipino Flash” beat out a field that included longtime friend Robert Guerrero of Gilroy, recent Manny Pacquiao conqueror Juan Manuel Marquez, junior welterweight king Danny Garcia, and flyweight titlist Brian Viloria, who as an amateur eliminated Donaire in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials.
The announcement also marks the second straight year that a Northern California native has won the award, as Oakland’s Andre Ward was the BWAA’s choice in 2011.
“It’s always an honor to receive an award like that,” Donaire told CSNBayArea.com earlier this month when asked about his chances of capturing Fighter of the Year. “With ‘Dre winning last year, and me and Robert in the running this year, it just shows you we have great fighters here in the Bay Area.”
Donaire (NorCal No. 2; 31-1, 20 KOs), who earned the lion’s share of votes from the BWAA’s full members, went a spotless 4-0 with two knockouts in 2012, sending each of his opponents to the canvas at least once in the process.
Despite abdicating his 118-pound bantamweight throne and ascending four pounds to face heavier foes in the junior featherweight division, the East Bay star would close the year with three new title belts to add to his collection (WBO, IBF, Ring Magazine).
The quality of competition Donaire fought was also exemplary, especially in an era where elite boxers rarely appear more than two or three times per year. All four of Donaire’s vanquished rivals—Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka, and Jorge Arce—were either current or former titleholders at 122 pounds.
“Nonito came into his own in 2012,” said Donaire’s promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum in a press release. “He will do even greater things in 2013 and beyond. He will become the next big pay-per-view star.”
Perhaps what elevated Donaire to another level with voters was his decision to become the first fighter in the history of combat sports to submit to year-round random drug testing administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
The victor’s success was further reflected by the presence of his team members in the BWAA’s other categories. Donaire’s cornerman Robert Garcia won the Eddie Futch Award for Trainer of the Year, and Cameron Dunkin was a finalist for the Cus D’Amato Manager of the Year Award.
“Robert Garcia truly deserves the award as 2012 Trainer of the Year,” Arum said. “As the best young trainer in boxing, his future is tremendous.”
Donaire will receive his award at the BWAA’s annual banquet, which is slated to take place in New York City, but the date and venue have not yet been finalized. He has already earned Fighter of the Year honors from several media outlets, including CSNBayArea.com, ESPN.com, BoxingScene.com, and Yahoo! Sports.
Donaire’s 2013 campaign is scheduled to commence on April 13, but his opponent is still to be determined. He and his wife Rachel are expecting their first child this summer.
NORCAL’S POWER IN NUMBERS ON WORLD STAGE
• Guerrero (NorCal No. 3; 31-1-1, 18 KOs), who recovered from shoulder surgery to post back-to-back wins in his first two bouts as a welterweight, appeared in multiple categories.
In addition to his nomination for Fighter of the Year, the 29-year-old Gilroy southpaw was also a finalist for the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Award for Fight of the Year following his exhilarating 12-round decision win over Andre Berto.
Although Guerrero would come away empty-handed this time, “The Ghost” received the Bill Crawford Award for Courage in Overcoming Adversity when he temporarily put his career on hold to tend to his wife Casey, who was battling leukemia. The disease has since gone into remission.
Guerrero’s team was also recognized; his father Ruben was nominated for Trainer of the Year, and Luis DeCubas Jr. was a finalist for Manager of the Year. DeCubas shares managerial duties of Guerrero with Bob Santos.
• Alfredo Angulo (22-2, 18 KOs), who recently relocated his camp from Southern California to Hayward to work with trainer Virgil Hunter, was a finalist for the Bill Crawford Award. The junior middleweight contender spent almost eight months in an immigration detention center due to visa issues, but was eventually released and recorded two straight victories in 2012.
Hunter, last year’s BWAA Trainer of the Year, was nominated once again in 2012, not only for his accomplishments with Oakland super middleweight champion Andre Ward, but also a burgeoning stable of fighters that includes San Francisco’s Karim Mayfield and former world titleholder Amir Khan.
• San Jose’s Don Chargin, CSNBayArea.com’s reigning NorCal Promoter of the Year, was among the final five nominees for the Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award. Chargin celebrated his 61st year in the business with a multitude of local shows, packing venues from Fairfield to Woodland in 2012.
2012 BWAA AWARD WINNERS
• Sugar Ray Robinson Award (Fighter of the Year): Nonito Donaire
• Eddie Futch Award (Trainer of the Year): Robert Garcia
• Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Award (Fight of the Year): Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (IV)
• Cus D’Amato Award (Manager of the Year): Al Haymon
• Bill Crawford Award (Courage in Overcoming Adversity): Daniel Jacobs
• Sam Taub Award (Excellence in Broadcast Journalism): Max Kellerman
• Barney Nagler Award (Long and Meritorious Service): Kathy Duva, Bruce Trampler
• Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award: Steve Farhood
• Nat Fleischer Award (Excellence in Boxing Journalism): Dave Kindred
• A.J. Liebling Award (Outstanding Boxing Writing): Peter Finney
LATER THIS WEEK: Check out Inside Fight Sports for a look at some of our local boxers’ respective predictions for Super Bowl XLVII.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.