Filipino boxer Nonito Donaire
MANILA, Philippines – Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire was on top of the boxing world in 2012, winning an astonishing four fights and bagging Fighter of the Year honors from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
It was the culmination of a remarkable 12-year-run that saw Donaire win 29 consecutive bouts and earn championships across four different weight divisions.
But the dream run could not last forever.
Donaire faced off against Cuban champion Guillermo Rigondeaux in April 2013, and the former Olympic gold medalist proved to be a stylistic nightmare for “The Filipino Flash.” Although Donaire knocked down Rigondeaux in the 10th round, it would not be enough as he would lose via unanimous decision – his first defeat since 2001.
“2012 was an amazing year,” Donaire said Tuesday in a press conference. “But 2013 was a year of thought. It was a year of crossroads. It was year of questioning where I was, and what I wanted to do with boxing.”
“Those were the questions that flew in my head and hovered in my body and my mind,” he said.
Donaire answered those questions – somewhat – with a come-from-behind victory against rival Vic Darchinyan in their rematch in November 2013.
Yet his performance against the Armenian “Raging Bull” was far from spectacular, and Donaire needed a ninth-round knockout to salvage the victory, as he was trailing on two of the judges’ scorecards entering the round.
In his first fight of 2014, Donaire hopes to finally put the ghosts of 2013 to rest as he embarks on a new weight division and challenges dangerous South African Simpiwe Vetyeka for the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight title.
“2013 needed to happen,” Donaire said, “for me to be here.”
“The Filipino Flash” will be the first to admit that he was not fully focused on boxing in 2013. The impending birth of his first child, Jarel, was on his mind even as he fought Rigondeaux, although he refused to use that as an excuse for his lackluster performance.
“I won’t make any excuse with my son,” he said. “I would give everything for my son. I don’t want to make excuses for my lack of performance, but my son is amazing and will always be my number one.”
But Donaire is also eager to show that he has regained the form that once made him a top five pound-for-pound fighter, especially as he will enter the ring against Vetyeka as an underdog.
“I’m ready and willing to unleash my true potential, what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I’ve been winning for 12 years straight until I hit a wall that I am now climbing over.”
“The fight with Darchinyan was a fight that made me realize that I wanted to be here. I had injuries in my body and on my face, but I realized that I wanted to be here. This is what I want to do,” he added. “I want to give everything that I got for the people who love boxing.”
The bout against Vityeka on May 31 also marks the second time that Donaire will work with his father, Nonito Sr., since the two reconciled following Jarel’s birth last year. With his father back in his corner, Donaire cut a more relaxed figure, and seemed confident even though he won’t have his long-time trainer, Robert Garcia, in town for his training camp.
“It’s been amazing in terms of getting back (with my father). It’s like a flow, it’s like water,” he said. “It’s just flowing, that’s the one thing that’s beautiful about this relationship that we have right now.”
Nonito Sr. was Donaire’s primary trainer while he was growing up, and the boxer said they are merely returning to the basics of what they used to do in years past. The primary difference is that this time, Donaire said he is now watching game tape of his opponent, something he never used to do.
“You know, with my dad, he watches the tapes and now I do watch it as well,” he said.
“With my father, we’ve done this for such a long time growing up, just me and my father, and now we’re going back to that. He’s gonna bring the potential that I’ve been wanting to let show, and I feel that there’s a lot more in me that I can show,” he added.
With his father back in his corner, Donaire plans to use a more cerebral approach to boxing, instead of relying on his knockout power as he had done so in the past.
“I’m gifted with power, and I’m gifted with speed, but I do have to use this,” Donaire said, tapping his head.
Donaire said he is walking around at 140 pounds now, but is confident that he will have no problem making the 126-pound featherweight limit.
“We work really hard, and it’s gonna be easy knowing that the Philippines is really hot. It’s very humid. It’s gonna be easy,” he said.
He is set to train at the ALA Gym in Cebu until the first week of May, at which point he will return to Manila and train at the Elorde Gym.