Nonito Donaire Jr. is no doubt a future first-ballot boxing Hall of Famer. He boasts an outstanding career that spans nearly two decades, winning 10 world titles in four weight classes. Known as “The Filipino Flash” because of his exceptional hand speed and formidable punching power, the boxer has won The Ring Magazine’s Knockout of the Year award twice and ranked as high as No.3 in the publication’s pound-for-pound list behind Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2011. He was also named Fighter of the Year in 2012 by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Although he already secured his place in the annals of Philippine boxing history, there is no stopping the switch-hitter from Talibon from adding more laurels to his remarkable résumé.
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On November 8 at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena, Donaire is set to duke it out with Japanese knockout artist Naoya Inoue in the finals of World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament. The competition features the division’s world champions and its top contenders in a single-elimination format. The Filipino will put his World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight strap on the line. On the other hand, Inoue seeks to add Donaire's title to the three he already has in possession: the regular version of the WBA title, the IBF belt, and The Ring belt. Aside from the four world titles at stake, the winner will also take home the coveted Muhammad Ali trophy.
Donaire is looking forward to the final in Saitama, and hopes for a great fight. “I have fought several world champions, and I will come well prepared. Inoue is an amazing fighter,” he says. “But I saw flaws in his semi-final match, and I think I can definitely create a game plan against him and win.”
When it was announced in 2018 that Donaire was included in the eight-man lineup of the tourney, most pundits counted him out. At that time, he was coming off a unanimous decision loss to then-featherweight titleholder Carl Frampton. Also, the last time he fought with a weight limit of 118 pounds was in 2011.
But Donaire rose to the occasion and proved his doubters wrong. In the quarter-finals, he defeated the No.2-seeded Ryan Burnett by way of fourth-round stoppage, punching his ticket to the next phase and capturing the WBA title.
The Boholano was originally penciled to face WBO champion Zolani Tete in the semifinals, but the latter pulled out of the match due to an injury that he sustained in training. As a result, he took on Stephon Young, whom he knocked out in the sixth round last April to successfully defend his title and earn a seat in the finals.
Even though he is riding high on a two-fight winning streak, Donaire knows not to be complacent. The 26-year-old Inoue is undefeated in 18 bouts since turning pro in 2012. Called by many as “The Monster,” the Japanese has emerged triumphant in 16 of his last 18 outings via knockout.
Inoue, who occupies the No.4 seat in The Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings, made his way to the finals in dominating fashion. He knocked out Dominican Republic’s Juan Carlos Payano and former IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez in just a combined three rounds of action. “He is one of the best boxers in the world right now. His professional record and ability in the ring speak for itself,” Donaire observes. “It’s an honor for me to face a talented and outstanding fighter life, and it’s also a great opportunity to bolster my legacy in this beautiful sport.”
Facing a Pinoy pugilist is not new to Inoue as he has three Filipinos on his list of victims; he effortlessly decimated Crison Omayao, Crison Omayao, and Warlito Parrenas in less than five rounds.
Nothing to prove
In a showdown that pits the feared fighter on the rise against an aging lion, it is clear that Donaire is the underdog entering the 12-round contest. But he is more than willing to prove as to why he is the perceived dark horse of the competition. “I’m very confident in this fight. I feel my power, my size and my experience will make a difference. My team is looking at a very, very strong Nonito Donaire going into this fight. And victory is something that we foresee in this fight,” he guarantees.
At almost 37 years old, with 45 fights under his belt, Donaire stressed that a good mindset, not a boxer’s physical age, is important to remain in tip-top condition. “Age is just a number. It’s the mental aspect—the training and the discipline—that’s what makes us young. You have to eat healthy, you have to do your blood test and see what is good for you. And for me, I know exactly what I need to eat and I stick to that,” he explains.
“I think my power has improved a lot, and I think I’m getting fast because of the work I’m doing. You have to have the right mentality to be the best,” Donaire adds. And even if Donaire manages to win over The Monster, he will consider the titles as a happy bonus. What is more important to him is the knowledge that, in the final stretch of his storied life in the ring, he could still hang with the best of the best.
“I am grateful for this chance,” he declares, “and I am making the most out of it.”