It was hard for Glenn Donaire to walk away from boxing in 2008, but it was the right thing to do at the time, he felt.
Despite having just lost a decision to Ulises Solis in a challenge for the IBF junior flyweight title, Donaire, who is the older brother of THE RING’s No. 5 pound for pound fighter, Nonito Donaire, was still ranked highly in the sanctioning bodies and could have secured another shot at a world title had he hung around a while longer.
Yet, despite his status as a ranked contender, boxing wasn’t Donaire’s full-time job. He was a truck driver by day, delivering goods for the Philippines-based bakery chain Red Ribbon in his hometown of San Leandro, Calif. When his mother, a home caregiver, lost her job due to the economic downturn, Glenn put his priorities first and took a higher paying job as an electrician to help his parents make ends meet.
“I was ranked number two by the WBO at that time so it really hurt,” said Donaire (19-4-1, 10 knockouts), who is married with two kids of his own to support.
“We really appreciated what he did because he wants to box before but he can’t really focus on it because he has a family,” said Nonito Donaire Sr., Glenn’s father and trainer. “It was like boxing is his part time job so he’s not really focused on it.”
Now, four years later, Donaire is still just 32 and is back in the ring and in striking range of another world title shot at after having won a pair of comeback fights over the last ten months.
Donaire’s next fight is against former title challenger Omar Soto (22-9-2, 15 KOs) this Friday in Tampa, Fla., which will be televised on Telemundo (11:35 p.m. EST). A victory could earn him a shot at the winner of the much-postponed WBO/WBA flyweight title unification bout between Brian Viloria and Hernan Marquez.
In a role reversal of sorts, Donaire’s parents, so appreciative of his sacrifice, are now supplementing Glenn’s income so that he can train full-time.
Despite lost time, Donaire is optimistic about his career, and for good reason.
During his first run as a boxer, he says he could only train four days a week due to his responsibilities as a truck driver; now as a full-time boxer he can train six days a week, twice a day. Donaire says he fought as a flyweight because he couldn’t cut down to his natural weight of 105 pounds on four days of training a week.
“People don’t know, I fight without sparring because there’s no one my size to spar,” said Donaire.
The size disparity between him and his natural flyweight opponents was none more noticeable when he entered the ring to face then-IBF flyweight beltholder Vic Darchinyan in 2006 in his first title opportunity. The bout ended prematurely on a six-round technical decision after a Darchinyan elbow was ruled to have broken Donaire’s jaw.
“When Darchinyan stood up in front of him, you can’t find Glenn, he was so small,” said Donaire Sr.
Donaire would get a measure of revenge the following year when his brother knocked Darchinyan out in five rounds the following year in what was deemed the Knockout of the Year by THE RING.
At the time, Donaire walked around at 115 pounds, barely draining to make 112 pounds. Today he is a big flyweight, walking around at 135 pounds and struggling to cut to the flyweight limit, having packed on muscle from a weight lifting program during his break.
In Soto, Donaire is facing a three-time world title challenger who is also 32 years old but may be longer in the tooth due to the high caliber of opposition he has faced so far. Soto, of Mexico City, has not fought since last October when he was knocked out by one uppercut against WBA junior flyweight titleholder Roman Gonzalez in what was one of the most vicious knockouts of 2011.
“You can’t really judge him on his last fight because he only got three days notice for that fight,” said Donaire. “I don’t know why he went down on that one punch because when he fought Brian [Viloria], he got caught with so many solid shots and just stood there. He went on to lose a split decision [Viloria] in the Philippines, so this guy — you can’t really underestimate him, he’s fought everybody.”
In addition to an increase in size and strength, his father also notices a difference in the in-ring temperament of Donaire, one that could elicit comparisons to his younger brother.
“I know he’s a very nice kid but I told him, ‘Don’t be nice inside the ring. Inside the ring, that is your enemy. Once the bell rings, be mean,’ That’s what I told him,” said Donaire Sr.
“That’s the problem before, it’s kind of like if he starts talking with his opponent, he thinks it’s only sparring. Now he’s pretty mean the night before, a lot of changes.”
When asked which path he intends to walk towards en route to another title opportunity, nationalism begins to take over. Donaire, who was born in General Santos City, Philippines, the hometown of Manny Pacquiao, says he would prefer to circumvent Viloria, who defeated him and his brother in the 2000 Olympic trials, preferring to challenge one of the three remaining titleholders.
“Why fight a fellow Filipino fighter if you can fight another champion out there?” said Donaire. “And imagine if all Filipinos held the belts at 112, that’d be something else, huh? That’d be history.
“God willing my next fight will be a title fight, but I’m not far away from it. All I have to do is keep winning, stay in shape and just fight every fight like it’s important to me.”
Photo / Jonathan Ferrey-Gettyimages
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
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