NEW YORK — During Thursday night’s Boxing Writers’ Association of America dinner at The Capitale, RING, IBF and WBO junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire was named Fighter of The Year, his trainer, Robert Garcia, Trainer of The Year, and Juan Manuel Marquez’s sixth-round stoppage of Manny Pacquiao was honored as the Fight of The Year.
In advance of Saturday night’s HBO-televised clash with WBA beltholder Guillermo Rigondeaux at Radio City Music Hall, an emotional Donaire took the stage to receive the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy for 2012.
“This is an overwhelming experience. People look up to me. My hands are shaking, this is just an overwhelming feeling that has taken over my body,” said Donaire, who went 4-0 with two knockouts against former titleholders in 2012.
“I feel so privileged to be standing before everyone in this most prestigious attendance, with all of these legends. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be standing here, a man who was this small, frail, asthmatic little boy who was so scared that literally I pissed in my pants for my first fight. That was me. I peed in my pants my first fight because I was afraid.”
But Donaire is not afraid anymore.
In February, Donaire debuted as a junior featherweight with a split-decision victory over ex-beltholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. for the vacant WBO belt, then earned the IBF’s title by dethroning Jeffrey Mathebula by unanimous decision in July. Donaire dropped Vazquez in the ninth round, and Mathebula in the fourth.
In October and December, Donaire scored ninth- and third-round stoppages over ex-beltholders Toshiaki Nishioka and Jorge Arce. Nishioka hit the canvas in the sixth and ninth rounds, and Arce, once in the second and twice more in the third.
During his acceptance speech, Donaire spoke of being bullied a lot as a child — including being beat up by a girl in fifth grade — and revealed how a low self-esteem and depression nearly led to his suicide at the age of 10.
“I was the little kid that never had anything. I was the little kid that people made fun of. I was one of those kids that decided to try to take my own life,” said Donaire.
“I got to the crossroads. But it made me who I am. This person that I am. To be strong, and, no matter what, to keep trying. Without that experience — and people say that it was so bad — but I wouIdn’t change anything.”
Donaire, 30, is bolstered by the fact that his wife, Rachel, is pregnant with their first child, a son who will be named Jarel Michael.
ROBERT GARCIA NAMED TRAINER OF THE YEAR
Garcia, 38, was named the recipient of the Eddie Futch Award for Trainer of The Year for 2012.
Besides Donaire, Garcia guided his brother and current RING and WBO featherweight champ Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, junior welterweight Brandon Rios, former undisputed middleweight titleholder Kelly Pavlik and welterweight Marcos Maidana, among others.
Mikey Garcia scored all three of his victories by knockout, setting him up for January’s unanimous eight-round technical decision victory that dethroned Orlando Salido at Madison Square Garden.
Maidana rebounded from February’s loss to current IBF 147-pound beltholder Devon Alexander with consecutive stoppage wins. Pavlik went 3-0 with two knockouts as a super middleweight before retiring.
As for what will happen between Donaire and Rigondeaux on Saturday?
“Nonito has a chin and Nonito has the heart. Those are two things that I wonder, does Guillermo have them? When he’s in front of somebody like Nonito?” said Garcia.
“Will he have heart in front of somebody like Fernando Montiel or all of the other champions that Nonito has faced? I don’t think so. Guillermo has never fought anybody on that level, so those are all things that we’re going to see about this Saturday.”
CANCER-SURVIVING FIGHTER DANNY JACOBS RECEIVES COURAGE AWARD
Middleweight contender Danny Jacobs, 26, of Brooklyn, was the recepient of the Bill Crawford Award for Courage Overcoming Adversity.
Nicknamed “The Golden Child” and “Miracle Man,” Jacobs attended the dinner with his son, Nathaniel, 4, Godmother Dorothea Perry, and girlfriend Natalie Stevenson, Nathaniel’s mother.
Jacobs (24-1, 21 KOs) returned to boxing after overcoming paralysis caused by a large, malignant tumor on his spine, and has scored four straight stoppages since falling by fifth-round knockout to Dmitry Pirog in July of 2010.
Jacobs faced Pirog with a heavy heart, having endured the cancer-related death of his grandmother, Cordelia Jacobs, the previous weekend. Immediately after losing to Pirog, Jacobs had to fly back to New York to attend her funeral.
After being diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, Jacobs survived a nine-hour surgery to remove the tumor wrapped around his spine, chemotherapy and painful physical therapy.
In December, Jacobs won his second fight since returning from his ring absence by scoring a Showtime-televised knockout over Chris “The Irish Ghost” Fitzpatrick (15-3, 6 KOs), of Cleveland, who retired on his stool prior to the sixth round. The fight took place on undercard of Austin Trout’s unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Jacobs is slated to return to the ring at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on the April 27 undercard of a Showtime-televised main event featuring RING junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia against ex-beltholder Zab Judah.
In addition, Jacobs has launched a philanthropic foundation called, “Get In The Ring,” focusing on cancer support, obesity and bullying. The three causes are close to Jacobs’ heart, and the boxer plans to raise funds and awareness for each of them as well as using his own life experiences to connect with and uplift others.
THE REST OF THE AWARDS
Below is the complete list.
2012 BWAA Award Winners
Nonito Donaire: The Sugar Ray Robinson Award, Fighter of the Year
Robert Garcia: The Eddie Futch Award, Trainer of the Year
Juan Manuel Marguez-Manny Pacquiao IV: The Ali-Frazier Award, Fight of the Year
Al Haymon: The Cus D’Amato Award, Manager of the Year
Kathy Duva & Bruce Trampler: The Barney Nagler Award, Long & Meritorious Service
Steve Farhood: The Marvin Kohn Award, Good Guy
Danny Jacobs: The Bill Crawford Award, Courage Overcoming Adversity
Peter Finney: The A.J. Liebling Award, Outstanding Boxing Writer
Dave Kindred: The Nat Fleischer Award, Excellence In Boxing Journalism
Max Kellerman: The Sam Taub Award, Excellence in Broadcast Journalism
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo courtesy of Danny Jacobs
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]