Saturday, November 26, 2022  |


‘Rejuvenated’ Nonito Donaire could return at 122 or 126 pounds

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions


A “rejuvenated” Nonito Donaire said he could return to the ring either as a junior featherweight or a featherweight as early as March and the former four-division titleholder applauded the possible fights available given the recent “end to the Cold War.”

“I think that I can do both weight classes. I can go down in weight or I could go up in weight,” said Donaire during a Tuesday interview with “I think that I’m right there on that cusp where I can do both and be strong in both. It’s just a matter of me settling in.”

Coming off a sixth round technical knockout loss to Jamaican Nicholas Walters (25-0, 21 knockouts) in October that cost him the WBA featherweight title, Donaire (33-3, 21 KOs) embraced the potential for facing RING No. 2-ranked WBC junior featherweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz or RING No. 3-ranked featherweight Abner Mares, a three-division titlewinner.

“There are now a lot of fights out there that are now possible,” said Donaire, 32. “You’ve the Mares fight; you’ve got the Santa Cruz fight. You’ve got all of these guys that people have wanted to watch for a long time, so it’s exciting.”

Those possibilities exist thanks to the quashed acrimony between Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya, who has promoted Santa Cruz and Mares, and Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum, who handles fighters such as Donaire and Walters.

“We should have been doing these fights a long time ago,” said Donaire. “There should never be a war between the promoters. It should be a war in the ring between the fighters. Boxing should always be about making the best fights possible for the fans.”

Managed by Cameron Dunkin and counseled by his wife, Rachel, Donaire also mentioned RING No. 4-rated WBO beltholder Vasyl Lomachenko, a southpaw who is also promoted by Top Rank. RING No. 5-rated IBF featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich is also promoted by Top Rank.

“There’s a lot of guys out there like Santa Cruz and you’ve got Lomachenko. You’ve got Mares. You’ve got Walters. You’ve got all of these guys. But there is no point in racing with a flat tire. It’s about being confident in my abilities to go back and beat these guys. It’s about building up and being strong,” said Donaire.

“They’re looking at a return in March and whatever they decide, I’ll be ready…But there’s no point in going in there and saying it’s going to be a close fight. I want to be able to go in there and say that I’m going to beat these guys and that it’s not going to be close. I want to go in there and to set my whole career off again in that direction.”

Walters and Donaire entered the fight as the No. 3- and No. 4-ranked featherweights by THE RING and are now rated Nos. 2 and 6, respectively. Donaire said he would give Walters the edge against RING No. 1-rated 126-pounder Jhonny Gonazlez, the WBC titleholder.

“In terms of comparing those two, I think that he’s above the level of Gonzalez. Gonzalez may have more pop in his hands but I think Walters is stronger and faster and in terms of his ability to think, I think that he’s better than Gonzalez. Jhonny Gonzalez is a great champion but I think that Walters has it over him overall. In terms of his ability, his speed, Walters is not as fast as he claims to be,” said Donaire.

“But his power is definitely heavy. One thing with Walters is that he is smarter than people give him credit for being with the way that he moves and the way that he thinks in the ring. He’s a very clever fighter and that’s something that I overlooked. He’s a great champion and he’s a force to be reckoned with with those heavy hands to take you down. His size and height will be a factor against a lot of fighters.”

Donaire had scored a fifth-round technical decision that dethroned Simpiwe Vetyeka as WBA beltholder in his previous fight in May at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China. Donaire scored a knockdown in round four and survived headbutts against Vetyeka to win his seventh major title in a fourth weight class.

On the Donaire-Vetyeka undercard, Walters had thoroughly dominated two-division titleholder Vic Darchinyan en route to a fifth-round stoppage, flooring Darchinyan once in the second round and twice in round five.

Donaire has twice beaten Darchinyan, stopping him in the fifth round as flyweights in July 2007 and again for a come-from-behind ninth-round knockout in November of 2013, one bout prior to Darchinyan’s loss to Walters.

“It’s going to be about building up who I am and what I want to be in the future. Strength, speed, mentality and intelligence. For now, it’s about rebuilding myself. It’s about getting back into it and getting back into my abilities to trick people and to set up my combinations and to throw combinations,” said Donaire.

“I want to move around and to not get hit and to be smart while at the same time, making it exciting for people, you know? It’s just pretty much going to be about that. I’m rejuvenated, man; I really am. I’m excited. There are a lot of guys out there that I have my eyes on. I won’t pick and choose. I don’t really care who it is. Bring it on.”