Nonito Donaire: ‘I have a lot left in me’
Nonito Donaire truly looked and sounded like a beaten fighter after being stopped in the sixth round by featherweight rival Nicholas Walters in October.
Donaire was cut over the lid of his nearly swollen shut right eye and there was a purplish bruise high on the cheekbone beneath it. The left eye was not much better, exhibiting a gash on the far side of its eyelid. A four-division titlist, Donaire lost his WBA title after being stopped for the first time in his career.
“He knocked the f–king s–t out of me; that’s for sure. I thought that I would be good in this weight class but I’m getting older,” said Donaire of Walters, who floored him with a right uppercut in the third round and dropped him for good, face-first, with a right to the temple at the 2:59 mark of the sixth.
“But I’m not going to take anything away from Walters. I was at my best. I’ve never trained this hard. I’ve never, ever, ever trained this hard. I mean, I was away from my family. I knew exactly what kind of power and person that he is inside of that ring. He came out as tough as I thought he would be and the size that he had over me, I couldn’t move. He was amazing and he overwhelmed me and he knocked the s–t out of me.”
Asked by HBO’s Max Kellerman if he would return to the junior featherweight division or if he was “done,” Donaire considered retirement, saying, “We’re looking at it.”
“We’ll decide. I mean, I came out here with a great champion. I never backed down from any fight,” said Donaire, in part. “I came in here because Walters is an amazing fighter and he’s worthy of that chance. I came in here and he beat the s–t out of me.”
But a “rejuvenated” Donaire (33-3, 21 knockouts) changed his tune during a Tuesday interview with RingTV.com, mentioning a potential return in March to either the 122 or 126-pound divisions, among other things.
Donaire also embraced the potential for a return bout with Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), if not bouts opposite RING No. 2-ranked WBC junior featherweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz, RING No. 3-ranked featherweight Abner Mares or RING No. 4-rated WBO beltholder Vasyl Lomachenko, who, like Donaire and Walters, is also promoted by Top Rank Promotions.
“When I was interviewed after the fight, I was still overwhelmed. I believe with the proper training that I could be right back in the mix. The guy was good. The guy was very hungry. I felt his hunger inside of that ring. But I felt that looking back at the fight now, if I had a better game plan…I mean, this guy looked at me for a long time in boxing,” said Donaire, 32.
“Walters came up to me in the ring and said that he was one of my biggest fans and that he looked up to me. He knew exactly who I was. He studied me throughout and he knew exactly what he needed to do. But I do feel as if I can compete with the likes of those guys. I’m ready to get off to a fresh start. I’m not worried about getting knocked out, cut or losing. I’m ready to step up and take all of my experience and being better.”
In his previous fight in May at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China, Donaire had scored a fifth-round technical decision that dethroned Simpiwe Vetyeka as WBA beltholder, scoring a knockdown in round four and surviving headbutts 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.
“The thing about that fight with Walters is that it woke me up. It really woke me up to honestly see where I’m at and I have a lot left in me. It’s just a matter of being focused and doing it right and being and not doing all of this other stuff that I’ve been doing. I really took that loss as a positivity for me. I wasn’t down. Trust me, man; I don’t feel good. I know that I went down [via technical knockout] for the first time and I really took that as a learning experience,” said Donaire.
“It was something that really brought me back to where and who I want to be. Right after that, actually, like, two or three weeks after that, I returned to training right away. I was back in the gym, hired a strength trainer, hired a nutritionist and so far, it’s been really good. It’s been really, really good. I’ve been watching lots of fights. It really woke me up. I want to be in this game and I want to compete with those guys. I’ve never felt this good. That’s all that I can really say about that.”
The rematch with Darchinyan helped Donaire to bounce back from a loss by unanimous decision in April 2013 to Guillermo Rigondeaux, who added Donaire’s RING and WBO junior featherweight championships to the WBA title he already owned.
“Walters and Rigondeaux, they’re both undefeated champions, so I don’t think about that. That’s one thing that I have is that I accept being a regular person and that we do make mistakes and that we do fall. That doesn’t bother me at all. It just pushes me to get stronger and to get better,” said Donaire.
“Because it’s not about how you fall, it’s about getting up and it’s about getting better and better each and every single time. A lot of fighters have their pride and that’s because they’re fighters. I’m a fighter when I get inside of that ring. But the fate of humanity is that we do fall sometimes. But we have to get up and learn from it and get better and be stronger.”