Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |



Nonito Donaire Jr. returns to junior featherweight for comeback fight

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

MANILA, Philippines – There have been plenty of fights where Nonito Donaire Jr. has had to wear sunglasses afterwards to conceal his battle marks.

Thursday’s press conference was one of the few times that the Filipino-American boxer has had to wear them before a fight. Donaire Jr. brought out the shades early as he sat upon the dais to discuss his fight on Saturday against Brazilian William Prado at Araneta Coliseum in Metro Manila, Philippines.

When he removed them to address the crowd, his eyes appeared sunk into his skull and squinty. At age 32, the four-division champion is moving back down to the junior featherweight division for the first time in two years in hopes of reinvigorating his career. It’s a sacrifice that he’s all too familiar with.

“For everybody that goes through making weight, it’s always a process. There’s never a world champion that doesn’t go through that,” said Donaire, who is stepping down to the weight where he won the BWAA Fighter of the Year award in 2012, following his knockout loss to Nicholas Walters in October.

“It’s something that we’re used to and it’s something that we’re capable of. There’s never once where I failed to make a weigh-in.”

Donaire no-showed the media workout on Tuesday and was seen chewing gum and spitting into a cup at Wednesday’s Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Awards ceremony.

For this camp, Donaire (32-3, 21 knockouts) trained for two weeks at the ALA Gym in Cebu City, sweating it out in the tropical heat that routinely hit the upper 80s. There he has sparred between 50-60 rounds with Filipino boxer Roli Gasca and Japanese contender Ryo Akaho (25-1-2, 17 KOs), who fights Prosper Ankrah (24-4, 15 KOs) on the undercard.

Donaire’s father/trainer Nonito Donaire Sr didn’t appear concerned about his son’s ability to make weight, however.

“He’s gonna make 122 easy. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a world champion again,” said Donaire Sr.

“At first it wouldn’t go down to 130 at all,” said Donaire Jr. “But now as my body has started to adapt to it and it was very easy to get it down. Once my body started to adjust to it, it started to get easier.”

Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank

How well Donaire Jr. responds to the Walters loss, where he suffered his first two knockdowns and first stoppage defeat, will determine whether a step down in weight will be the reinvention he has looked for.

“That’s a question that a lot of people have after this previous fight. I’ve never gone down in my life, there’s a lot of questioning there in terms of do I still have it? I’ve lost it perhaps for a couple of years, people thought I was done and the thing about people is that we try to reinvent ourselves. I do feel that I’ve found that key to rise again.

“I’m not walking past Prado, who is an excellent fighter and a very dangerous fighter.”

Both Donaires agree that the Walters fight has led to a shift in training. Before, Donaire Jr. called the shots in the gym, and now he’s actively seeking out his father’s input during sessions. Donaire Sr. feels his son has to be more of a boxer-puncher than a slugger to prolong his career, a realization that Donaire Jr. has slowly come to accept.

“The thing about me now is that I’ve changed completely from a fighter with so much pride to a fighter who is thankful for everything,” said Donaire. “The moment that I got up off that canvas I was just thankful that I wasn’t hurt, that I wasn’t damaged. With that mentality, all I needed was to look forward to being better.

“I was never haunted by that defeat. I was never depressed in any way that it was haunting or daunting or any way negative in my brain. All I did was to rise up and be better. It brought me a new life to be a positive person and seek betterment.”


Prado looks for upset win

At the end of the dais, Prado was the subject of a peculiar mixup. Prado’s first language is Portuguese, but answered well when the Spanish translator unwittingly translated questions for him. After a moment of confusion, it was revealed that Prado spoke seamless English.

“Anybody can give Donaire a good fight at this point,” said Prado (22-4-1, 15 KOs) of Sao Paolo, Brazil. “If I beat him, this will change my life.”

The Donaire fight will be Prado’s fourth fight outside of his native country, with the previous three resulting in losses. The two times he has stepped up against world class competition – against champions-to-be Scott Quigg and Paulus Ambunda – ended in one-sided defeat.

The fight will be contested for the division’s NABF title, which would set him up with a prime ranking with the WBC, where Leo Santa Cruz holds a world title. Donaire says he’s hoping a fight with Santa Cruz materializes in the near future but isn’t closing the door on campaigning at 126 again in the future.

“I do believe that my body is getting bigger and if we train the proper route then we’ll try again,” said Donaire. “The thing about Filipinos and the thing about me as a fighter is, you can take me down. Drop me seven times, I’ll get up eight times. I’ll get up 20 times. I’ll get up more times than I’m down.

“You can keep taking me back to 126 and I’ll keep trying, as long as it’s safe for me.”

Meanwhile in the main event, making weight has just been another day at the office for Donnie Nietes, who received his RING belt for the junior flyweight division at Thursday’s press con.

Nietes (34-1-4, 20 KOs), of Bacolod City, Philippines, will meet Gilberto Parra (19-2, 17 KOs) in an optional defense before facing WBO mandatory Francisco Rodriguez Jr. later this year.

Nietes, 32, has been unbeaten for the past decade, while Parra, 22, is fighting outside of his home country for the first time in his career.



Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.