Donaire readies himself for another title opportunity
It is amazing what could occur in a year’s time.
Back in October of last year, Nonito Donaire had been stopped by Nicholas Walters and some wondered whether the Filipino fighter would even continue with his boxing career.
Fast forward to today and Donaire has won twice since. More importantly, he feels re-energized and eager to make the most out of another title opportunity.
Donaire will attempt to win the vacant WBO junior featherweight title (recently stripped from RING champion Guillermo Rigondeaux) when he faces Cesar Juarez Friday night at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The 12-round bout will open the truTV ‘MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout’ broadcast, which begins at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT.
The loss to Walters on that night in Carson, Calif. opened Donaire’s eyes. While Donaire is a gifted fighter with tremendous punching power, he came to realize after the fight that he is too small to compete as a featherweight.
“I had to get back to where I was,” Donaire told RingTV in a recent interview. “It made me realize I took things for granted. Mentally, I had to get back and be honest with myself that I’m not that big.
Donaire (35-3, 23 knockouts) dropped down to 122 pounds and has scored two stoppage wins over modest opposition earlier this year.
He faces Juarez, who has won his last four consecutive bouts over the last two-and-a-half years. Juarez holds an eight-round majority decision win over former world title challenger Cesar Seda and is coming off a 12-round unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Sanchez on July 25.
While many favor Donaire to win convincingly Friday night, Donaire is not overlooking his opponent.
“He’s a tough guy,” said Donaire, who is promoted by Top Rank Promotions. “He’s going to go in there and he’s going to do his thing. He’s going to make it rough and tough. He’s going to go in there and push and push and push. We’re not going to allow him to do that.”
Donaire has been fighting as a pro since Feb. of 2001. The abuse his body has taken over the years may have also affected him mentally, especially in the lead-up to his fight against Walters.
Outside of the ring, Donaire is the father of two small boys and the responsibilities of fatherhood and being a husband to his wife Rachel may have meant spending less time in the gym.
But the Walters loss seems to have reinvigorated Donaire. Going back to basics and using the same approach he used that led him to his first major title in 2007 is what Donaire currently utilizes.
“I’ve been really focusing on creating good habits. That includes waking up early and going to the gym with high energy and being grateful for everything that we’ve been through. The mental state is pretty much what we’ve been working on and going over there (Puerto Rico) with excitement rather than say, ‘It’s just another (fight).'”
Donaire will likely win another major belt on Friday night. The likelihood of bigger fights with bigger paydays will present itself in 2016 for Donaire.
The losses to Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013 may have humbled Donaire to the point of which he does not take anything for granted, especially in boxing.
He hopes to achieve greater success, now more than ever.
“I’m grateful for everything. Gratification for me has been the key and aiming to go higher from where we’re at. I’m trying to be a better fighter now than I ever was and taking it day by day. I’m not taking for granted this opportunity and situation that I’m in.
“I’ve lived my life to the fullest. There were some doubts in me but I’m ready for anything and I know who I am.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.