WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. is wrapping up a whirlwind thanksgiving tour, his first trip back to the Philippines in over six months. He has been spending the last few days making the rounds of media, greeting fans and seeing family and friends. Donaire leaves Sunday for the US, where he will be spending the holidays with a big celebration for four sensational victories this year.
Donaire arrived in the early morning hours on Wednesday, and proceeded straight to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Centre for a string of important interviews for the morning program Umagang Kay Ganda, Korina Sanchez’s “Rated K,” Ted Failon’s DZMM radio program, a press conference brunch, an appearance (and song performance) on “Showtime!” and interviews with Boom Gonzalez of Balls Channel and this writer for the ABS-CBN News Channel sports talk show “Hardball”. Then it was off to his hotel for a couple of hours’ rest, then a return to ABS-CBN for more interviews. This was also the first time he was traveling without his wife, Rachelle.
Donaire was starting to feel some pangs of homesickness. The last time he was back in the Philippines was between his first two fights this year. Since then, he had hardly been out of the gym, with no more than two weeks off to rest between bouts. And he confessed that he likes it that way.
“The plan is to fight four times again next year. I like it that way because I feel I’m stronger and getting better. The Arce fight just happened, and my hand was perfect,” he said, referring to the stitches on his injured left knuckle which ruptured during the Nishioka fight three months ago. “It was the perfect fight.”
Donaire had even more incentive to win since he was fighting just a week after Manny Pacquiao had been knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez. He felt the impact of that devastating loss on his countrymen, and wanted to lift their spirits up for the holiday season.
“I saw the low in our pride, the sadness,” said the charismatic General Santos City native. “I wanted to do something to give Filipinos that pride back, hold their head up and hold that flag higher and higher.”
I asked Donaire what his plans were. If he continues on his unification path, he will face either WBA champion Abner Mares or WBC king Guillermo Rigondeaux in March or April. Donaire and Mares have already called each other out publicly, but Donaire’s promoter Bob Arum may prefer a clash with the explosive Rigondeaux first. The former Olympic champion is undefeated in 11 professional fights, having won eight by knockout. But Donaire isn’t sitting still, not for anybody.
“That’s the fight I want to happen. But I know not to wait for anyone,” the Filipino Flash told this writer. “If they can’t make it happen, then I’ll move up in weight.”
I asked Jun what he would feel if his children would eventually decide to follow his footsteps and pursue a career in boxing.
“I would love for them to have a sport, not necessarily boxing. But if they choose boxing, I’ll train the heck out of them,” he laughed. “Because I know what it takes. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, you’re drained. They better not complain.”
Because of the confluence of circumstances, I asked about the comparisons between him and Pacquiao, amid all the irrational calls for the Pacman to retire. His response was very frank. He didn’t listen to all that talk. He just went out and did what he had to do. That’s what makes a Fighter of the Year.