MANILA, Philippines - In a private courtesy call at Malacañang Palace the other day, WBO superbantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. said he was advised by President Aquino to be aware of signs that signal when it’s time to retire from the ring and move on.
“I really appreciate the President’s time and advice,” said Donaire who spent about an hour conversing with the Chief Executive. “I know how hard it is for fighters to retire. The President advised me to be smart, to do what’s best for my family. There’s more to life than boxing. He told me I’ll know when it’s time to stop. He’s an awesome President. I remember when he was just newly elected, I called on him and he shared his plans on how to move our country forward. Now, he’s already accomplished so much. There’s still a lot he wants to do and the President is on track.”
Donaire said President Aquino watched his recent fight against Jorge Arce on TV. “He congratulated me for the win and for making our people proud,” he said. “I can’t thank the President enough for inspiring me to bring honor to our country.”
Donaire enjoys a special relationship with the Aquino family which took him in as an adopted son three years ago. He dedicated his win over Rafael Concepcion for the interim WBA superflyweight title to the late Senator Ninoy and President Cory Aquino in 2009. For the fight, Donaire wore a yellow robe with the inscriptions “IMO (in memory of) former President Cory Aquno” and yellow fighting shorts with “Aquino” emblazoned on the back waistband.
Donaire arrived here last Wednesday and leaves tomorrow for Las Vegas to reunite with wife Rachel on Christmas Day. He is in town to fulfill TV commitments arranged by his local entertainment agent Shirley Kwan. A plan to visit his Japanese godfather Dr. Osamu Kato in Tokyo was postponed. Donaire’s in-laws Gerry and Becky Marcial flew in yesterday to spend the holidays here with daughter Nicole who is enrolled in a nursing course.
Donaire, 30, said he would’ve sat out the rest of the year after halting Toshiaki Nishioka last October if Arce didn’t come along. “I thought Arce would be an easy target and besides, our fight had been on-and-off the last four or five years,” he said. “So it was time to do it. It was a fight that had to be done sooner or later. I also wanted to test my hands, if they had healed properly. I knew Arce would be tough but I also knew he would be easy to hit.”
Donaire said he sparred at least 75 rounds for Arce and there was no problem with his left hand until the last day of sparring. The left hand bled when he outpointed Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. early this year and when he stopped Nishioka. Luckily, there was no fracture or broken bones. The skin was split open and required eight stitches to sew up after he trounced Nishioka. “On my last sparring day, the wound opened up a bit,” he said. “But it wasn’t a problem during the fight. I used my left to knock out Arce and the hand was fine. There was no pain and no bleeding.”
At the moment, Donaire said he wants to relax and enjoy the Christmas season. “I’m taking a long rest,” he said. “I don’t know if Bob (Arum) has spoken with my manager (Cameron Dunkin) about the possibility of fighting in Macau next year. Right now, all I’m looking forward to is a good vacation. Then, after the New Year celebrations, I go back to the gym.”
Donaire said he’ll try to stay busy next year. “If I can do four fights, I’ll do it,” he said. “I could go four fights again if possible like I did this year. I don’t choose my opponents. I’ll fight whomever is out there, regardless who it is, I’m ready for anybody. I can still fight at 122 and maybe, even go up to 126. My wish list includes (WBC champion) Abner Mares and (WBA champion) Guillermo Rigondeaux. If (Yuriorkis) Gamboa will go down to 126, I’ll take him on, too.”
Donaire said he felt no sympathy for Arce until after their bout. “We’re friends,” he said. “I was worried after the fight. But he was okay. Even if we’re friends outside the ring, I promised to give it all I’ve got to win the fight. He told me we’ll remain friends, that it was an honor to fight me, that I’m a great champion. I really appreciate that.”