MANILA, Philippines - Newly crowned WBA featherweight champion Nonito Donaire, Jr. said the other day he’ll stick it out in the 126-pound division to clean up the ranks before moving up to the superfeatherweight class with his next fight set in October under the terms of a renewed Top Rank contract for another 18 months.
Donaire, wife Rachel and their 10-month-old son Jarel left Manila for Las Vegas yesterday morning. Donaire, 31, arrived here last March to train for his May 31 fight against WBA featherweight titlist Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa in Macau. The day after the fight, he came back to Manila with his family, enjoyed a vacation in Boracay and attended to family matters. Donaire said he’ll be back in Manila in August to train for his next bout whether it’s in Macau or the US.
“My next fight was originally scheduled in September but I’ll need a little more time for my cut to heal,” said Donaire who suffered a deep gash that took 11 stitches to close from the Vetyeka bout. “I don’t really know who my next opponent is. It’s Top Rank that decides and Bob (Arum) has the final say. I’m ready to fight anyone they put me up against. I could fight any of the other world featherweight champions like the WBC’s Jhonny Gonzalez but he’s promoted by Golden Boy or the WBA’s Nicholas Walters or the IBF’s Evgeny Gradovich. Or I could do a rematch against Vetyeka.”
Donaire said after suffering the cut over his left eye near the end of the first round, he became disoriented. “I was confused and out of it,” he recalled. “I didn’t sit down between rounds and my father told me to snap out of it. I couldn’t see well out of my left eye but I didn’t want them to stop the fight. What opened the cut couldn’t have been a punch because I got hit by something that was harder than his punch. Looking at the video later, I found out I was hit by an elbow then got butted.”
Donaire admitted that he was worried the fight would be stopped and Vetyeka would retain the title by technical knockout if the referee ruled the cut was opened by a legal blow. “That’s when I tried to end it right away,” he said. “I gave it all I had. I knew that the longer the fight took, the more I would be at a disadvantage because of the cut. I went after him on instinct. It was like I memorized my movements. I felt good, though, and I thought I fought well. I worked hard in the gym and it paid off. I used my legs and threw combinations. What I planned to execute, I did. Vetyeka wasn’t a pushover. He came in with knockout wins over two world champions Chris John and Daud Yordan so I fought a tough guy.”
Donaire said he never told referee Luis Pabon to stop it at the end of the fourth round. “I was asked if I could continue,” he said. “I told the referee I couldn’t see well out of my left eye. So they stopped it and went to the scorecards. Now that I’ve reviewed the fight on tape, I saw Vetyeka didn’t do much even if I had a cut. I hurt him in the third and put him down in the fourth. Come to think of it, he doesn’t deserve a rematch but I promised it. So if Top Rank wants to do a rematch, I’m fine with it. I also wanted a rematch with (Guillermo) Rigondeaux and it never happened. So I don’t know if a rematch with Vetyeka will ever happen.”
Donaire said fighting in Macau was a memorable experience. “I thought it was cool,” he said. “I think about 90 percent of the crowd was Filipino so it was like I was fighting at home. My conditioning coach Mike Bazzel acted as my cutman and did a great job of keeping me in the fight from the second to the fourth round. I also want to thank Dr. (Rui) Furtado for stitching me up in the dressing room. It took about 30 minutes. Dr. Furtado didn’t need to sew up the inside of the cut, only the outside, although it was very deep.” Dr. Furtado, a Portuguese, is head surgeon at the acute care public Macau hospital Conde S. Januario.
Donaire said for his next fight, he prefers to start training here with his father Nonito, Sr. “I’ll come back in August and set up camp,” he said. “If the fight is in Macau, I’ll stay on until a week before the fight. If it’s in the US, I’ll leave a month before.”
Asked if he’d like to move up to the 130-pound division, Donaire said he’s postponing the jump. “I’ll stay around in the featherweight division for a while,” he said. “I feel good at 126. There are other world featherweight champions out there to fight. I’m not in a hurry. My power is intact and I’m moving well. I’ll know when the time comes to move up.”
Under the terms of his renewed Top Rank contract, Donaire will fight twice or thrice in a year. With a fight set in October, Donaire will fight twice or thrice more before the contract expires at the end of next year.