Donaire vows to bring title back home

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It’s a promise that’s cast in stone as Nonito Donaire Jr. vowed to bring the WBO superbantamweight title back to the Philippines in battling Mexico’s No. 1 contender Cesar Juarez for the vacant crown at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this morning (Manila time).

Donaire, 33, reigned for nearly two years until he was dethroned by Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux on points in New York City in 2003. He’s the first and only Filipino to claim the WBO 122-pound belt. Four other Filipinos tried to take the title but were unsuccessful. Gerry Penalosa had two attempts but was stopped by Mexico’s Daniel Ponce de Leon in Texas in 2007 and by Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez in Bayamon in 2009. Marvin Sonsona was knocked out by Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo Vazquez in Bayamon in 2010. Manny Pacquiao was held to a sixth round technical draw by the Dominican Republic’s Agapito Sanchez in an IBF/WBO unification title fight in San Francisco in 2001 and Jesus Salud yielded to Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera on a sixth round stoppage in Las Vegas the year before.

The Donaire-Juarez bout was originally a title eliminator with Rigondeaux mandated to make a mandatory defense against the winner. But WBO president Paco Valcarcel grew tired of waiting for Rigondeaux to stay busy and stripped the Cuban of the crown for inactivity. Valcarcel then sanctioned the Donaire-Juarez fight as a match for the vacant WBO throne.

Donaire, who lost his WBA featherweight title to Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters in October last year, couldn’t believe his luck in finding himself back in the title picture so soon after a pair of knockout wins since his defeat to the unbeaten “Axe Man.” “I never expected I would get a chance to fight for the world title this year so this is a blessing and I’m grateful to God for making it happen,” Donaire told The STAR the other day.

Now that he’s in line for another world title, Donaire said it’s like old times with his father Nonito, Sr. watching his back. It was his father who guided Donaire to his first world title, the WBC flyweight crown in 2007. Then they became estranged for years but reconciled after Donaire bowed to Walters. “I’m back doing the things that brought me to my first world title,” said Donaire. “I’m jabbing, moving and working hard. My dad reminds me of how things were. He was with me at the start and we’re together again to win another world title.”

Donaire said it’ll be a fight to remember. “I’m going all out to bring the title back to the Philippines where it belongs,” he said. Someone suggested that Donaire would stop Juarez in five rounds. Donaire’s wife Rachel reacted by saying without hesitation, the Mexican would go in less. Donaire’s family is booked to spend the Christmas holidays in Manila so he’d like nothing better than to greet his Filipino fans with the WBO championship belt around his waist.

Juarez, 24, has the advantage of youth as he was only nine years old when Donaire turned pro in 2001. But Donaire’s experience is an overwhelming factor with 38 fights under his belt compared to Juarez’ 20. While Juarez has never been knocked out, he has gone down five times, thrice in losing a decision to Jorge Lara and twice in bowing to Edgar Lozano on a disqualification. Juarez is a durable survivor and has won four in a row entering the Donaire fight.

Donaire said Juarez is tailor-made for him. The Mexican won’t run like Rigondeaux or Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’ll stand up and engage like a true Aztec warrior. That’s how Donaire prefers his opponents. Juarez won’t back off from a slugging contest so fans are expecting a slam-bang affair.

“Juarez is a non-stop guy,” said Donaire. “He’s very tough. He’s in front of your face from the first bell. He isn’t afraid to come forward and bang. I don’t really know if he can take my punches but I’m sure he won’t see where my punches will be coming from and that’s when he’ll get into trouble. It’s when you get hit with punches you don’t see that you get hurt. He’ll come to fight. He’ll want to force a fight. He’s all about pressure.”

Juarez has fought exclusively in Mexico except for a bout in Las Vegas last March when he beat Cesar Seda via a majority eight-round decision. It’ll be his first appearance in Puerto Rico. In contrast, Donaire has fought once in Puerto Rico, halting Hernan Marquez in eight rounds in 2010 and performed all over the US mainland, Guam and Manila.

Donaire said for him, fighting in Puerto Rico is like fighting in Manila. “I think the Puerto Rican fans are very supportive and they’ll go for me,” he said. “During the presscon for the fight, I felt I was in my hometown. I have a lot of respect for Puerto Rican fans and I think they respect me back. I want to deliver an exciting performance for the fans.”

Donaire said Juarez’ style reminds him of Mexico’s Oscar Andrade whom he outpointed for the North American Boxing Federation superflyweight title in Las Vegas in 2006. “Andrade was the first fighter to cut me,” he said. “He just kept coming in. He wasn’t an easy opponent and I expect Juarez won’t be an easy opponent, either.”












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