Donaire kept injury secret

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Wary of raising an alarm, Nonito Donaire Jr. kept the pain in his left foot a secret and waited until the end of his fight against Mexico’s Cesar Juarez for the vacant WBO superbantamweight title to inform his father and chief cornerman Nonito Sr. that the thought of quitting entered his mind after suffering the freak injury in the sixth round at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last Saturday night.

Donaire, 33, stepped on referee Ramon Peña’s foot and sprained his left foot, causing him to momentarily drop to the canvas on both knees. When he got up, Donaire knew something was wrong. “I tried to shake it off and came back but it only got worse,” he said. “It became very painful, like the middle of my left foot was split. I had to lift my leg up to put some power in my punches. I couldn’t jab without feeling the pain in my foot. Worse, I couldn’t push Juarez away because I couldn’t work my jab.”

Donaire said he decided not to tell his father he was hurt. “I didn’t want my corner to be preoccupied with my foot,” he said. “I told my dad I was fine, that I felt okay. I didn’t want to get away from our gameplan. If I showed I was in pain, it would’ve shifted my corner’s attention to my foot from what I had to do to win.”

That wasn’t the only thing bothering Donaire. He jammed his left thumb in sparring previously and the strain was aggravated during the fight. “I couldn’t make a fist because it hurt,” said Donaire. “So I had hand and foot issues. Then, there was Juarez who could be the toughest opponent I’ve ever faced. I don’t think I’ve ever fought anyone as durable. He went down twice in the fourth round but didn’t give up. I hit him with a lot of solid shots that would’ve probably knocked out anyone else.”

Juarez, 24, impressed Donaire with his relentlessness. “I built a big lead in the first six rounds,” said Donaire. “But when I hurt my foot, I couldn’t move away from the ropes like I did before. Juarez is a volume puncher. He hit me with some hard body shots but I could take what he dished out.”

Donaire admitted he thought of quitting midway the fight. “I was getting tired, my body was getting weak and Juarez kept coming in,” he said. “Sure, I thought of quitting. But I didn’t want to make an excuse out of stepping on the referee’s foot. I told myself I’d give it my all. I had to. I worked hard to win. It’s in my nature, I’m a warrior. I wanted to bring the world title back to the Philippines. I knew that with my big lead in the first six rounds, I would still win the decision even if he won the last six. But I wanted to make sure by winning the last round which I did. If I didn’t get hurt, he wouldn’t have gone the distance. I would’ve knocked him out.”

Donaire said the cut on his right eyelid took seven stitches to close. He was brought to a doctor’s office near the stadium for the cut to be sewn up. The cut was opened in the seventh round.

Both fighters were bloodied and battered in the end. Aside from the cut, Donaire had a welt under his left eye. Juarez’ nose bled profusely starting the 10th round. In the late rounds, Donaire’s father told him not to go for the KO and just coast to win on points.

“My dad is very knowledgeable,” said Donaire. “He’s not only a coach but also an experienced cutman. He took care of my welt and cut. Neither gave me major problems. That’s because of my dad.”

Donaire seized control of the fight from the onset, throwing Juarez off-rhythm with jabs and dizzying combinations. He countered masterfully as the Mexican came forward. In the fourth, Donaire decked Juarez first with a right then with a left. Juarez wouldn’t surrender and surprised Donaire by fighting back strongly. In the sixth, Donaire sprained his left foot and appeared to limp back to his corner. Donaire’s work rate dropped considerably in the next three rounds which Juarez took with a high level of aggressiveness. Donaire had difficulty throwing punches without foot balance and when he landed, the blows lacked sting.

But in the 10th, Donaire regained his form, bloodying Juarez’ nose with sharp counter rights.

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