Nonito Donaire is a champion again (Photo: Esther Lin – SHOWTIME)
By Dennis Guillermo
His voice didn’t crack.
“I’m going to knock him out,” Nonito Donaire, Jr. said intently.
Days prior to the most crucial bout in the advanced stage of his boxing career, Donaire waxed prophetic to those who cared to ask and listen to how he planned to turn back the hands of time and steamroll through the younger and unbeaten champion he was about to face in Nordine Oubaali and snag the WBC bantamweight strap in the process.
Donaire was way past determined. He was certain. So sure was he of his impending conquest that he already lined up who he had next on his hit list. He said to hell with the politically correct answer: you know, the usual “I’m just focused on the person I’m fighting this weekend” type of rhetoric.
To hell with that script, he said, I want all the smoke, I’m going to knock Oubaali out, then go on a revenge tour by chasing rematches against Naoya Inoue and Guillermo Rigondeaux. He was leaving the political correctness to the actual politicians like his countryman Manny Pacquiao and promised an Oubaali shellacking with his sights set on the future. At least that’s how I took his comments. And if there’s one thing I learned about my time around the guy, when he’s this confident, it’s not without reason.
Speaking of Pacquiao and wanting all the smoke, how crazy is it that the future President of the Philippines wants to climb up that chimney named Errol Spence, Jr. at this stage of his career? Must be something about being locked down and quarantined the way we all were in 2020 that reignited the fire from these older boxing legends. Even Floyd decided to come out of retirement to fight a…
Then came fight night. The opening round of Donaire-Oubaali felt familiar. Donaire’s confidence was evident. He had that same old bounce in his step, that intense look as he analyzed, read and evaded his opponent’s attacks. He even had that old swag back (though the shoes weren’t as dope. I kid. That’s a little inside joke). It was like watching the 2011 Fernando Montiel fight all over again. Oubaali played the part well, too. His height, style, and even the way he went down face-first with his arms flailing after succumbing to that counter-left was Montiel-esque. But the real story was Donaire being his vintage self a decade since that Montiel massacre.
So how did Flash deliver the flashback?
Donaire has always been the thoughtful and intellectual type, not just inside the ring but outside it as well. A true student of the game and life, he enjoys studying boxing film as much as he loves reading books on different philosophies. Perhaps the forced isolation simply allowed him to better focus and prioritize what mattered most to him at this stage of his life and career.
“I’ve learned a lot with my habits in my training,” said Donaire. “I’ve always trained really hard. The difference was, I took everything lightly like work. Back in the day, I took my body for granted, partying and having fun. I didn’t sleep. Now I’m taking care of my body well. That time off from the ring rejuvenated my whole system, and I feel very good,” he added.
“When I came back to train, I felt like my body was working for me. There was no struggle, and there was nothing in any way that made me feel that I was dragging,” said Donaire, whose last scheduled bout back in December was called off due to a positive COVID-19 test.
“Being able to get that time off without fighting, without that stress and impact and everything that boxing gives you inside the ring. Physically, I feel that now that I’m taking my time to be healthy,”
When the fighter in question is a lock in the Hall of Fame, sometimes a little time off and soul-searching makes a world of difference. Donaire has definitely rededicated himself to his craft and everything he needs to do to get back to the top where he feels he still belongs. Whether or not the boxing world believed lighting could strike twice prior to his Oubaali fight wherein he was pegged as a significant underdog, doesn’t really matter anymore. Donaire’s sensational performance put the entire sport on notice that this self-proclaimed “big kid” is indeed back and even better than ever at 38-years-young.
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