Saturday night on HBO, Nonito Donaire added another big name to his resume as he stopped the durable and undefeated for many years Toshiaki Nishioka in nine rounds in southern California. Donaire, 29, earned $750,000 according to the Calif. State Athletic Commission, and sources within his team have mentioned to TQBR there are tentative talks for the junior featherweight to fight again in December against Jorge Arce, possibly in Mexico City in what figures to be an easy payday for one of the world’s best fighters.
December will also be a big month for Nonito’s older brother, Glenn Donaire, who meets Giovani Segura in a flyweight clash on Dec. 8. Their fight is also slated to take place somewhere in Mexico, though on a smaller scale in terms of notoriety and purse.
For the elder Donaire, it will be the opportunity he’s been hoping for ever since he was outpointed by then junior flyweight titlist Ulises Solis in July of 2008.
The scores were initially read as a shutout in favor of Solis, though the action suggested that Donaire was much more in the fight. It was later determined that ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was given the wrong scores.
Despite giving perhaps the best 108-pounder in the world at the time a tough fight, Donaire was disappointed. He felt he had gone into that fight in good shape to take home his first world title. That let down, along with family issues forced Donaire into a semi-retirement that would last for three years before he returned last December with a stoppage of faded former strawweight titleholder Alex Sanchez in an action fight.
“I could not continue to box because my mom lost her job and I had to pick up more hours at my bus driving job in order to support my family,” Donaire said. “I ballooned up 40 pounds in weight because I was so close to another title shot but couldn’t wait for the opportunity.”
Nowadays, things are different for Donaire. His family has picked him up.
“I thank God I am able to get back to boxing because my cousin, dad, mom were able to help me out financially,” Donaire continued. “I’m blessed to have a good family around me.”
Donaire landed the Segura fight despite, or perhaps because of, a loss to Omar Soto in September in which he didn’t look to be the same fighter who had picked up two straight victories on the comeback trail.
“The problem was, three weeks before the fight, I sprained my shoulder,” explained Donaire. “I had one month where I couldn’t spar, hit the mitts, nothing, all I could do was run. I got too overconfident because he is really slow that I thought I could outbox him just like I did with Sanchez. When I fought that day, I couldn’t move, and he was a lot faster than I was. I learned my lesson, apologized to my team and told them if I can’t spar or hit the mitts there just isn’t a way I can fight.”
Donaire says he has fully recovered from the injury and barring a flare up, will be 100% when the bell rings for the Segura fight. He even feels as though the loss may have been a blessing, helping land him the fight with Segura.
“Before my loss to Soto, nobody really wanted to fight me,” said Donaire. “I was having trouble finding an opponent. Then, after the loss, I got a call and you know I fight everybody. It is a good opportunity for me and I know it is going to be a great fight because Giovani is a tremendous warrior.”
Having bore witness to many of Donaire’s more obscurely contested bouts, I believe if he has a smidgen left of what he’s shown in the past, the Segura fight promises to be fireworks for as long as it lasts.
A year and a half after his first loss, Donaire fought on the undercard of a small show in Reno in a rematch with Jose Albuquerque where the two stole the show. That card’s promoters, Terry and Tommy Lane, have remarked to me on more than one occasion that it is the best fight they’ve ever put together in terms of action.
That was almost five years ago, and if Donaire is going to make his mark alongside the top 112 pounders, it really is now or never for him. A win over Segura would open up the opportunity of a fight against the winner of the anticipated Brian Viloria-Hernan Marquez title unification bout that takes place in Los Angeles next month. Even if Donaire gives a good account of himself in a loss to Segura, the flyweight division isn’t so deep that it is out of the question he gets a shot somewhere else.
Though he says there is no grudge, there has to be a part of Donaire that would love to mix it up with Viloria, who edged him and his brother at the 2000 Olympic Trials for a spot in the U.S. team. The Olympic experience no doubt helped Viloria out at the pro level, as he is one of few fighters under 115 pounds to find his way onto an HBO pay-per-view undercard in recent years.
“If I get a chance to fight against Brian, I would,” said Donaire. “But if I could get a fight against another champion, that is what I prefer because there aren’t many Filipino champions at the moment. But I couldn’t say no if I was offered the fight.”
Generally, careers are shorter for fighters in the lower weight classes, a rule of thumb that doesn’t bother Donaire: “I’m a lot stronger than when I was 26 years old. I have to wait until I’m 36, 37, to see if things are different. You saw in my last two fights before this past loss that I fought well. I think it is all in dedication. I think a lot of young guys go out and perform good, but by the time they’re up there in age they aren’t really hungry anymore.”
With Segura, Donaire will be facing an opponent who comes out of the gates quickly. Donaire has previously been a slow starter and could face an ambush from the Mexican. If Donaire can make it out of the early rounds, he could be in good shape to make it a close fight down the stretch, though he knows he’ll have to do a bit extra to get a decision in Mexico.
Despite opportunities arriving simultaneously for the Donaire brothers, their relationship remains strained and Glenn elected not to answer questions regarding their current circumstances, but did watch his brother’s fight and weighed in with what he thought.
“Somebody interviewed me before the fight and I said if Nonito fought him the way he did against (Jeffrey) Mathebula, he might lose,” said Glenn. “But if he uses his legs, it should be a really easy fight.”
When asked what he thinks his brother’s ceiling as far as weight is concerned, Glenn seemed optimistic at his brother’s chances of climbing the scales.
“You know, when my brother was fighting at 112, he was walking around at 140 plus,” Glenn said. “When I fought at 112, I was walking around at 115-116. Right now he is probably walking around at 150 or more fighting at 122. He is a really big boy and with his frame I could see him carrying the weight to 130 because of it.”
Having fond recollections of the two’s relationship prior to Nonito’s coming out party against Vic Darchinyan in July 2007, this writer hopes for a reconciliation down the line. Prior to that fight, in which Nonito avenged his older brother’s defeat via a shocking stoppage, the two were each other’s only sparring partners while father Nonito Sr. and their cousin Arvin Jugarap worked with them closely in a worn down karate and boxing gym in Hayward, Calif.
Those moments in time—where the two often joked and laughed with each other before Nonito Sr. would force them to be serious again—seem so long ago. Hopefully that roadblock can be lifted in due time.
For now, the focus lies with Segura, and rightfully so. If televised in America, it is recommended viewing. If not, try and find a stream, it’ll be all action as long as it lasts.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail and followed via Twitter. He also has contributed to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the RING Ratings Advisory Panel.