Nonito Donaire: The Filipino Flash

Nonito Donaire wins over Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7 at the Home Depot Center.  Photo by Chris Farina/Top Ran
Nonito Donaire wins over Jeffrey Mathebula on July 7 at the Home Depot Center. Photo by Chris Farina/Top Ran
(First of 2 parts)
NONITO Donaire, Jr. is currently rated by The Ring magazine as the number four pound for pound boxer in the world.
Donaire, who was born in Bohol, Philippines, grew up in General Santos, South Cotabato. He went to the same school as Manny Pacquiao.
The “Filipino Flash”  is the reigning WBO and IBF Super Bantamweight champion, having unified the titles when he defeated South African Jeffrey Methabula on July 7 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
He is also the former WBC and WBO Bantamweight, interim WNA Super Flyweight and IBF Flyweight Champion.
Humble beginnings
Donaire’s father was in the Philippine Army for eight years and fought as an amateur boxer. Nonito joined his father in the US in 1993.
Donaire told this writer that he did not grow up rich.
“I grew up in Bohol and Gen San. We had nothing much to eat. I remember playing with holes in our shirts. You know, not having nice clothes to wear. We don’t even have any shoes. We [would] play barefoot. We [made] do with what we [had]. My mother was a teacher ,so school was important for all of us.”
He remembers being bullied, growing up. “I was thin and frail. I’d come home crying. I guess I wanted to prove myself so when I learned amateur boxing I wanted to become a world champion.”
The Filipino Flash and his older brother Glenn won regional and district amateur boxing championships in San Lorenzo High School in California . It was his father who constantly persuaded Donaire to develop his skills in boxing.
Donaire turned professional in 2001. His impressive amateur record was 68-8 with 5 technical knock outs. It has been eleven years since he became pro. When he defeated flyweight Raul Martinez in April 2009, he was ranked seventh in the Ring Magazine pound for pound ranking.
Donaire began wearing the yellow robe in August 2009 when he dedicated his fight against super flyweight Rafael Concepcion of Panama to President Corazon Aquino. He asked Everlast to make a yellow robe with I.M.O. in memory of Cory Aquino. Donaire won by a unanimous decision and was feted in a motorcade in Manila.
Nonito learned boxing from his father. He has been married for four years and plans to have children, “I do plan on having children when I feel that I am able to give everything I can for my kids. It’s up to my children if they want to be boxing pro when they grow up. If they do, I will train them to the best of my ability because it is a dangerous sport. I would rather have them be in school and do something that they enjoy where there is less physical danger,” Nonito revealed.
Train hard to win
At the pre-fight meet and greet event in Carson on July 5, young fans of Donaire gathered around him and asked for his autograph. He willingly signed them all.
“The youth who have dreams of being a champion should train hard. You work hard for recognition. You must have the discipline. Boxing is good for discipline and self-confidence. You also have to enjoy boxing and avoid being lax with yourself. You really, really have to train hard to win,” Donaire explained.
Robert Garcia, Donaire’s trainer, is looking forward to the next fight of the pound for pound boxer.
“I am not sure if his fight with Arce is pushing through but we have to look at strategy if he is boxing against Arce. He trained really well, that is why he won against Mathebula. He has built up a lot of muscle and put up a really good performance against Mathebula. We have to look at the previous fights of Arce and develop some strategy,” Garcia stressed. ‘
Core trainer Michael Bazzel  (who trains Donaire at the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, California) spoke highly of Nonito.
“He is consistent with his training. He will focus more on abdominals and lower backs. We will develop a game plan against Arce. Each training is different. We will probably begin training in August.”
Bazzel added that Victor Conte is still part of the team.
“Victor helps him with nutrition and supplement regimen. You know, a boxer needs a balance [in] training and eating habits. Victor makes sure he eats food that [fuels him] for his job,” Bazzel said. Donaire’s victories have naturally resulted in being compared with Pacquiao. The boxer from San Leandro is proud of that.
“I have great respect for Manny. He opened the doors for us Filipino fighters.”
Indeed, Donaire has achieved the glory of being the second Asian (next to Pacquiao) to win championships in four different divisions. He has likewise earned the respect o boxing analysts.
Larry Merchant of HBO is highly impressed by Donaire. He said at “I think it places him in the top level, in the elite level in the sport… He also showed that he has the kind of skill and strength that he could move up to the featherweight divisions.
Al Bernstein, Showtime boxing analyst revealed in an article of Chris Robinson: “I think Nonito Donaire is the best lower-weight fighter in the world… When he fights at his best, he has physical gifts and skill levels that I think are just too much for most of the fighters in those weight classes. The thing about Arce is, he did reinvent himself and with winning the Vazquez fight, which was one of the great fights of that year; but to me, that fight is a just a placeholder… In my opinion, the Arce fight, while it may be somewhat marketable, that’s another placeholder fight to get you to another fight. I like Donaire. There’s nothing not to like. Anytime you see an explosive, exciting fighter and it’s good for boxing, you want to see him progress. It’s obvious, the connection to Pacquiao and how Pacquiao grew and got better and we want to see what this kid is capable of. Basically he’s Filipino and he has that connection but he’s also an American kid who grew up here. You can’t get enough of these kinds of guys in boxing.”
After Donaire’s win at Home Depot Center, promoter Bob Arum was really pleased with him. He said that he fight is “very, very good. I think that Nonito did very well. Mathebula was so tall. The guy went to his shell when Nonito knocked him down. Nonito is still the aggressive fighter.”
At the Sevilla’s after fight party, Rachel Marcial, Donaire’s wife and also an athlete, said that she is very proud of her husband. Rachel is a Filipino-American USA national collegiate and military taekwondo champion.
A blackbelter, Rachel admits that she is not nervous when she sees him fight. “I’m composed. I don’t lose myself. I think he trained hard for this fight,” Rachel said.
The pretty athlete is also voted no.56 in the FHM Magazine’s top 100 featured women in the Philippines.
The “Filipino Flash” himself was all smiles at the party. He spoke about the fight: “[Methabula] was very elusive. I tried to knock him down but he kept on moving. I wanted a knock out but Robert told me to play smart and just be cool. I think it’s a great fight,” Donaire pointed out.
When asked whom he would want to fight, Donaire said that he will face whoever wants to fight.
“I will train early and be ready for whoever I will fight,” he said, showing his left bandaged hand, still swollen from hitting those hard left hooks.
The next day, the kid from Gen San and Bohol was on stage, singing with hip hop artist of the Black Eyed Peas at the Hollywood Bowl concert. He held on to his belt as he sang the lyrics of Apl’s song. The crowd grew wild and continued to clap for the Filipino-American boxing champion.
His fans continue to increase from the Filipino community, as well as support from the boxing world.
Donaire vs Arce
At the press conference, a news reporter from Northern California asked Bob Arum if they hold his next fight in San Francisco, knowing that many of his fans are from up north. But Arum was not even sure if a fight is up.
However, the October fight between Arce and Donaire is certain. It will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Arce who is 32 is a veteran fighter with 46 KO. Some people wanted a fight with Nishioka o Mares. But considering that Arce has a large Mexican fan base and Donaire has the huge support of Filipinos in Los Angeles, this fight will certainly be very interesting. Both of the fighters are promoted by Top Rank.
Unpredictable sport
I surfed through the website and saw some Filipino fans getting mad against writer Chris Williams, who did not think that Donaire is a good boxer. Williams said that he is not allowed to fight better boxers such as Nishioka or Rigondeaux. The fans attacked Williams saying that he is prejudiced against Filipino boxers.
The funny thing about boxing is that one can never really know what happens in a fight. Look at Amir Khan whom people expected to win over Garcia. He got knocked out. The fans can raise hell or predict the results but boxing is a sport where anything can happen. It is the fighter’s strategy that counts ---the arena where two gladiators both use their strong hands and their mental stamina to stay on top of the game.
For now, Filipino Flash is proving himself worthy. I remember another “Flash” Filipino boxing icon Gabriel “Flash” Elorde who still holds the longest junior lightweight division title for seven years. Elorde is the first Asian to be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame as well as in the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He was the greatest super featherweight champion in the WBC history. He defended his title ten times until he was defeated by Numata of Japan.
Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire remembers how he found confidence in boxing.
He overcame his asthma and gradually proved himself a champion. But like anything , fame and glory did not come easy. In a sport where many are competitive and still excel, only those who are patient, determined and committed will achieve their dreams. For now, Donaire has no intentions of quitting. He said, “The motivation is in my heart to work toward my goals and my dreams.”
Keep up the fight, Flash Donaire!

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