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Nonito Donaire Fights On


By Steve Kim
(Photo © Chris Farina)

In mid-August, Nonito Donaire was scheduled to face Rafael Concepcion for the interim version of the WBA junior bantamweight title. Beyond that, he was the featured performer in the second installment of “Pinoy Power” from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. One problem, Concepcion came in much closer to the junior featherweight division than 115 pounds.


Which meant that Donaire had two options: go on with the fight and face a much heavier foe at a great disadvantage. Or walk away from the fight, but put a damper on the whole card and not get anything for the months of hard work he put in.

It may not seem like much, but in a sport where fighters dry out and starch themselves to make weight, a few pounds can make a big difference.

"I mean, he came in about five pounds (heavy). For that fight he came in at 120," Donaire said to Maxboxing, about a week-and-a-half before his bout against Gerson Guerrero this Saturday night at the Las Vegas Hilton. "That’s a big difference. You’re 115, that’s why the next weight class is 118, three pounds. That’s a big, big difference and he was trying to take advantage of whatever he had."


What made it worse was that his opponent seemingly made no real effort to drop any of the extra poundage.


"We tried to get them to do everything and he didn’t want to lose weight. What was important to him was a Filipino not beating a fighter from Panama or something like that, in his mind, anyways," said Donaire. 

Who knew there was a rivalry between the Philippines and Panama in the squared ring?

"But they did try and pull a fast one on us, on me. But it was a learning experience on my part," Donaire added.


But after the weigh-in took place, a tough decision had to be made: to fight or not.


"I think I was going to get somewhat of a percentage because I did my part. (Donaire’s manager) Cameron Dunkin knows his way around boxing," said Donaire, who may not realize that in instances like this, the usual protocol is for the offending party to give up a piece of his purse to the other fighter and in title fights, the boxer who comes in heavy, is ineligible to win that title on that night. But getting even a fraction of your purse to not fight? Not happening. "It’s all or nothing," confirmed Dunkin. "But our argument would have been, we signed a contract and we trained and showed up. But he didn’t want to do that to Top Rank. He didn’t want to put them in that position and he didn’t want to do that to the people that came to watch him fight and there were a lot of people that traveled to see him and he wanted to fight."


It’s one thing to pull out of a fight when you’re a preliminary fighter. It’s a whole other set of responsibilities to do so when you’re headlining the marquee- even when you have a justifiable reason. When it was all said and done, it was Donaire’s decision.


He explained his choice to fight on by saying, "There’s so many people that showed up, who drove 20 miles, showed up from the Philippines, showed up from Hawaii, all around from Canada. So there was a lot of people there and a lot of them were my friends who connect with me through the internet. There was just a lot of support and I was appreciative of the effort and support they’ve given me. Part of me just wanted to take the fight because of that. And also, the fight was dedicated to some former president who helped the Philippines. So I felt I had no way out and I had to do what I had to do. I wanted the fight because of the fact I trained so hard for it."


Dunkin says, "It was up to the fighter and Nonito wanted to fight. He didn’t even hesitate. He said, ’I don’t care what he weighs, I wanna go.’ A lot of guys might not have fought, it was a huge weight difference and he wouldn’t even try to lose a pound or anything. So that just shows Nonito’s got a lot of balls."


He beat Concepcion rather comfortably on the scorecards, but it wasn’t a sterling performance by any means. Let’s put it this way, it won’t be on his “Greatest Hits” collection.. To a certain degree, not only did he face a significantly heavier boxer, he could be excused for being a tad distracted with the snafu that took place the day before.


"I think it did affect me. I mean, it was there, mentally, in the back of my head and all the things around me," he says. "It was like a separation in decision, from all the groups, from everyone. From no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, you had to. So it kinda affected me and took the focus out of the whole thing and I couldn’t think. I couldn’t get my game plan going. I told everyone I felt like I was floating in air and going with the flow."


It didn’t help matters that he had a bum left hand for that fight.


"I hurt it in the second round, but even before the fight. That’s why I chose to use a bigger glove, a thicker Everlast glove. Usually I fight with Reyes or the Mexican-style Everlast. I was supposed to fight with that one," Donaire explained. "That definitely affected my ability to throw a jab but I had to throw it anyway and the power in my hook wasn’t there because every time that I landed, I would pull back or I would clinch. So it was just a lot of things but I’m not going to make any excuses. I felt my skill was still above his and no matter what I did, no matter what he did, I was always better than him."


It was one of those nights where a trainer says, ’Win tonight, look good the next time.’


A win on Saturday night and Donaire could be rematching Vic Darchinyan, who he knocked out in five rounds in the summer of 2007 as a flyweight. Currently, “The Raging Bull” from Australia has been making stronger and stronger comments towards Donaire, who is more than willing to meet him again.


"Oh, definitely," he says. "It’s in the works, right now. My manager is talking to Gary Shaw. We’re definitely wanting that fight. I mean, he has two belts and we want to take those back from him. I think it’s a good fight and once and for all, I want to shut him up- if he will ever shut up. But, once and for all, all the people will know, everyone will know, I wasn’t lucky. I did what I had to do and I’m a better fighter than he can ever be."


Donaire takes umbrage to the assertion made by Darchinyan that he landed a lucky punch back in their initial encounter. Donaire, counters by referring back to an interview he did with this reporter, prior to that bout. "I had told you when you interviewed me a week before the fight when I was at Wild Card; I told you what I’m going to do and where I was going to go. I told you I’m going to hit him with the left hook and I’m going to knock him out. I said it clearly, without being cocky about it; I said it confidently that I was going to do what I had to do.. It showed in the fight and everything that I told you before I did it.


"So it was planned already, what I had to do. So it wasn’t lucky at all. He’s a bitter old man because I took everything from him."


Regarding the possibility of Donaire-Darchinyan II, Dunkin said on Thursday night.. "I talked to Gary Shaw yesterday about it. He said, ’Listen, I’d like to do it in August and it can be both of their next fights because they’re both fighting around the same time and they’re both getting work.’ He said that’s the fight to do. And, of course, we’re looking at that, but we’re also looking at Jorge Arce who just won the WBO title. I would love to make that fight for Nonito."


Darchinyan makes an appearance on Showtime on March 6th. But first things first, Donaire has to get past Gerson Guerrero. And he hopes to be much more impressive than he was the last time out.


"I trained really hard for this fight. I’m going to give it all I got. All my fights in Vegas, haven’t been 100-percent because maybe the pressure, maybe perhaps it’s Vegas. Maybe it’s all of the above; everything else and I haven’t performed the way Nonito Donaire, ‘The Filipino Flash,’ has performed in different places,” lamented Donaire. “I haven’t felt like I performed my best in Vegas. That’s what I want to bring out. To perform 100-percent going into the fight and I think that’s what they’re going to see.


"I’m really committed in just going for it and not thinking about all the other stuff."




Rounding out that Top Rank-produced pay-per-view show from the Las Vegas Hilton is a featherweight tilt between Mario Santiago and Bernabe Concepcion, a bantamweight crossroads bout between Eric Morel and Gerry Penalosa and Fernando Montiel taking on Ciso Morales.


I like Santiago to halt Concepcion, in what is probably the best fight of the night, Morel to decision Penalosa and Montiel to out-class the unproven Morales.


Some thoughts regarding the action that took place this weekend…

- Glen Johnson proved that this Old Man River can still flow; just ask Yusaf Mack. If you stay in the phone booth with this guy, he will make life hell for you. Not many people were pleased with Chad Dawson’s performance against “The Road Warrior” back in November, but can you blame him for his tactics? Hey, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. 

But I can’t wait for Johnson to face IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud.

- I know it’s early and he hasn’t exactly faced “Murderer’s Row” but Guillermo Rigondeaux looks as if he should be named Roy Hobbs. In other words, he’s a natural. I thought when I saw him ringside at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia that he was the best fighter in the whole tournament, as a teenager. If he can add just a few more touches to his offensive arsenal, he can have quite the professional career. But I know, I know, it’s still early.

- Lightweight Francisco Contreras is rawer-than-sushi but he has God-given power. He may not be as technically tight as the late Diego Corrales but, like “Chico,” Contreras has the ability to generate a lot of torque on the inside for a long-limbed fighter. He still has a lot of rough edges but he opened up a few eyes by starching Juan Castaneda in one on “ShoBox.”

- Welterweight Luis Abregu is a heavy-handed fun welterweight, but a guy that will have all sorts of problems at the world-class level. But his slug-fest against trial horse Richard Gutierrez showed once again why the open scorecard system is a bad idea. It turned what was an entertaining affair, into an anti-climactic one as Abregu decided to run out the clock in the last two frames.

Yeah, at one time, long ago, I loved the idea of open scorecards. Put this one under, “Be careful what you wish for.”

- Antonio DeMarco was game, but he was simply out-gunned by WBC lightweight champion Edwin Valero over eight rounds on Showtime’s main event from Monterrey, Mexico. Yeah, Valero will never be a textbook boxer and he makes some mistakes technically, but it’s going to take a helluva fighter on a very good night to beat this guy.


Lightweight Brandon Rios cemented himself as a legitimate lightweight contender by battering Jorge Teron in three. When he’s in shape, he’s a tough out. I’d love to see him take on Anthony Peterson, in what is an interesting clash of styles...I thought Jason Estrada provided exactly the test many thought he would against Tomasz Adamek. I put much more stock into this victory by Adamek than the blowout versus Andrew Golota...Saw Manny Pacquiao spar for the first time this camp. I thought he looked very good in eight rounds (four each against Ray Beltran and Mike Dallas) on Saturday afternoon...Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were no-brainers to gain induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In my opinion, not only is Rice the greatest wide receiver to play the game, he’s among the best five players- at any position- ever, period...Hey, so all it took for the Lakers to finally win at Portland was for Kobe to sit out....It’s clear, the MVP of the NBA is LeBron James. It’s not even close...Any questions or comments can be sent to


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