By Ronnie Nathanielsz
WHEN world flyweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire scored what amounted to a classic demolition of a tough and resilient title contender in Mexico’s Luis Maldonado at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, he proved that he is the real deal and not a one-punch wonder, or a mere flash in the pan.
There were those who felt—rightly—but now proven wrongly—that Donaire caught cocky undefeated Australian Vic Darchinyan with a lucky punch, that effectively shut his mouth and cost him his two world titles.
But those of us, who followed the action intently on pay-per-view in our homes or caught the action on the big screen, during the Payback fight card at the Araneta Coliseum courtesy of Solar Sports, which also telecast the fight on GMA-7, realized that indeed, this young man from General Santos City had what amounted to a similar boxing bloodline as Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao and years before him, Rolando Navarette.
Donaire, who trained in the famed ALA Gym in Cebu and got the best sparring available, clearly benefited from that stint, as he dominated the Mexican, who had been stopped only once in his career by former champion Darchinyan.
The Filipino dominated the first three rounds in a superb display that established his credentials as an emerging star. He controled the action almost totally against the hapless Maldonado, opened up a cut above the right eye with cracking combinations that turned the Mexican’s face into a bloody mess.
Maldonado did connect with a solid right hook in the fourth round that woke up the champion, but the Filipino came back and nailed him with a left hook that staggered the challenger. But Donaire got a little cute and inexplicably switched to a southpaw stance, which didn’t do him any good.
But Donaire quickly regained the initiative as he went after Maldonado, cracking him with vicious combinations and waiting for an opening to unload his devastating left hook.
Late in Round 6, he pinned the challenger against the ropes and picked him off with clean shots, including a fancy left-right combination as he let his hands go. Donaire cracked Maldonado with a big right on the nose that staggered the Mexican, who fought back like a wounded tiger in the most exciting round of the fight. When Donaire caught Maldonado with double left hooks, TV commentator Al Bernstein gushed over the “very skilled, well-polished fighter,” who continued to give the challenger a boxing clinic.
In the dying seconds of Round 7, Donaire caught Maldonado with a stinging right uppercut, that froze the challenger in his tracks and then clubbed him to the canvas with a vicious left hook as the Mexican staggered backwards, only to be saved by the bell.
After the ringside physician checked out Maldonado and let the fight continue, Donaire decided to go after the challenger and end his misery by catching him with a barrage of punches. But the referee didn’t intervene. After backing off for a few seconds “The Filipino Flash” returned to the fray and threw a flurry of unanswered punches that forced referee Charlie Dwyer, who very correctly called a halt at 1:16 of the eighth round.
There was joy as his family, friends and fans celebrated while here at home, Filipinos began to look at Donaire with greater respect and as a possible heir to Pacquiao. As one astute observer at ringside mentioned, Pacquiao has company in the hearts and minds of the Filipino nation.
Regrettably, behind the celebration and the façade of joy, trouble was apparently brewing. And it spilled onto the airwaves earlier in the week on the dzSR Sports Radio program “Sports Chat” hosted by young journalist, boxing writer and TV commentator Dennis Principe who invited us to join him in a three-way phone conversation with Donaire.
There had been a slight hint of trouble when Donaire and his father/trainer Nonito Donaire Sr. had to delay their trip to the Philippines to begin training for the title defense. Apparently, they didn’t get the funds needed to buy their airline tickets and for daily expenses. Donaire was to lament on the radio show—“they never gave me money for my expenses and I had to borrow some money to help me go to the Philippines in order for me to lose that weight” since he had ballooned to around 136-140 pounds after the Darchinyan fight.
After the Standard Today story on Nonito Donaire’s complaints appeared on boxing sites Philboxing.com and boxingscene.com in the United States, promoter Gary Shaw called Thursday morning to refute the claims made by Donaire, point by point.
During the lengthy overseas telephone conversation, Shaw revealed that Solar Sports had paid him $50,000 for the TV rights of the Luis Maldonado fight and while Donaire complained he “didn’t get a cent from it,” Shaw insisted “there was never any discussion of Nonito getting that money.”
It is important to point out that in this regard, Manny Pacquiao is a rare exception. Normally, fighters are not entitled to a share of the TV rights. They only receive a share of the pay-per-view income if it is indicated in their bout contract, in addition to their guaranteed purse. Sometimes, they get a guaranteed amount and no share from pay-per-view.
At the same time, Shaw, who was in Manila for the 45th Annual Convention of the World Boxing Council, disclosed that Solar “gave him [Donaire] a contract—a personal services contract—that they would be his total voice in the Philippines and run everything and he was about to sign it.”
Shaw added: “I told him [Nonito] as a friend, don’t, because the money that they are offering you is not giving you money—it’s a loan. Whatever you do, they are going to take the money back.”
The first time Donaire visited the Philippines was after the Vic Darchinyan title fight where he was the guest of broadcast network ABS-CBN, which, in fact, didn’t telecast the fight since the rights were with Solar Sports.
However, they used him as guest analyst on some of their blockbuster fight cards, including the Philippines-Mexico World Cup in Sacramento, California and clearly helped enhance his stature.
This time around, Solar Sports sent Donaire tickets for him, his mother and his girlfriend Rachael Marcial for a trip to the Philippines since he was keen on being by the side of his aging and ill grandfather, who was one of his biggest supporters in boxing. His dad, Nonito Donaire Sr., would remain in the US because elder brother Glenn Donaire had an upcoming bout. It had nothing to do with reports of a souring of relations between father and son.
“Like any family, we have our differences, but what drives me is my family and no matter what, me and my dad really work well together. We respect each other and there was something but now we are really good,” the champ said.
Nonito told Standard Today he would be here for the Christmas season, since “it’s been a long time and it would be a wonderful idea because Christmas in the Philippines is far more enjoyable than here in the US.”
In the radio interview, Donaire claimed that Shaw objected to the idea of his training in the Philippines, which was the boxer’s choice since the world-class ALA Gym was open to him and boxing patron Tony Aldeguer had a stable of excellent sparring partners to work with.
Shaw, who represented a whole range of great fighters such as Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Shane Mosley and even Pacquiao for two fights, countered: “In my whole life, I never told anybody where to train. What difference does it make to me?”
Then, it quickly surfaced. Differences between the promoter and Donaire’s manager Cameron Dunkin, who is reportedly close to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, and may be entertaining the idea of moving the champion to Top Rank, even though Shaw, who signed up Donaire some seven months ago, has at least another two years in his promoter’s contract.
The apparent rift fleshed out.
“Let me tell you what might have happened,” said Shaw. “Maybe, Cameron told Nonito ‘Gary Shaw doesn’t want you to go to the Philippines.’”
Standard Today then quickly followed through. “Is there a problem between you two?”
Shaw confessed: “I didn’t think so, but I am getting the feeling that I am getting blamed for the stuff that I don’t know I’m getting blamed for. I didn’t know I had a difference until all this came out. A couple of people called me and said we think Cameron may be undermining you.”
Donaire believes that Shaw didn’t want him to come to the Philippines, because of the fear that he would sign up with some other promoter just like Pacquiao did in inking a deal with Golden Boy and later with Top Rank.
“Maybe he was afraid of me doing that,” theorized Donaire, quickly adding, “I am really not that type of person. I don’t know what goes on with their camp, but for me, I was not there to sign anything. We were there to train and that was the best thing that we decided to do.”
Shaw told Standard Today he called Donaire “at least 10 times but I can’t get him on the phone.”
His assessment was that there was a lot of miscommunication and blamed management for it.
However, when Standard Today spoke to Donaire on Thursday, he said he hadn’t received any calls from his promoter.
To Be Continued.