Brilliant Nonito Donaire surely punched his International Boxing Hall of Fame ticket – for the first ballot, no less – with his superb stoppage of Nordine Oubaali last weekend.
The extraordinary Filipino scored one of the biggest wins of his decorated career to capture the WBC bantamweight title and move to 41 wins against 6 defeats since turning professional 20 years ago.
“For me, how I performed and how I did in the gym really rewound time for me,” said the 38-year-old. “It reminded me of my prime and I feel I’m in my prime but I’m more experienced now. Everything’s started to flow and everything fell into place. This is one of the top highs in my life. This was a record, historical fight for me and getting back my shape of how I fight, with intelligence and now – with wisdom along with it – this was a marker of the new beginning.”
Oubaali fell in the fourth and instantly there were many proclaiming it was the exclamation mark on Donaire’s time in boxing and that it locked him into Canastota five years after he chooses to call it a day.
However, Donaire believes there’s more to do.
“I feel really good,” he continued. “My goal right now is to get all the belts and put all the belts together but that really depends on how things go. If I’m waking up early in the morning excited to go to the gym and eager to train then I’m probably going to keep going until I don’t feel that way. Becoming undisputed is pretty much the only thing I’ve not done in boxing, so being undisputed is my goal and my focus. Aside from that, my motivation is being disciplined, being disciplined to wake up in the morning, being disciplined to train and being excited – that in itself is my key to becoming everything that I want to be. It’s easy to say I’m inspired, I’m motivated, [but] how long does it last for a person? I’ve come to a point where it’s just discipline and focus. There’s no more ‘Hurrah’ and running through the battlefield… This is me controlling how I’ll be emotionally in the fight and controlling everything emotionally and physically but all of it is down to discipline.”
It’s also down to his wife of 14 years, Rachel, the mother of his two sons, who was in the corner on his big night in Carson. He was as pleased for her historic success as he was his own. She’s a former kickboxing champion and they have lived a healthy lifestyle for years, not just in the boxing gym but through fitness classes, wise nutritional choices and yoga.
“That’s the thing, right,” Donaire agreed. “The way I’m preforming is just because I’ve always been very, very healthy. This time, with the right focus and with my wife in the corner, helping me stay focused rather than be lazy and just brawl and go to war like I’ve done for years, now I’m back to becoming the person that I was in terms of being focused and being the sharpshooter that I was in the past. I felt amazing. I wake up in the morning and I’m eager to relearn the things that I’ve forgot. [That includes the] fundamentals, just the basics, throwing the jab properly, head movement and staying low rather than standing up to a point where I’m a bigger target, all of that due diligence I’ve done in the past… Allowing my legs to be at a proper distance and have leverage, all of the basic stuff that people tend to forget.”
Of course, for some it won’t be down to a healthy lifestyle, a renewed hunger or being motivated by his wife in the corner that his longevity is down to. Dissenters claim just about any significant triumph in the sport in today’s day and age is tainted by performance enhancing drugs.
Donaire has voluntarily put himself on VADA-testing for years, paying from his own pocket, he was also VADA-tested throughout the WBSS and the California commission tested him and Oubaali for their bout last week.
“I’m always open for 24-hour 365 like I’ve done in the past,” he explained. “I have nothing to hide and if anyone out there wants to sponsor it for me then go for it. I’m willing to accept any sponsor that allows me to do 24/365 testing at any moment in time. I’ve proved myself enough that I no longer need to do that for myself, but if they are willing to do that for me, I am willing to go through it.”
And in the aftermath of yet another banner night he thanked another person he goes back a long time with, his friend Andre Ward, the retired 168 and 175lbs great.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Andre who really believed in me back in 2002 or 2003,” Donaire stated. “It was really him who got me back to boxing and trying to make it, so I’ll always give credit to Andre for being a brother to me at a time in my life when I needed him when I was at my lowest because I never forget all the good things people have done for me.”
Now Nonito is the one not just doing good things but great things. It’s why they should start engraving his Hall of Fame plaque now, but he’s not allowing himself to get too far ahead of himself or believe the hype. He’s been guilty of that before.
“I always live in the moment,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned in the past was when I celebrate something that’s not even there for me, I tend to fall on my face, so for me I’m only going to celebrate it when it’s in my lap in several years, whatever it may take. But for now, the only celebration that I have is for my victory and the celebration with my wife being the only female trainer to have a world champion and being the first WBC trainer to be presented with a trainer’s belt - so that is a big thing for me. I’ve accomplished a lot of things but she’s always been behind me and she’s always been there for me with all the work she’s done. Because of the pandemic there was only one person who could train me and that was Rachel so she deserves all of the historical awards and accolades that she has right now.”