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CEBU, Philippines – They’ve been through ups and downs together in life and in the ring. From missing out on the 2000 Olympics after losing in the trials, to winning, losing and winning titles again, Nonito Donaire Jr and his father/trainer have had a bond that was difficult to sever, even when they were no longer on speaking terms for several years.
In the later stages of his boxing career, WBO junior featherweight champion Donaire, 33, is becoming introspective. The 4-division champion is a father of two now and has been attending seminars of motivational guru Tony Robbins (he’s a platinum member) which he says has helped give him a more positive outlook on life and his career.
During Thursday’s (April 21) press conference for his title defense against Hungarian Zsolt Bedak this Saturday at Cebu City Sports Center, Donaire let it all out on his relationship with his father and career.
“We’ve had our differences but we’ve also had our fun time and moments. That’s why I dedicate this fight to my father. He’s always been there for me and I felt like I’ve never given him the respect. I give this moment to thank him and my team that I am truly grateful for you guys and this moment,” said a tearful Donaire to the applause of reporters at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino.
Donaire’s father remained stoic throughout but seems content with how their relationship has progressed since rejoining forces in 2013.
“He’s getting matured. Now that he has some children, he knows what he did was wrong,” said Donaire Sr.
“Throughout my career we’ve had our ups and downs and we didn’t realize where we want to be. But the mentality that I have right now is a totally different right now. A person that is grateful for everything that he has regardless of what they may be. The smiles in my kid’s face, the hugs and kisses that they give me, the support that I have from my wife and team,” said Donaire Jr.
The change can be seen in Donaire’s demeanor and physical appearance. Two days before the fight he looks healthy and energetic, whereas in the past he’d be gaunt and withdrawn at this point. He spent much of the press conference playing with his youngest son Jarel, even miming peek-a-boo on the dais for his son seated in the front row of the ballroom.
Donaire said he has changed his diet, maintaining a walk-around weight between 133-135 instead of blowing up and crashing back down in weight.
“Before hell no, I would get big, get fat, go up to 150 and drop down to 112,” said Donaire, a native of Talibon, Bohol, Philippines who makes his home in San Leandro, California.
Donaire said he has stopped relying solely on talent and is doing his homework better on opponent, a wakeup call for his career that has come later rather than sooner. He had to dig deep to survive his last fight, a life-and-death struggle with Mexican brawler Cesar Juarez, and the aura of invincibility he once wielded over opponents was shattered in his losses to Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters.
Promoter Mike Aldeguer, whose ALA Promotions is presenting the show in conjunction with Top Rank on ABS-CBN pay-per-view in the Philippines and on pay-per-view in the United States and Canada, says he is expecting a crowd of 30-35,000 for the outdoor venue, which would present a partisan crowd for the 32-year-old Bedak (25-1, 8 KOs) to deal with.
Bedak had become accustomed to fighting abroad as a top amateur last decade, making it to the round of 16 at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but he’s only fought outside of Europe once, when he lost by tenth round technical knockout against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in 2010 in a vie for the same title he seeks on Saturday.
His nickname is “Mr Left Hook,” though Donaire Sr cautions him about the danger of trading hooks with one of the sport’s deadliest left hook artists.
“If he’s gonna do that, we can counter him all the time. We can see who lands harder first and they’re gonna go down,” said Donaire Sr. “Because I know he doesn’t have any hard hook. He’s not really a hard puncher. He can box but the power is not there.”
Donaire may be using the power of positive thinking in his life and career, but he gave assurances that he still has a destructive streak in the ring.
“If I’m given an opportunity, an opening for a knockout, you know that I will take that. That’s who I am, that’s my identity as a fighter. I am a warrior and I go out there with dignity and honor in destroying an opponent,” said Donaire. – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.