Nonito Donaire Ready For Another Run at Featherweight

NONITO DONAIRE UPDATE BY SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT TAMAS PRADARICS – Nonito Donaire last fought in November 2016 when he lost a decision along with his WBO super bantamweight title to undefeated Jessie Magdaleno. Soon after the Filipino fighter’s long-term partnership with Top Rank Promotions came to an end. With that, the former four-division champ became a free agent and it was uncertain whether he would sign with another big promotional company or perhaps stay independent and work with whoever can offer anything worthy for him.

”We had to have meetings and long conversations with promoters to see what was on the table. Once we had all that, we had to sit down and lay out what our roadmap would be and with whom,” said his wife and manager Rachel Donaire  about the long months of negotiations regarding her husband’s future in the sport.

Finally, on July 25, it was announced that Nonito signed with Richard Schaefer. The former Swiss banker introduced himself to the boxing world in 2002 as the co-founder of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Schaefer was a key figure within the company until he had a falling-out with De La Hoya in 2014. In the summer of 2016, after a couple of years away from the sport, he formed a new promotional company named RingStar Sports.

Donaire is scheduled to have his debut under the RingStar flagship in September against a currently undisclosed opponent. It most likely will be a tune-up bout before the Filipino fighter turns in the direction of bigger and better things. The 34-year-old pugilist is planning to come back to the featherweight division, where most of the top fighters are within reach through Schaefer, who is known for his close working relationship with Al Haymon and his Premier Boxing Champions stable. WBA champ Leo Santa Cruz, WBC belt holder Gary Russell Jr, IBF titlist Lee Selby, plus former kingpins Carl Frampton and Abner Mares are all there to negotiate with.

”Richard and Nonito were on the same page as far as wanting to go after these fighters considering it’s long overdue. As you remember, a mega fight between Mares and Nonito could not be made before. Hopefully, there will not be anything to stand in the way [of these meaningful fights] anymore,” Rachel said.

The fourth belt holder at featherweight is WBO champion, Oscar Valdez. The unbeaten Mexican is promoted by Nonito’s former handler, Top Rank. In fact, the last offer the Filipino fighter received by the promotion’s head, Bob Arum, was a chance to face Valdez this past April. As that offer came in January, Rachel said they had to turn it down as Nonito would not have enough time to prepare properly for the get-go. Valdez ended up facing Miguel Marriaga and had his hands full with the crafty Colombian challenger. Rachel is uncertain of the possibility of an eventual showdown with Valdez now that they are aligned with rival promoter Schaefer.

”I think there is a huge stable of fights with Richard that can be made easily. I think possibly later [a bout against Valdez can happen] but you will always have to deal with the promoters agreeing with each other.”

Rachel, however, does not completely rule out the possibility of future businesses with Bob Arum’s Las Vegas-based company.

”We have an amicable relationship with Bob. It’s purely business. They [Top Rank] could always reach out and I am sure RingStar will work with whoever needs to be if there is a fight they’d like to make.”

Donaire won his first world title a decade ago when he shot down the then undefeated Vic Darchinyan with his trademark left hook in the fifth round in a flyweight bout for the IBF belt in July of 2007. Later he won titles at bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight and through this journey he emerged as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. His run ended in 2013 with a one-sided loss to former two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux in a WBA/WBO/Ring 122-pound unification bout. Since then he won two more titles but lost both to undefeated, hungry opponents Nicholas Walters and, most recently, Magdaleno.

The Filipino fighter is now once again in position to secure bouts against the best fighters in his chosen weight class. The only question that remains is whether he still has what it takes to get to the top in a colorful and packed featherweight division.

”I definitely see him winning a belt and even lead the division as long as the other fighters are willing to get in the ring with him,” said Rachel. “For better or worse, Nonito has fought all challengers. He has won lots of major fights. He has also lost major fights. It’s just about making sure whatever mistakes he made, he corrects.”

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Editor’s Note: TAMAS PRADARICS resides in Tihany, Hungary. You can reach him at pradaricst@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter at @TomiPradarics.