The boxing public has been spoiled seeing 2012 Fighter of the Year, Nonito Donaire Jr., obliterate his competition.
So after struggling in 2013 and a flawed start this year—in which he amassed a world title via unsatisfying technical decision—it seemed like Nonito had to appease his discontented audience.
Carrying a true ring warrior’s pride, he accepted a very tough fight that would have boosted his status anew as one of the sport’s top prizefighters. Unfortunately, the guy he faced didn’t get the memo. Jamaica’s KO King, Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters—too big, too strong, and perhaps too good for Junjun—brushed off the 31-year-old’s resolve.
Walters KO’d the multi-division champion with a monstrous right in the sixth canto of their 12-round championship bout. Donaire tried to get up but he had nothing left. Prior to the grim ending, he went down in the third after eating a Walters uppercut, garnished with clashes that mostly ended with a smile on Walters' face.
Nonito, by his own admission, lost his WBA Super World Featherweight crown to a clear-cut superior fighter: "He knocked the shit out of me. He's an amazing guy. I was at my best. I never trained this hard…”
Understandably, losing in a manner as brutal as a Quentin Tarantino fight scene puts Nonito’s boxing future in question.
Is it over for him?
How does he recover from this?
Should he retire?
Well, right now, coming up with a sufficient answer, especially for the Donaire fans and the man himself, might be harder than riding the MRT during rush hour. However, what we can do for our idol Nonito is to evaluate a few crucial factors to consider that’ll help him decide whether it’s time to hang up the gloves or if a phoenix-like resurrection is still in the offing.
NONITO SHOULD WALK AWAY IF...
1) His fire is gone
When his wounds heal and he’s fit to train again, he must check if he still has the hunger for boxing or if he’s just coming back to collect paychecks.
If the sport turns into something like a sucky 9-to-5 job for Nonito, wherein coming into the gym becomes a “can’t wait till this is done” chore rather than a labor of love, he needs to take a break—a really long one. The time away from it all will tell him if he still wants to be a fighter or if he’s tired of being one.
If there’s nothing left in Nonito’s “desire tank” and he can’t refill it, he better walk away before he gets seriously hurt. After all, it’s not like Junjun’s life is over after boxing, the guy has a lot to offer. He’s very articulate, befitting of a sportscaster/boxing analyst. He also has photography skills. He’s very much welcome to do photo-shoots here with us, if he wants to.
And of course his hero, Manny Pacquiao, may have a spot for him in the KIA Sorento roster.
2) His skills are in decline
In the Walters encounter, there’s no way Junjun could’ve matched the undefeated Jamaican’s overall strength. Just look at their physiques, it was Walters’ Ripped Muscles vs. Donaire’s Baby Fats. The only way our boy could’ve eked out a win was if his skills foiled the Axe Man’s overwhelming physicality.
But our boy chose to fight fire with fire instead. He never intended to outpoint his opponent using the skillset he has always been lauded for. Although he tried to box in the early goings, he reverted back to his headhunting ways, spelling the beginning of his end, by the third round.
Maybe it’s the warrior in Nonito that forced him to slug it out or it could also be that the marvelous skills we expect of the Filipino Flash are not so marvelous anymore. His exceptional yet physically taxing skills—excellent footwork and pinpoint punching from a distance, both very tiring to sustain—are what made Nonito a special boxer. If he’s relying solely on his knockout punch because his true assets have extensively diminished, competing in the top level could be as difficult for him as Filipinos liking Floyd Mayweather.
In the meantime, here's some pampalubag-loob:
Video via HBOsports
3) There’s nothing left to prove
Nonito has won four major world titles and an interim world title. He is a legit five-time world champion, a feat never accomplished by many boxing greats who are now in the Hall of Fame. If he seriously feels like it’s time to call it quits, it’s perfectly fine.
He’s had an illustrious career and he’s given us many years of absolute entertainment. Getting back into the ring merely because of pride but without a genuine sense of purpose may turn him into an all-too-familiar tragic tale of a great champion who doesn’t know when to step down. Tons of boxing icons, from Muhammad Ali all the way to Erik Morales, didn’t stop fighting until men whom they would’ve toyed with in their primes destroyed the shells of their former selves.
A quick look back in boxing history should give Nonito an idea what to do next.
4) Walters has beaten the Filipino Flash out of him
In boxing, more often than not, a fighter never truly regains his best form after suffering a violent beating.
There are cases when a great talent instantly becomes damaged goods after a one-sided defeat. Roy Jones Jr., Nonito’s buddy, is one good example. After getting knocked out for the first time by Antonio Tarver in 2004, boxing’s superman seemed to have lost his edge, and soon mid-tier fighters wanted a piece of Jones knowing he had become a vulnerable target.
In Nonito’s case, his latest setback may have also signaled the end of his run as one of the sport’s best. Donaire was beaten so badly, he looked like a boy getting knocked around by a full-grown man in Walters.
When he’s done recuperating, Nonito needs to gauge if he still is the Filipino Flash by having a tune-up fight against a quality opponent. If he wins and the quick reflexes are still there, maybe he’s got a few more fights left in him. But if he senses that he’s far from being the nimble, quick-handed boxing prodigy, it’s inadvisable for him to keep on going.
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