December 02, 2023

GUTS AND GLORY | What's his next move? Questions surround future of Nonito Donaire Jr.

Art by Royce Nicdao

Fights like this used to be easy for Nonito Donaire Jr.

If he lands one of his vaunted left hooks, it means he’s going to land another. Two or three of those bad boys used to be enough to finish things off.

Donaire might have trouble against a stylist like Guillermo Rigondeaux or against naturally bigger super bantamweights and featherweights such as Carl Frampton, Jessie Magdaleno, Nicholas Walters, or a once-in-a-lifetime monster in Naoya Inoue, but he’s never had an issue against foes like Alexandro Santiago in the past.

In the third round of his match against Santiago, Donaire landed his fair share of left hooks. For many Filipino fans, it felt like the start of the end. However, it wasn’t. When Santiago’s corner said Donaire only had that punch in his arsenal, we collectively smirked and assumed he’d be eating his words in a few rounds because that punch has claimed victims a lot better.

The problem was that the end did not come. Instead, it was the Mexican who kept coming.

Donaire was ahead after the first three rounds but it was all downhill from there. The three judges scored only one or two more rounds in the Filipino’s favor from the fourth to the 12th en route to a clear unanimous decision loss.

It’s the first time in the Filipino Flash’s career that he suffered back-to-back losses. He’s now lost three of his last five fights so, inevitably, the talk about retirement popped up. Donaire, as he should, did not make an abrupt decision as he will lick his wounds first before mapping out his future.

There’s no question that Donaire’s legacy in boxing is already set. Everything he achieved after the first match against Inoue is just gravy to what has been a legendary career.

But should he want to continue his boxing career, he might have to accept that his next match might not be for a world title. Since 2018, he’s had eight fights, all for world championships (four wins and four losses). While he can still draw a crowd, it might be difficult to book another world championship match for Donaire on the heels of two straight losses.

This then begs the question: If it won’t be for a championship, is it still worth taking for Donaire?

Time remains undefeated in boxing, even against a legend like Donaire. Unfortunately, in this tough sport, the end usually is swift and brutal.

His run has been nothing short of magical. His wins against Vic Darchinyan, Fernand Montiel, Jorge Arce, and Nordine Oubaali, to name a few, will always have a special place in the hearts of Filipino fight fans. But now might be the time to start accepting the fact that Donaire, the only boxer left from the Philippines’ golden age in boxing, is about to end his career.

While we are no longer in those dark moments when the Philippines did not have a single world champion, we might have have to wait a while before another Filipino boxer joins the top ten pound-for-pound list like Manny Pacquiao and Donaire did in the past.

The two set standards that younger Filipino fighters have struggled to reach. But maybe it’s also a lesson for us boxing fans to start appreciating our younger boxers in a different way. We were spoiled by Pacquiao and Donaire and it might have dampened our usual passion and vigor in supporting boxers who are just starting out their own journeys in the sport.

There’s a possibility that the loss to Santiago will not be the last we see Donaire inside the ring. A farewell fight in the Philippines could be a nice way to end it on his terms

However, he did just figure out that the hungry young fighters out there at the highest levels of the sport are only bound to get better. So, if he decides to hang up his gloves for good, then what a ride it was.