Nontio Donaire's unyielding pursuit of the best

Nonito Donaire is long been known for fighting the best of his era, as well as being a national treasure for the sport of boxing.

In fact, Donaire might have had two hall-of-fame careers in one professional career and is also defying what is considered normal for aging in the lower weight classes. 

Donaire first came to fame when he knocked out Vic Darchinyan in a grudge match after Darchinyan broke the jaw of his brother, Glenn Donaire. The fight launched Donaire into the position to become a superstar. Donaire would be ranked number-three in the pound-for-pound list in 2011 behind Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and win Boxer of the Year in 2012 after a very active year in which he would fight four times in 2012. Yet, it was a loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux that seemingly sunk his battleship and a loss not long after at the featherweight division, a division he seemed to be outgunned in, to Nicholas Walters in which he was brutally knocked out. Donaire not unlike Madonna would reinvent himself time and time again, as after a few mediocre performances most notably a forgettable fight with Carl Frampton, Donaire would enter the World Boxing Super Series and make it to finals - giving Naoya Inoue an all-time classic bout in 2018, when most doubted him. Despite losing in their first fight, he made it a tough, close fight that went all twelve rounds when Inoue was knocking out each and every world-class opponent he faced. 

Donaire, who turns 41-years-old this week, reflects on his motivation to continue at his current age. 

“That is the thing about the older fighters, they need to have some type of emotion attached to a particular fight, at [the] highest level,” said Donaire to ProBox TV. “That is why I am always reaching to fight the best out there. I need to bring that out, and if you don’t have what it takes for me to give that respect then I might suffer a loss, but it is that mentality that I have to have the best guy in front of me.”

“I want to fight the best out there,” said Donaire to ProBox TV. “If you give me [Naoya] Inoue right here right now or anybody else at the top level I will say yes because that is the type of person I am. I want to fight the best out there. Obviously, the body in and of itself we have to take care of it.”

“In boxing you find that purpose, and you have to admit to yourself ‘you know what I am getting there.’ I might not be able to box in a couple of years or any of that. So my mindset is I got to prepare for things. What is my purpose in life now, and I think every man has to have a purpose in order to live life like training in the morning, for me it was fighting. So now, I have this thing with my wife, and my purpose is to help the world.”

In Donaire’s last fight, he aimed to become the oldest bantamweight champion in the history of boxing, yet was outworked by a clever fighter in Alexandro Santiago. Most thought that was going to be the note Donaire’s career ended on, but Donaire is steadfast that he wants to end his career on his own terms. Though he sees the finish line in sight, he is not giving up just yet. Yet as Donaire enters his third decade of being a prizefighter it is quite clear he never saw the success the sport has granted him over the years when he began. 

“When I lost at the Olympic Trials I said ‘I’m done.’ I won my first [pro] fight, and I was like ‘oh wow, I have power at the professional level.’ I lost my second fight, and I said ‘I’m done. This is it for me I am not doing it.’ I only got into boxing because of my brother wanted to fight. So we had our thing with Cameron Dunkin and in order for my brother to fight, I had to sign with my brother, because Cameron [saw my value]. My brother wanted to keep going, I didn’t want [to be a] part of any of it. I’d fight because you know what they give me a couple hundred bucks let’s do it. I got into and I just kept fighting I didn’t really care that much about who they put in front of me I just fought, and I got to the top without even thinking of becoming a world champion. Became a world champion, still couldn’t believe I was a world champion. It looks years for me to believe and think ‘wow, I am actually up here.’”