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Donaire retirement question

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 12/06/2022 Bill Velasco

Boxing is the most unforgiving of sports, particularly when you get knocked out. The results can’t be masked; you can’t call it close. It’s unquestionable. Then everyone either says you’re washed up or turns their back on you, or both. Such is the bandwagon now that Nonito Donaire Jr. lost by knockout to Naoya Inoue. Suddenly, there’s clamor for him to retire. Is it justified?

Donaire began his professional career 21 years ago, and quickly made a name as a dynamic, dangerous fighter, knocking out every second or third opponent. In 2007, he got the chance of a lifetime, stepping in as a replacement opponent for International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization world flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan, who was moving up in weight. Darchinyan disparaged Donaire. In response, the Filipino Flash knocked him out midway through the fight, and ascended to world champion.

This was part of a mind-blowing string of victories, 29 straight, 30 of his first 31 bouts, despite moving up in weight midway through that run. The best year of that remarkable run was 2012. Donaire fought four times that year, won all fights (two by KO) and was named Fighter of the Year. He had already claimed super flyweight, bantamweight and super bantamweight world titles along the way. The year after that was a bit of a letdown, though, as he was visibly out of shape when he fought Guillermo Rigondeaux, losing both the WBA and WBO world super bantamweight belts as a result. It would take Donaire another two years to get the WBO belt back. However, in November, 2016, on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao - Jessie Vargas title fight, a loud, confident Nonito lost his crown to undefeated Jessie Magdaleno via unanimous decision.

His last eight fights have been a colorful checkerboard, with Donaire going back down in weight and becoming the oldest world bantamweight champion in history, winning five and losing three, including the loss to Inoue. All this seeming inconsistency raised questions about the intensity of his training. It might sound unfair to expect more from such a remarkable athlete, but such is what some people believe.

Should the 39-year-old Donaire retire? This writer doesn’t think so. Inoue is an amazing boxer, and getting knocked out is a hazard of the job. There was no definitive way to gauge Donaire’s current state, since the fight ended so early. Thirty-nine is no longer the dead-end that it was for athletes years ago. Perhaps this can be classified as another turning point, the start of a campaign to get the best possible climax to a great career. Donaire still has a lot of fight in him, and the results some people see as mixed are proof of his courage, the risks he takes that other boxers wouldn’t. Whatever happens next, Nonito Donaire Jr. will decide his own future, on his own terms, as he always has.

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