Nonito Donaire to face Carl Frampton, adds another chapter to storied career

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A couple of days ago, on Twitter (@steveucnlive) I asked if Nonito Donaire – win, lose or draw, this Saturday at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Ireland, versus Carl Frampton – was a future Hall-of-Famer. In repsonse, the overwhelming majority believed the “Filipino Flash” was absolutely destined for Canastota, New York, one day.


And really it’s an easy call, based on capturing versions of the world titles at 112, 115, 118, 122 and 126 pounds. During this run, Donaire won the “Fighter of the Year” award in 2012, scored the “Knockout of the Year” in 2011 versus Fernando Montiel and, for a long spell, he was considered one of the sport’s very best.


When asked to reflect on his career, Donaire told last week, “There’s a lot to be grateful for, the very first world title for me with (Vic) Darchinyan (in 2007) and then the Montiel fight and then (Toshiaki) Nishioka fight. Just the year 2012 was just a great year, fighting champion after champion. So it’s hard to just connect them all. I’ve had great fights and I know that I have more great fights coming.”


Speaking of which, this weekend, he faces another well-known colleague in Frampton, in what could be considered a true crossroads bout for two boxers who have had outstanding careers but are now fighting for their place in the boxing hierarchy.


So is this a do-or-die situation for Donaire, in terms of his world-class status?


“I’ve found that I’ve gotten to a point in myself that I’m just going to enjoy the ride. I’m going to enjoy everything, enjoy the moment of it and I know what I’m capable of is more than enough and I’m going to go out there and show everything that I’ve got,” said the 35-year-old Donaire, who has amassed a record of 38-4 (24).”It’s taken a lot of pressure of my shoulders knowing that, ‘Hey, I know exactly what I’m going to do. I know what I’m capable of and to do what I can do.'”


It’s clear that Donaire is just enjoying this moment as evidenced by his giving an impromptu boxing clinic to some kids during his open workout:



He says of his upcoming assignment on the road, “I’m just very excited for it.” Last year, after a long and successful association with Top Rank, he ventured out a bit as a free agent and signed with Richard Schaefer and his upstart Ringstar Sports company. Donaire made it clear that he only yearns for significant match-ups in the twilight of his career.


And the idea of a clash with Frampton was brought up early in 2018.


“It was just going back and forth, wanting the fight to happen and then I get a call from the promoters and from Richard and that they’re very interested in making the fight happen. It materialized and it was very exciting for me. I felt I needed the motivation to do it and this fight gives me every motivation to be at my best,” said Donaire, who engaged in a 10-round tune-up last September against Ruben Hernandez Garcia, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in his Ringstar debut.


While daunting, hitting the road and facing Frampton, 24-1 (14), in his backyard is something Donaire looks forward to. “I thought it was extra motivation for me to go out there and just be at my best, know who I am and be at my best because sometimes it takes more than the normal fight to get the movitation and inspiration to be able to go to the gym, wake up and go run at four o’clock in the morning and do all that stuff that a hungry fighter does and, right now, I’m a hungry fighter because I’m able to do all of that.” said Donaire, whose career has seen him fight in various locales across the world.


Again at this stage, Donaire is actually appreciative of the training process (something that certainly wasn’t always the case) because he understands there will be a time – perhaps soon – when all this will be over.


“I think that’s the biggest motivation for me and inspiration for me, knowing that I do appreciate what I’m doing. I do love the sport and I do love the time that I do have and I’m going to make the best of it,” said Donaire, who, for this bout, enlisted the help of former world junior featherweight champion Clarence “Bones” Adams to prepare for Frampton.


In his most recent outing, Frampton struggled mightily down the stretch against Horacio Garcia, even hitting the deck in the seventh round, last November. But Donaire – no stranger to desultory outings, as his own motivation waned in the past – is throwing that performance out. “Oh definitely; I know exactly what he went through. That’s why he took this fight because he wanted to be more motivated. He wanted to be inspired to be motivated. He wanted to be inspired to train harder and give it his all and show the world he still has it.


“I’ve been there so I know exactly not to take him lightly because everyone has off days sometimes. So we know what he’s capable of and that’s what we’re focusing on – his best.”


One factor in this fight that might favor Frampton, other than age (as he’s four years younger than Donaire) is the fact that he’s a naturally bigger fighter and has had more success at 126 pounds. But Donaire isn’t all that concerned, stating, ”I have never been as big as I am now, in terms of muscles mass. The last fight, I was very small; this time I’m a good, decent, full featherweight, so I don’t feel as disadvantaged at this point. I do feel I’m right on track.”


A lot is on the line in this contest, which has the vacant WBO interim featherweight title at stake. This really means that a shot at Oscar Valdez will eventually await the victor. However that’s not on Donaire’s mind, at this particular moment.


“Not yet; right now we’re just focusing on this fight and nothing but this fight. That’s just pretty much what my mindset is – it’s nothing but this fight.”





With the return date of Valdez uncertain, due to a jaw injury suffered against Scott Quigg, on March 10, is it possible that the winner of this bout will face the winner of another featherweight tussle that Ringstar Sports is promoting, the rematch between WBA beltholder Leo Santa Cruz and WBA “regular” titlist Abner Mares, on June 9, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles?


Schaefer says, “That’s certainly a possibility. The fact is there are so many great potential match-ups in this weight class. I think it’s one of the deepest weight classes, so there’s definitely that possibility and you can sort of like mix-and-match. It’s definitely a possibility.”





You’ll hear from Donaire and Hugo Centeno Jr. on this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule” with Mario Lopez and me.





For those of you in America, there will be a live stream provided by Showtime on its YouTube and Facebook pages, starting at 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT. Yeah, it’s great that certain networks are acting like its 2018…So what’s Adrien Broner’s problem with Mayweather Promotions and Leonard Ellerbe?…Speaking of streams, ESPN+ is airing the return of Amir Khan (who faces Phil Lo Greco) on Saturday, at 5:30 p.m. PT/2:30 p.m. PT as part of the international “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN” series…Yeah, it was a great run for ABC’s “Scandal,” really enjoyed the final season…I can be reached at and I tweet (a lot) at I also share photos of stuff at and can also be found at




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