MANILA, Philippines—As Nonito Donaire Jr. prepares for bigger fights ahead, the man who lifted the Filipino spirit out of depths of despair following the devastating defeat of “People’s Champ” Manny Pacquiao early this month has no qualms about sharing to his countrymen his New Year’s resolution.
“Not to drink. Not a single (drop of) alcohol will touch my body,” confessed Donaire, the reigning WBO super bantamweight champ who defeated his good friend, Mexican boxer Jorge Arce, on Dec. 15 in Houston, Texas, via a third round technical knockout victory.
Donaire made this admission in an ambush interview after he paid President Aquino a courtesy call in Malacañang last week.
One of the Top 10 pound-for-pound boxers in the world, the 30-year-old champ exhorted everyone to make good on his or her self-imposed target for the coming year:
“If you want your resolution to come true, make sure you do it with all your heart and with all your effort,” he told reporters, quickly adding a follow up verbal jab:
“Anything is possible! Merry Christmas!”
When asked about his main goal for ending what appeared to be a triumphant career, thus far, with a 30-fight winning streak in just over a decade, he contrasted this with his rather uneventful early years while growing up in Talibon, Bohol.
“I experienced hardship and poverty (while) growing up. I was being bullied and teased because I am short and ugly, I have big ears. For me, growing up, I didn’t have much inspiration” he recalled.
But with four wins just this year, Donaire exclaimed:
“I really am thankful for everything that I have. God has been good. I worked hard, I believe in God, I believe in myself, and hoping that at the end of my career … I could inspire even one person here in the Philippines, or just a simple kid (that), with the proper training and belief in God, nothing is impossible. And to me that’s pretty much my goal—to be able to inspire the nation or even just a simple kid somewhere in the streets to do their best.”
Donaire metamorphosed from a ring gladiator into a stylish, mild-mannered gentleman when he quietly slipped into the presidential palace for a meeting with Mr. Aquino; he donned an all-black ensemble—suit with vest, paired with tight-fitting pants and shoes.
But instead of surprising the President, it was the super bantamweight champ who was starstruck following the meeting at the Palace Music Room, where heads of state and government, including royalties, are received by the sitting President.
Impressed with the President’s demeanor and wise words, Donaire felt that he was already “very close” to the President when he emerged from the hourlong meeting.
A wide-eyed Donaire was groping for words when interviewed by reporters.
“He’s very chill (relaxed). He has a very positive aura, very relaxed … and just amazing. This is a person who just wants our nation to improve. He really loves his country,” he said of Mr. Aquino.
“It was an honor to be able to talk to him. He’s so different. He was so casual, so relaxed,” he added.
The conversation with the President included some advice on how to go about his boxing career, said Donaire.
“There is a beginning, and there is an ending. As for me, especially in boxing, he gave me an advice to do it the right way … in my boxing career,” said Donaire, paraphrasing the President.
Pressed for details, he said: “(One advice from Mr. Aquino’s is) to understand when it’s best for me (to hang up my gloves). It was such a long conversation that there were so many pieces of advice that I (took) in. It was an amazing time for me.”
Mr. Aquino had issued an unsolicited advice to the champ on the eve of title defense against the Mexican warrior, who happened to be Donaire’s friend.
The President said, in a nutshell, that everybody was given a chance to shine for a given time.
“The skill is not actually in the acting itself, but knowing when to leave. So when he achieves that, he gets out of the game safely, he has the foundations of a good family,” said the President during a freewheeling chat with reporters last week.
He hoped that Donaire would achieve his dreams both in and out of the ring, saying that Donaire “really strikes me as somebody who has a good soul, a good spirit.”
Mr. Aquino earlier advised Pacquiao to hang up his gloves and enjoy the fruits of his legendary boxing career, but was not heeded by the pound-for-pound king, who went to suffer a humiliating knockout loss to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 9.
Donaire, who has lost only one of his 31 fights and with a stellar career record that included four victories just this year alone, was quick to douse cold water on predictions, this early, that he would be the next Pacquiao.
“Right now, I’m just honored that they have compared me to Pacquiao because Pacquiao is one of the greatest—not just in the Philippines, not just in this era—but in the history of boxing. That’s a huge honor for me,” said Donaire.
He said that what he needed was not so much accolades but “to keep working harder … to keep winning in hopes that I could inspire the nation in any way, and I could put a smile and to raise our flag as high (as possible) for the whole world to know that we exist.”
When pressed by reporters, Donaire said he didn’t have the “right” to ask Pacquiao to retire now.
“It’s really up to (him), but you saw his fight, he did great. I believe till this day that he can still beat anyone at his level, except for the fact that it really comes down to Jinkee (Pacquiao), Manny,” he said.
“It’s about his kids, it’s about his wife. Whatever their decision, I will support,” said Donaire.