The way Nonito Donaire looked at times in the ring last year, he could’ve changed his nickname from “The Filipino Flash” to “The Filipino Flash-in-the Pan.”
In losing his super bantamweight title to Guillermo Rigondeaux by unanimous decision in April 2013, Donaire, who had not lost in 12 years, was outboxed by the Cuban champion.
A few months later, Donaire was down on the judges’ scorecards against veteran Vic Darchinyan before stopping the Armenian in the ninth round.
In both fights, Donaire relied too much on the one-punch knockout strategy instead of using his boxing skills with that power.
So the four-division champion went back to the drawing board, hoping to regain what he had in 2012, when he defended his titles four times and was named Fighter of the Year.
“Last year I got away from what made me successful and I paid the price for that when I (fought) Rigondeaux,” Donaire said. “And even when I knocked out Vic Darchinyan in our rematch last year, that wasn’t the best me.”
What made Donaire successful was his knockout power, combined with speed and footwork. He also brought back his father, from whom he had been estranged, as his head trainer. That meant dumping Robert Garcia, one of the top cornermen in the business.
“I agree with Nonito 100%,” said his father, Nonito Sr. “Last year he just came forward, didn’t move his head and relied too much on his power, and that’s exactly the wrong way to fight a pure boxer like Rigondeaux, as we all saw.
“This camp we went back to Nonito’s bread and butter – creating a mix that combines speed, movement and power. I have never seen a fighter work harder and totally dedicate himself to his tasks than Nonito did during this training camp.”
Donaire, 31, will enter Saturday’s featherweight title fight in Macau (HBO, 4 p.m. ET) against South African champion Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs) as an underdog, a position he hasn’t been in since knocking out Darchinyan in their first meeting to win his first title at flyweight in 2007.
“It’s been a long time since I entered a fight as an underdog but that has inspired me more,” said Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs), who was born in the Philippines but moved to the U.S. as a youth and now lives in Las Vegas. “I reevaluated everything. I moved my training camp to the Philippines to take advantage of the heat and humidity and to eliminate the distractions I had in Las Vegas. It was a great move.
“I let a lot of things I worked hard to achieve slip through my fingers last year. I want to return to where I was in 2012 and go beyond that for the remainder of my boxing career.”
This is Donaire’s sixth fight outside of the U.S., where he’s never lost. But Vetyeka, 33, is coming off a victory against Indonesian great Chris John, who lost for the first time in 51 fights.
“Vetyeka is … dangerous and has a lot of weapons. His last two fights were knockout victories of Daud Yordan and Chris John,” Donaire said. “Those are two tough guys. But I am confident I have the game plan and the talent to beat him. There is no doubt that May 31 at The Venetian Macao is going to be my finest hour.”