SAN FRANCISCO, California?In the Oscar-nominated biopic ?The Fight,? a struggling boxer, fed up with the way his mother and brother are handling his career, dumps his family and takes up with a woman in whom he finds love and support. The woman is vilified by the family who accuses her of stealing their prizefighter. But in the end everybody comes happily together and the boxer wins his title.
A similar plot is playing out in the life of Nonito Donaire Jr., the Filipino-American world flyweight champion who on Saturday (Sunday morning in Manila) at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, hopes to take the bantamweight crown from its current holder, a Mexican power pug named Fernando Montiel.
But so far a fairy-tale ending is nowhere in sight in the personal life of this fighter, according to Rachel Marcial, Donaire?s wife of nearly three years. Rachel, a former FHM Magazine cover girl and taekwondo champion, has found herself being cast as the villain in this potential teleserye, obviously by the other side.
The drawn-out drama is being played out in the free-fire zone of YouTube and Facebook, with allegations of fiscal mismanagement, greed, betrayal and ingratitude being hurled about by the protagonists. Rachel would now only say that Nonito Jr., or Jun as kith and kin call him, himself would address the issue after the fight.
For now the conflict is, however, absent in the mind of the Bohol-born, California-raised Filipino Flash, as Donaire has branded himself. Based in Las Vegas, he is training in the Bay Area and staying with his in-laws Gerry and Becky Marcial in their house in San Mateo. Donaire?s family lives across the San Francisco Bay, in San Leandro.
Nonito?s father, Senior, used to be his trainer and manager and currently is the trainer of Fil-Am female boxer, Ana Julaton. Glenn Donaire, an elder brother, has also been trying to make a name for himself in the ring but without much success.
?Dude, I can?t wait to get into the ring with Montiel,? Donaire says bounding from the ring after a punishing nine-round sparring session with three fighters on Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 2) at the Undisputed Gym in the industrial section of San Carlos, about half an hour?s drive from here. He was so pumped up one of the boxers got bloodied in the mouth. In a previous session, one of the boxers had to be X-rayed to make sure no bone was broken.
?It?s the most important fight of my career,? Donaire says. He has a guaranteed purse of $350,000 (about P15 million), chump change compared to the more than $22 million his idol and mentor, eight-division titleholder Manny Pacquiao, took home from his last fight against the superwelterweight Antonio Margarito.
But if Donaire prevails on Saturday, the doors will swing wide open for him to the fortune that comes with being a boxing luminary. Donaire now is No. 5 on best pound-for-pound roster, which is topped by Pacquiao. Montiel is no. 7.
Donaire, 27, is coming up from the superflyweight/junior bantamweight (115 pounds) division, but the bookmakers are giving him the odds, now fluctuating between 2:1 and 3:1. He thinks the money is on him because at five-foot-seven, he?s about a couple of inches taller and has a slightly longer reach than Montiel, a seasoned 31-year-old Mexican, who calls himself Cochulito (The Rooster).
The Mexican has a total of 48 fights, winning 44, 34 by knockout, two losses and two draws. Donaire, on the other hand, has won 25 of 26 fights in his 10-year pro career, 17 by KOs. Of his victories, however, only eight went the distance. This means he could deck Montiel way before the scheduled 12 rounds.
Toughest foe ever
YouTube clips of him cold-cocking the likes of such feared pugs as the Armenian Vic Darchinyan (who had broken the jaw of Donaire?s elder brother Glenn in an earlier fight) in the fifth round, and previously undefeated Ukrainian Vladimir Sidorenko in the fourth, would be sufficient indication of what he could do to Montiel.
But Donaire is not cocky. ?(Montiel) is the toughest fighter I have yet to face,? he says.
Boxing is an art, Donaire says. If he glides like Sugar Ray Leonard, shuffles like Muhamad Ali and delivers crushing blows like Marvin Hagler, it?s because as a 10-year-old who already saw boxing in his future, Donaire studiously watched their moves in film clips.
?I am old school. I like to be a smooth,? he says. ?You know, boxing to me is like a dance.?
Donaire fits the bill of the cerebral athlete. Clips of his fights show he has the instincts of a sniper.
?I am a sharpshooter,? he says; each shot must count. He sets up his shot before pulling the trigger, and when he has to fire more than once, it is in lethal combinations. In the fight against Sidorenko, statistics showed that while Donaire threw far fewer punches, he connected a lot more than his opponent, who swung at him more than twice as much.
Lesson from Pacquiao
It is one lesson he learned from Pacquiao, whom he first met more than 10 years ago when he, Donaire, was still a promising tyro. ?Manny showed me how to fight southpaws,? says Donaire, himself a natural right-hander but who has become comfortable being a lefty. ?He sparred with me. He was generous; he shared with me what he knew.? Pacquiao of course at that time was still a long way off from being the king of boxing that he is now, but he was as kind-hearted then as he is still now.
All about heart
Donaire was born in Talibon, a drowsy hamlet in Bohol, but spent part of his childhood in General Santos City. Pacquiao was born also in a remote village called Kibawe in Bukidnon province, before moving to GenSan. But there the growing-up similarity ends. Donaire would migrate to join his father in California, where he first took a fancy to boxing. Pacquiao would grow roots in GenSan and left for the big city as a teen to pursue his pugilist dream.
So what is in GenSan that breeds boxing champions? ?I don?t know,? Donaire replies, and after a while hesitantly adds, ?Boxing is all about heart. Manny has a big heart. I have a big heart.? The question hovers unanswered.
But it?s not just GenSan and a love for boxing that the two share. They love to perform?as singers and actors. Of course those who have seen them on stage or before the camera are unanimous in their decision that both should not quit their day jobs, which is boxing.
But both are GMA 7 contract stars, with Pacquiao having his own show, ?Show Me Da Manny,? in which Donaire has appeared as a guest. Pacquiao has appeared on the late-night US TV show ?Jimmy Kimmel Live!? twice. If Donaire continues on his winning ways in the ring, he might just graduate from ?Celebrity Duets? to also having a segment with Kimmel or any of the other late-night shows.
Donaire, however, does not see himself as a politician, like Pacquiao has become. He would rather do ?inspirational? stuff, he says, like raise money for children?s causes or collecting shoes for Sen. Pia Cayetano?s Gabriel Symphony. ?We didn?t have much growing up,? he says. He recalls feeling bad when, on his visits to the Philippines, he sees children running barefoot. And in the aftermath of Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? in 2009, he was on his haunches in one of the relief centers helping pack relief goods.
He had an audience with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and political leaders have been heaping on him resolutions of praise. All of which, he says, he finds humbling.
He himself expresses some discomfort at the expectations of him to be ?the next Pacquiao.? If he does not become the best pound-for-pound boxer, he says he would be happy being the best bantamweight. What his goal is, he says, is to take his ?God-given talent? as far as it would take him.