Often in this often unforgiving sport, a great fighter shows his greatness in defeat, when losing the big one (think, for one obvious example, Meldrick Taylor and his ‘two seconds from glory’ heart-breaker against Julio Cesar Chavez). We all know “Filipino Flash” Nonito Donaire came up trumps in many big fights – see his wins over, amongst others: Vic Darchinyan, Raul Martinez, Rafael Concepcion, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Omar Narvaez and Jorge Arce – but it’s arguable that his most stirring effort, his most unexpectedly brilliant display, came in his loss of yesterday.
Donaire, aged 36 and a massive underdog against lethal KO King of the lower weights Naoya Inoue, was widely (though not exclusively) expected to be blown away by the Japanese tornado. Instead Donaire reaffirmed his greatness, his quite incredible fighting heart. Still fast at 36, still possessing a wickedly sturdy chin and still having an enormous stomach for battle, Donaire came close to pulling the upset.
If Donaire has fought his last fight – and the inspirational monster effort he gave against Inoue would be some proud place to call it quits – he will be missed. But no fighter can go on forever, and maybe the time is right for the former four-weight champ to call it a day on a high. Donaire might have further tremendous efforts inside him, but maybe not. The old adage is fond of telling us how the great ones can muster everything up for one last great fight; one final turning back of the clock. Maybe this is what Donaire gave us yesterday: one stupendous swansong.
A special kind of fighter and a special kind of person, Nonito is a humble, he has time for everyone type of person when he could so easily be a big head; a fighter with one heck of an ego. But Donaire has never let fame, success or greatness get to him. For this alone he has earned a special place in the hearts and minds of fight fans. He made us all feel good once again yesterday, It doesn’t matter that Donaire lost in the opinion of three judges, the champ gave his all and he featured and more than played his part in a tremendous fight – a special fight.
Donaire can now look forward to being enshrined in The Hall of Fame. It’s guaranteed. As guaranteed as it is a certainty that it will take some time before we will see as superb a bantamweight world title fight as the one we were privileged to have witnessed yesterday.
If Donaire hs boxed his last, he goes out with a fine 40-6(26) ledger. A pro since February of 2001, Donaire fought everyone, often heavier men he never had a demand to fight. And to think, this great warrior actually lost his second pro bout. It would be 12 long years before Nonito tasted defeat again.