SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson
Fresh from a dominant showing against Mexican warrior Ruben Garcia-Hernandez in San Antonio, Texas, over the weekend, Nonito Donaire, Jr. said yesterday he’ll be ready for another crack at a world title in three to four months if that’s what Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer has in the cards when they discuss the future in Las Vegas next week.
“Actually, I can do another fight before the year ends, maybe a tune-up if there’s an opening,” Donaire told The Star in an overseas interview. “In a week or two, I’ll be back in the gym. I’m not making plans for Christmas until we meet with Richard. I’m happy with my performance against Garcia. I executed my fight plan. When I had him hurt, I was tempted to finish him off but I held back, sticking to the plan. I didn’t want to brawl. That was my mistake in the (Nicholas) Walters fight where I ended up brawling and paid the price. Against Garcia, I was fast and unpredictable. I kept him guessing. I got off double left jabs or jabs to the body or right leads. I set up everything with the jab and mixed it up.”
There was some confusion on his opponent’s name. It’s a Spanish custom that two surnames are used, the first is the father’s and the second is the mother’s. So the Mexican’s surname is actually Garcia, not Hernandez. TV commentators used Hernandez as his surname. On the waistband of his shorts, Ruben was at the front and Garcia was at the back. His robe was inscribed Ruben Garcia and his cornermen wore jackets that read Team Garcia.
But there was no confusion as to who deserved the win. Judge Cathy Leonard saw it a shutout, 100-90 while judge Glen Crocker had it 97-93 and judge Luis Escalona 99-91, all for the Donaire who raised his record to 38-4, with 24 KOs. Garcia’s mark dipped to 22-3-1 as the loss snapped his streak of seven straight wins. Garcia, 24, is 10 years younger than Donaire.
While Garcia hardly laid a glove on Donaire, the Filipino Flash surprisingly finished the fight with bruises on his forehead and left cheek. Donaire said it was due to head-butts. “Garcia would throw the left jab then come in with his head up,” he said. “I thought he was afraid and intimidated. Garcia held his hands high to cover up. He slowed down a lot even if he had good speed like he stiffened up. He knew if he threw the jab, I’d counter with a left or right so that’s why he was hesitant. The key was to control the fight, not to brawl, not to get hit.” Referee Laurence Cole, who worked Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Antonio Margarito in 2010, never warned Garcia for head-butting.
Donaire called wife Rachel his “voice of strategy.” For the first time in Donaire’s career, Rachel was in his corner with conditioning coach Mike Bazzel, chiropractor Cameron Fort and Japanese mittman Kita Kitahara. “I didn’t join the ring walk, I didn’t want the pressure,” said Rachel. “People kept asking me what cute outfit I’d wear for the fight but I just kept quiet. I didn’t tell anyone I would be in Nonito’s corner. I didn’t want it to be a distraction. It was a super major adjustment for me to watch from ringside to work the corner. I just wanted to be present for Nonito. It’s my voice he hears at home and I wanted to be in his ear for the fight. Mike and I talked strategy throughout the fight. There was a TV monitor close to us so we knew how much time there would be in every round. In that way, I could shout out to Nonito. It’s an automatic instinct for Nonito to brawl but that wasn’t the plan. Even when Nonito trained in Japan, I monitored his progress in real time. Throughout his camp, he focused on boxing, not brawling. That’s the new Nonito.”
Donaire, transformed into a proficient technician, taught Garcia a clinical boxing lesson he’ll never forget. He landed overhand rights and left hooks to the face, dug right hooks to the side of the body, threw dazzling combinations of three to four to five punches, doubled on the left jab, poked the midsection, connected with jarring uppercuts, sidestepped and backtracked to negate Garcia’s reach advantage and was as fresh in the end as he was at the start.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate my defense a 6 or 7,” he said. “I measured my distance, did a lot of head movement, backed off when I had to. He was awkward and off-balance so it was difficult to keep attacking because his head was everywhere. On offense, my rating was 5. I still have things to work on. I want to be faster, stronger.” Rachel said her rating was 7.5 overall.
Donaire weighed in at 125.5 pounds for the 10-round featherweight fight. Making weight was no problem. “Nonito was walking around at 131,” said Rachel. “Maybe, he’ll need to go up to 135. Losing water weight in the process of training will make his body more cut. I thought his stamina was good and he kept a consistent workrate. If Nonito wanted to, he could’ve knocked out Garcia. But that wasn’t the goal. Nonito wanted to fight smart and he did.”