By Nick Giongco
Though outfought by a younger and more powerful Japanese foe, Nonito Donaire stood his ground following 12 brutal rounds last Thursday in Saitama, Japan.
Ranged against heavy-handed Naoya Inoue before 20,000 fans at Saitama Super Arena, Donaire, nearing his 37 years of age, was a picture of courage as he endured severe punishment from a rival more than 10 years his junior.
Punchstats overwhelmingly favored Inoue, whose seven-fight knockout win streak ended when Donaire pushed him to the limit.
But Donaire paid the price as evidenced by Inoue’s 227 punches thrown out of 628 for 36.1 percent.
Donaire unleashed 605 but connected on just 141 for 23.3 percent.
In power punches, the two fought on almost even terms with Inoue taking landing 116 out of 292 thrown for 39.7 percent.
Donaire, who had his best moment in the eighth round when he rocked Inoue with a right to the jaw, tallied 99 out of 286 for 35.9 percent, figures that essentially proved the Fil-Am four-division champion was competitive.
In the end, Donaire was gracious in defeat, acknowledging that Inoue was the better man that night.
The morning after his savage defeat, Donaire spent some quality time with his two sons, including Jarel, who he had to console.
“First of all, I want to thank God for keeping me safe in that ring. My guardian angels for holding that shield up, that armor as strong as they could. To Ringstar Sports Richard Schaefer for believing me so much to get me into this tournament. You truly have had my back through this all and appreciate you. To Mr. (Akihiko) Honda, Teiken, the hospitality you have shown to me, my family and team has been amazing,” wrote Donaire in his Facebook account.
“I am a warrior on my shield. I came to Japan to take the Muhammad Ali trophy. I promised my sons they would see it in the morning. And with tears in my eyes, I humbly asked Inoue to borrow it for a night, not for me but for my word. It’ll be a life lesson my boys will soon learn. That you do your best and you come short. You will win. You will lose. But in either aspect you will do so graciously,” said Donaire, who was on the verge of a knockout loss in the 11th round when he got felled by a brutal body shot.
In a video Donaire posted, Inoue indeed gave in to his opponent’s request and allowed the coveted symbol of his superiority to stay overnight with Donaire so his kids can take a closer look at it before being transported back to the rightful owner.
Despite the stabbing pain, Donaire stood and faced the fighter nicknamed ‘Monster’ and weathered the storm en route to losing on points.
“It’ll pain them to see my face. They’ll kiss my wounds. They’ll see a trophy we don’t get to take home and understand what it means to want to train harder. And I told about the battle I fought. That I’d rather put my life on that shield than give up. And that we will ALWAYS fight,” added Donaire.