MANILA — It would’ve been the stage to showcase his rediscovered killer’s instinct and new-found fountain of youth but Nonito Donaire Jr. said that he’s not griping over the cancellation of his fight against Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez for the vacant WBC bantamweight title in Connecticut even if the basis was an apparent mistake in his COVID-19 test result.
Donaire, 38, was pulled out of the bout when he tested positive in a qualitative molecular NAAT exam that was taken last Dec. 4. He had previously come out negative twice.
Donaire was denied a confirmatory option and on his own, paid for an antigen and two NAAT tests that later proved negative. He appealed to be reinstated but was turned down.
His place was taken by another Filipino Reymart Gaballo, the WBA No. 1 contender, who will now face Rodriguez for the interim crown tonight (tomorrow morning, Manila time).
“A positive test is very serious and turns a family upside down into a panic,” said Donaire.
“It isn’t something to take lightly and if you have concerns about it, there should be a retest. My entire family tested negative except me so my result had to be a mistake. I stayed away from gyms where lots of fighters train and worked only with (MMA fighter) Tony Diaz. I was super careful not to be infected. I only hope that we all learn from my sad experience. Fighters deserve a confirmatory test because fighting is our livelihood and it’s unfair to deprive us of a living by relying on one inconclusive result. I raised a voice to call out for justice not for myself but for all fighters who may be subjected to similar conditions in the future.”
Donaire said his consolation is Gaballo has been elevated from undercard to main event status. “I wish Reymart the best of luck and ask all Filipino fans to pray for his victory and support him,” he said. “I thank everyone involved in the card, WBC, Showtime, Premier Boxing Champions, promoter Tom Brown, Al Haymon, Ringstar’s Richard Schaefer and Cameron Dunkin. I thank the fans for backing me up, for hearing me out. On my part, I’m moving on. I’ll go back to the gym and be even more prepared for my next fight.”
Donaire said from sparring 12 rounds a few days ago, he’ll taper off and drop down to eight before working back up to 10. A six-week monitoring period has been imposed to check on his condition after which he’ll be given the green light to fight. “I’ll enjoy the holidays with family then I’ll be 100 percent by January or February,” he said. “I’ll admit in the (Naoya) Inoue fight last year, I fought too smart, too calculating like I lost my killer’s instinct. I hurt Inoue but didn’t finish him off. Now, it’s back. I would’ve liked to show it against Rodriguez but there will be another opportunity, maybe against WBC champion (Nordine) Oubaali.”
Donaire said his dream is to unify the 118-pound championship. Stepping back to superflyweight to add another title to his collection is a possibility but at the moment, his focus is to dethrone Oubaali then work his way to a rematch with Inoue. Donaire said at this stage of his career, it’s like he’s experiencing a rebirth.