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Nonito Donaire: Naoya Inoue a great fighter but people forgot who I am

Donaire discusses his most recent performance against ‘The Monster.’

Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

With a few weeks since his decision loss to Naoya Inoue in the WBSS finals, Nonito Donaire takes some time to chat with our friends at Fight Hub TV to discuss his reflections on the fight. Donaire obviously came out of that fight with a loss, but an inspired performance from him has gotten the attention of boxing fans, proving that he’s not done just yet. Check out some excerpts below...

Donaire on how he’s feeling about his performance against Inoue:

“I feel good, you know. I feel really good. I wish I could make big changes and that’s why I’m getting back into the gym, just to make those changes in my mindset. You know, fighters just don’t — no matter how great of a performance it is, it still lacked the W, and that’s something for me to get back to the drawing board and get better. But aside from that I feel great [laughs].”

On what led to his resurgent performance, despite losing:

“I think it’s just being motivated. I think that’s what it is. I keep moving up in weight in the past because I wanted to get motivated. Now you get a guy in front of me who I’m really motivated and it brought one of the best in me. And I think that it hasn’t brought the ultimate best in me and I think that it’s gonna get there because of where I am mentally, you know? And I’m grateful, I’m grateful for the experience. I mean, it was a fun fight for me.”

On if he came into the fight at all intimidated by Inoue’s reputation for punching power:

“No, not a single bit. I mean he came in, in the beginning of the first round, trying to intimidate (me) before the referee even came in — to start the fight he was already coming in, you know, and that was good for me...The thing is, he believes in his power, and I believe in my power, so I think that’s why I’m not intimidated because if you can land those punches on me, I can land my punches on you and let’s see who backs off. And we saw who took the first step back.”

On how he’d rate Inoue’s power:

“It was strong. It was a strong punch, similar to Darchinyan when I was fighting him at his best. But, you know, something that I thought I could take, you know? I stood — I mean I wobbled here and there, I wobbled him as well, but I felt at any moment I could take his punches. He hits hard, but I think the most dangerous for me was that body shot. That one hurt [laughs]. That one hurt a lot.”

On what was going through his mind when Inoue dropped him with that body shot:

“Well, what was going on was that I was thinking to stay up, you know. It hurt, I’m holding my breath — it hurt but I gotta protect myself behind the referee’s back, you know [chuckles]. I gotta survive, you know. So for the referee, he was kind of confused because he couldn’t see where I was at so he tried to run forward to turn around and at the same time Inoue was coming after me.

“And then I realized at that moment it’s either: I can stay up, which is dangerous for me but I know I can make it happen, or I can take the knee and breathe, taking the whole time to recover and then just try to give it all I got in these last two rounds. Because I felt that it was a close fight — I wasn’t gonna go into that route, I wanted to take him out in order to secure that victory.

“So I took that knee, every second, nine count, and got up right away with like nothing happened, and I saw Inoue’s face and one of my guys told me that when I got up he looked to his dad thinking like ‘what the heck is going on?!’ and I got back up there and he tried to go after me and I landed the left hook which stopped him.”

On that counter hook being his staple punch:

“And he took it, though! That’s the thing. He wobbled, yes he did, and it stopped his onslaught, you know, but that’s the thing — I’m always gonna be dangerous no matter if you think I’m hurt or not. I’m always gonna have the power because of the way my body mechanics throws those punches. But he took it and surprised the crap out of me.

“I think he tucked his chin really well, you know. Because that’s why he fractured his orbital, because the punches that keep landing was in the hard part of his bone, which is the cheek bones, you know. And if it was in the chin, you know, like the right hand that I landed which hurt him a lot — if it was like that with the left hook I think the fight would be different, but again, gotta commend him for tucking that chin the way he did.”

On if he believes he’s exposed Inoue a bit and if he’s not as good as he’s been made out to be:

“Depends on who you’re talking to, right? Because there’s gonna be guys who have great records, great belts and all that stuff — if they’re intimidated by any chance then he’s gonna be able to do whatever he wants and that’s why he was able to do it. But you’re looking at the wrong guy. I’m a guy who loves that kind of stuff. The more that you give the name, the bigger that you are, the more that I’m inspired to do, to be out there.

“He’s a great fighter. He’s a great fighter. He has great power, great overall technique, great speed as well — he’s an overall guy, you know. And he is what people made him (out) to be, but at the same time, people forgot who I am. That’s just what it is.”

On if he thinks he would’ve been able to beat him a few years ago when he was a little younger:

“I think that even now I can still beat him. It’s just that the only reason why was I took the choice, the veteran’s choice, which is to take your time and make the situation happen all over again, which is to counter and wait for it, what I got him with in the 9th round instead of creating the opportunity.

“Now in my younger years I would create the opportunity, I would not wait for it. I think if it was given the situation back in the days, I would probably take him out because I wouldn’t stop punching. But I can’t say because it’s not that, you know? It’s just my own personal opinion, of couse. But again, Inoue is a tremendous fighter but I think I was on par with him in that fight.”

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