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Nonito Donaire: Naoya Inoue landed “hardest punch I’ve been hit with,” glad referee stopped fight

Nonito Donaire sent his respect to Naoya Inoue and also to referee Michael Griffin after Tuesday’s fight in Japan.

Nonito Donaire says he went “completely blank” when Naoya Inoue hit him in their rematch
Nonito Donaire says he went “completely blank” when Naoya Inoue hit him in their rematch
Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Nonito Donaire came up short against Naoya Inoue in their rematch on Tuesday, stopped in the second round in the three-belt unification bout from Saitama, Japan.

Donaire (42-7, 28 KO) did a live stream after the fight, and said that the shot Inoue (23-0, 20 KO) put him down with in round one was the hardest he’s ever been hit. He also expressed appreciation to referee Michael Griffin for making the stoppage in the second round.

“I was trying to counter with the hook or something else, and then I got caught with it. I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all,” he said. “All I know is the referee was counting me. I got up, and I’m like, ‘He’s still counting, why is he counting still?’ And I turn to the corner, and Rachel’s, like, ‘Put your hands up or else he’ll count you out!’ I put my hands up and that’s how I’m, like, ‘Oh, I got dropped. I got dropped.’

“I went to the corner, I was, like, ‘What did he hit me with?’ And they said, ‘It was a 1-2.’ That’s what he caught me with. I came back (to my senses) really fast, though. I got caught with that punch and I didn’t even know what happened. I didn’t know what happened!”

He continued, “I would probably say that was the hardest punch I’ve been hit with. I came out completely blank. ... It was fortunate the referee stopped the fight, because I would have kept going. The punch you don’t see is the one that really hurts. That’s what got me. I didn’t see that punch coming at all. But it is what it is, man. I’m very grateful that I’m healthy.”

More from Donaire after the fight

“We came up short today, but I do appreciate you guys’ support and prayers. Inoue got me really good and I was always gonna keep fighting, and I’m glad that the referee stopped the fight, because I was always gonna stand up. That’s just part of me; I just don’t have any quit in me.

“I just want to say thank you to everybody. I came in there with an amazing game plan, you know, and trained really hard, and I was very, very confident, but I didn’t implement the game plan early on. It is what it is. Inoue is an amazing fighter and I’m glad that I get to share the ring with him. He, as well, said the same thing.”

“No matter what, I was never, ever going to just lay down. That’s part of me as a fighter, but Inoue was amazing today and he got the best of me. He got me good.”

“No matter the situation, regardless if it’s victory or defeat, you always have to celebrate life. (My team are all here) celebrating defeat (laughing) — but that’s OK, because we’re celebrating life. When life gives you something, you gotta celebrate, man. Regardless what it is, we’re still having fun.”

“We came in with a good game plan, in tremendous shape. I’ve never been in that shape in my entire life. But the implementation of the game plan — I got so caught up with wanting to brawl, and that was my biggest flaw. I love brawling. It’s hard for me to go and change that overnight. That’s the biggest mistake I did. It’s a learning experience, but I’m healthy and I’m happy and I’m grateful.”

“It’s hard for me to say that I feel good about (this), it’s hard to be able to — it’s hard losing. It’s hard losing, especially when you’ve been winning. But that’s part of the life, that’s part of the journey. We’re just going to have to regroup and look at the bigger picture.”

“I’m the kind of guy that never gives up. No matter how many times you drop me, I keep getting up. I’m proud of that, that I can go down and get up as many times. I took his best shot, and he can crack, you know. He did what he did. I’m just grateful that I’m healthy.”

“We implemented boxing. That’s the thing. We had a great game plan, using the jab, using the feint, using the jab, using the feint, moving around. But a brawler’s gonna brawl. It’s part of me. When I was in there, (Rachel) kept telling me to jab, feint, I even worked with SugarHill Steward and he always tells me to box and stuff, but the moment I got caught with something I just wanted to fuckin’ brawl, man.”

“We find ourselves at a crossroads, and we have to make that learning experience into something positive.”

“I came into the fight really confident, but unfortunately I got caught cold with a big punch. You can’t make mistakes like that in a big fight.