Becoming a father helped Nonito Donaire Jr. reconcile with his own father

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Not long after his son, Jarel, was born in Las Vegas on July 16, former world champion Nonito Donaire Jr. began to have dreams of his own father, Nonito Donaire Sr.

It was around that time that Rachel Donaire, the boxer's wife, noticed that her husband was having trouble sleeping.

Father and son had been split for several years, and Junior's wife had been squarely in the middle of it. Their parting had been exceptionally acrimonious and the subject of much gossip in the Filipino media.

Junior had moved on with his life and had become one of the best boxers in the world without his father in his corner. Several times over the years, Rachel tried without success to arrange a reconciliation between her husband and her father-in-law.

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After the birth of his son, however, Junior began to think of fatherhood. He loved his infant son totally, and only then began to grasp the way his father had felt about him.

The infant's name takes each of the first letters from the phrase "Junior And Rachel's Everlasting Love." And as Junior held his baby, his thoughts drifted more and more frequently to his relationship with his estranged father.

Rachel couldn't help but notice so, without a word to her husband, she set about on yet another attempt at reconciliation.

The week of the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight in Las Vegas, Rachel Donaire reached out to a father-in-law that she didn't quite feel was family and asked if he wanted to see his grandson for the first time.

"It was not fair for my son to be penalized for something that had happened before he was born," she said. "So I decided, given how Nonito had been acting, to try again to bring them together."

The answer was a quick yes, and arrangements were made to fly Senior from the Bay Area, where he lives, to Las Vegas, where the boxer makes his home.

The night before Senior was to arrive, Rachel Donaire told her husband what she'd done.

"He didn't sleep that much," she said, giggling.

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There was no showdown, though, when the men who share a name saw each other again. When Junior handed Senior his grandson, the wounds of the past were somehow magically healed.

"It wasn't awkward at all and it was like it was the way it was supposed to be," Donaire Jr. said. "Father, son and grandson. We were a family again, just like that."

Donaire Sr., who taught his son the sport and coached him to become a world champion, quickly returned to his son's corner.

And Donaire Sr. will be in that familiar place on Saturday, when Donaire Jr., 30, meets archrival Vic Darchinyan on an HBO broadcast from Corpus Christi, Texas.

Donaire Jr. (31-2-0, 20 KOs) is coming off a disastrous loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April in which little went right. Donaire Sr. will work with head trainer Robert Garcia to try to help get Donaire Jr. back on the right path.

There were many who believed Donaire was one of the top two or three pound-for-pound fighters in the world going into the Rigondeaux bout. HBO analysts Roy Jones Jr. and Max Kellerman were so high on Donaire before the Rigondeaux fight it was as if the boxer had hired them to be his publicists.

Garcia believes that by the time Donaire had gotten to the Rigondeaux fight he'd become complacent. He'd heard so many praise him, and he was winning his fights so easily, that he lost the motivation to train as hard as he should have.

He simply assumed he'd dismiss Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the way he'd dismissed so many others en route to becoming the 2012 Fighter of the Year.

Rigondeaux thoroughly outboxed Donaire and made him appear befuddled at times. The sharp, crisp, precise combinations that had marked Donaire's career were absent. He looked like a neophyte who didn't know how to fight a left-hander.

Looking back, it wasn't all that surprising, Garcia said.

"What Nonito needed to do and what I think he's realized is that he needs to train better and harder for his fights," Garcia said. "It can happen to any fighter, what happened to Nonito. When you're winning fights so easily, fights that were supposed to be hard and which turn out to be easy, it's not that hard to get too comfortable.

"He got too comfortable with his training and with his sparring partners and he didn't train as hard as he should have. He was winning fights easily and he was knocking guys out and he was one of the best pound-for-pound [boxers] in the world, and he took all of it for granted. You start to think this sport is easy, when it's not. It's the hardest sport there is."

Donaire's motivation for the Darchinyan fight couldn't be higher. Donaire burst upon the scene for the first time on July 7, 2007, when he knocked out the heavily favored Darchinyan in the fifth round.

Darchinyan, 37, does not like Donaire, and the feeling is mutual.

With Donaire's father back in his corner it could be an advantage because Donaire Sr. was the mastermind of the plan to beat Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) the last time.

And now, Donaire has the motivation to make amends for the terrible performance he gave in the Rigondeaux bout.

"The better man definitely won that night," he said of Rigondeaux.

He was mentally a mess, overconfident and undertrained, confused and searching for answers.

Out of that rubble, he vows, he will become a better fighter, one who will never again take his talent for granted.

"I'm better now than I was then because I believe you learn from your mistakes and I made a lot of mistakes in that camp and in that fight," he said. "My father has reminded me of the basics, of how I used to fight, to be smart. From the very beginning, my Dad is the one who taught me how to throw the jab, my hooks, the uppercuts.

"He helped me develop the mentality of being wise in there. Without him, I learned things and I had gotten stronger, but you can see at the end of it all, I was declining. Getting him back, it's got me back on point, the basics, the smarts, the things that made me the fighter I became."

Instead of being troubled by having someone else come in and play a major role, Garcia welcomed Donaire Sr.'s addition. There's a noticeable difference in Junior's attitude and performance.

It will be obvious, Garcia said, on Saturday.

"Look, Darchinyan is coming in there with nothing to lose, and the pressure is all on Nonito," Garcia said. "I might be worried about that under different circumstances, but I'm not now. Getting back with his father took a huge load off of him. You can see it. Whatever their problems were, I don't know, but they had an impact on Nonito. And with his father back, that's the guy who made him and raised him and helped him become a champion.

"You can see the difference in Nonito. He's in the shape now that he should have been before. Getting back with his father is the best thing that could have happened to him because Nonito is a different man now."

All it took was having a son of his own, and contemplating the love that he had for his own child, to overcome years of anger and hostility, and reconcile with his own father.

Senior apologized to Junior for many of the things that happened between them, and he began to cry.

Later, as Junior realized that the dispute had finally ended and that his family was whole again, he broke into tears, as well.

"There is a special love between a father and a son," he said. "I love my son so much, and that made me start to think of the love I had for my father and that he had for me.

"Thanks to my wife, we got back together and it just feels so great."

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