HOUSTON – Nonito Donaire Jr. doesn’t want the pressure to get the better of him as the hopes of the Filipino people now rest on his shoulders following the stunning loss of Manny Pacquiao to Juan Manuel Marquez.
Donaire is staking his World Boxing Organization (WBO) super-bantamweight crown against Mexican Jorge Arce on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) at the Toyota Center here in a fight a grieving country hopes would serve as the perfect tonic for the heartbreaking defeat its most beloved son suffered against another Mexican warrior.
While the champion could commensurate with the setback suffered by Pacquiao, Donaire stressed winning over Arce is more than just avenging the fall of a great countryman.
“It’s like you have thousands of people, even millions of people who are watching, and who are affected, and who are feeling the pain. They’re coming to me and saying different things,” admitted the 30-year-old Donaire during the media and public workout he did at the Savarese gym on Tuesday.
“But again, I’ll just go out there and perform the best that I can, and then hope that everybody can be lifted.”
Taking on a dangerous brawler like Arce, a four-division world champion, is a war of its own.
While obviously way past his prime, the 33-year-old Mexican (61-6-2, 46 KOs) remains dangerous even for the man considered as peerless in the 122-lb. division today.
And that is not lost on the 'Filipino Flash' (30-1, 19 KOs), who is fighting for the fourth time this year following victories over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Jeffrey Mathebula, and Toshiaki Nishioka one after the other.
“I’m going to go out there and try to win the best I can, and to do it in the best possible way, which is not to overlook Arce,” said the champion from Talibon, Bohol but now based in San Mateo in the Bay Area.
“So we’re going to just go out there and work hard for the victory.”
And if Arce brings the fight to him, Donaire said he’s ready to fight mano-a-mano.
“If he’s willing to engage, I’m gonna engage,” he said. “It sucks to go the distance."
The final press conference for the 12-round title bout is set Wednesday (Thursday Manila time) also at the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets.
Meanwhile, Laurence Cole of Texas will be the third man in the ring on fight night, while Raul Caiz, Levi Martinez, and Javier Alvarez are the three judges scoring the match.