IS the partnership between three-time world champion Nonito Donaire Jr. and longtime trainer Robert Garcia over and done with?
The 31-year-old Filipino was non-committal when asked about the matter, saying only that Garcia will not be in his corner when he goes for the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight title against champion Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa on May 31 at the Cotai Arena in Macau.
“Robert (Garcia) will not be in my corner for this fight. Right now, I’m training with my father (Nonito Donaire Sr.),” said Donaire during Tuesday’s press conference for his 12-round match held at the posh Edsa Shangrila Hotel.
Garcia took over as Donaire’s trainer after his much-publicized fallout with his father, their association eventually producing world titles at the bantamweight and super-bantamweight classes, and a Fighter of the Year and Trainer of the Year award for both of them.
But the strong union suffered a crack last year when the 'Filipino Flash' lost to unbeaten two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux in their super-bantamweight unification match in New York City.
Garcia, a former world champion himself, was still in the corner of Donaire in his last fight against Vic Darchinyan, but already shared the task of training the three-time world champion with Nonito’s father.
Donaire scored a ninth-round stoppage of Darchinyan in their rematch at Corpus Christi, Texas, but was trailing in two of the judges’ scorecards when the fight came to a halt.
The 12-year pro admitted that 2013 was a year of "my crossroads" after losing his titles to Rigondeaux and at the same time, becoming a father to son Jarel by wife Rachel.
“2012 was an amazing year, but 2013 was a year of contemplation, of realizing what was truly important to me,” he said before a horde of international sports scribes during the press meet staged by Top Rank Promotions and Sands China in cooperation with ABS-CBN.
It was after his emotional win over Darchinyan that Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs) realized he wanted to continue fighting for his family, especially his nine-month old baby boy.
“The fight with Darchinyan made me realize I really wanted to be here, that I want to represent boxing, which is truly a beautiful sport,” he said.
But vying for the title belt of the 33-year-old Vetyeka won’t be easy.
The South African carries a record of 26-2, with 16 KOs, and had the distinction of retiring longtime champion Chris John of Indonesia, who he stopped in the sixth round of their title fight in December of last year.
Yet with his father around him, Donaire knows he can’t go wrong as he vies for a fourth world title in four different divisions.
“Working with my dad would unleash my full potential, and I still believe that I can,” said Donaire, who was joined in the dais by his father.