After Fernando Montiel, Jorge Arce, Jhonny Gonzales and Daniel Ponce De Leon suffered devastating knockout losses, the general belief was they were better off retiring immediately or within two years.
But they all recovered, with all of them still active in the ring.
I already discussed in my last column on how Montiel and Arce recovered from their respective losses to Donaire. So I will discuss how Gonzalez and De Leon recovered from their own knockout losses at the elite level.
Looking at the fight resume of Gonzalez, one will end up admiring as to how he was able to recover from his knockout losses to Filipino Gerry Penalosa on August 2011 in the seventh round, and to Toshiaki Nishioka on May 2009 in the third round. Gonzalez also suffered a knockdown en route to a technical decision loss to De Leon on September 2012.
But who would ever expect that Gonzalez, who took on lighter opposition in between those knockout losses, would eventually stop young and promising featherweight Abner Mares in the first round on August 2013. Gonzalez was in the first place a “gift” opponent for the young Mares.
De Leon, on the other hand, looked like he was set to go downhill after he was stopped in the first round on June 2008 by then rising knockout artist Juan Manuel Lopez. But De Leon, now 34, managed to beat Gonzalez and even meet Lopez for the second time on March this year. However, De Leon lost to Lopez via third round stoppage in their rematch.
There are other fighters who suffered knockout losses in championship bouts but were able to recover like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and even Vladimir Klitschko. But their camp carefully planned their fighter’s next championship run by not taking elite opposition after a major loss.
As for Donaire, there is no use crying over spilled milk or his loss to Walters. But it is unfair to think that the Filipino is finished at this point. For Donaire to recover, he should emulate what Montiel, Arce, Gonzalez and De Leon did after they suffered knockout losses.
Going down to 122 pounds is also a wise move, because Donaire can have more punching power at that division.
The first objective from this juncture is to make Donaire regain his old explosive form, and eventually his self-confidence. At 31 years old, Donaire can never be considered “old” or “aging” in this era where elite athletes can manage to remain competitive past 35 years old.
I’m not saying Donaire take on tomato cans or cream puffs whose fight records are at least 33 percent losses. For example, after his loss to Donaire, Montiel took on fighters who did not have “tattered” records like
Nehomar Cermeno (23-5 with 13 knockouts); Alvaro Perez (21-4 with 12 KOs); Victor Terrazas (37-3 with 21 KOs); Arturo Santos Reyes (18-3 with 5 KOs); and Jesus Rios (30-6 with 24 KOs).
And if Donaire recovers his old form by the time he is 34 years old, he can still be competitive against fighters who are peaking in their late 20s or early 30s.
Besides, who would ever expect a 33-year old Gonzalez, who is also The Ring featherweight no. 1 contender, to remain competitive at this point?
And Montiel at 35 years old looks like he is ready to challenge for another world title.
Naturally, there were fighters who retired immediately after suffering terrible knockout losses, and Michael Spinks comes into mind. Spinks suffered his only loss in the hands of Mike Tyson on June 1988, via first round knockout.
But Spink’s loss to Tyson was so lopsided and even embarrassing that it shattered the fighter in him.
Looking at how Donaire lost to Walters, it is a bit comforting to note that the Filipino did not go into “retreat” or clinch mode when the tide was going against him in the fateful sixth round.
But to “extend” the shelf life of Donaire in the next years, the Filipino must learn the value of clinching or even retreating during some occasions. Just ask Guillermo Rigondeaux. Or will that be useless? I guess Filipino fighters are just too brave for comfort. And it’s hard to write off fighters who are too brave.