MIAMI: Filipino star Nonito Donaire tries to reclaim a world title on Friday (Saturday in Manila) when he meets Mexico’s Cesar Juarez for the vacant World Boxing Organization super-bantamweight crown at San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The 33-year-old Asian right-hander enters at 35-3 with 23 knockouts while Juarez, 24, is 17-3 with 13 knockouts.
Donaire is a former world champion in five weight divisions but was dethroned 14 months ago by unbeaten Jamaican Nicholas Walters, losing the World Boxing Association featherweight title in Los Angeles.
Since then, Donaire stopped Brazilian William Prado in the second round last March in Manila and stopped Frenchman Antho¬ny Settoul in the second round at Macau in July.
Despite the strong results, the “Filipino Flash” says he has no margin for error to reclaim his status against ring rivals.
“I must win on Friday night. I am out of setbacks,” Donaire said. “I feel like I’m 21 again. My speed has increased. I can feel my power is much stronger. My happiness is back. I had a great camp. But I know what must be done. I must win.”
It has been that way for Donaire during most of his career, which saw him post his first world crown by beating Australian-based Armenian Vic Darchinyan for the International Boxing Federation flyweight crown in 2007.
After that, Donaire became a ring king at super flyweight, bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight.
He won 30 fights in a row but lost a unanimous decision in April of 2013 to Guillermo Rigondeaux in New York — the most recent time Donaire has gone the distance.
Donaire won a technical decision over South African Simpiwe Vetyeka last year for the WBA featherweight title but lost it when he was stopped by Walters in the sixth round last year.
“When I was down on the canvas in the Walters fight I thought to myself, ‘This is a blessing,’” Donaire said. “It was a blessing because I had lost my way, not giving boxing the respect it deserves. I was searching for something. I was unsatisfied.
“I went home and re-dedicated myself to the sport. I worked harder in the gym. I got out bed early in the mornings and did my running.”
Donaire turned to motivation guru Tony Robbins for help and has now put himself back into the world title hunt.
Juarez, in his first world title fight, is the higher-rated contender but only in his second fight outside Mexico. He comes off a 12-round unanimous decision win over countryman Juan Carlos Sanchez in July, his fourth win in a row since losing to Mexico’s Hugo Partida in 2013.
“My opponent is a tough guy and he is hungry like a wolf,” Donaire said. “My job is to beat the wolf.”