The boxing legend is out to capture yet another world title when he battles Mexico's Alexandro Santiago Saturday night on the Spence-Crawford blockbuster card, live on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.
As if any another reason was needed to hit the “Order Now” button this Saturday, July 29, future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire will be in a battle for the vacant WBC Bantamweight World Championship. That night, on the undercard of the highly anticipated undisputed welterweight championship showdown Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford, Donaire, the popular Filipino star, faces rugged Mexican contender Alexandro Santiago live on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I’m coming to take that belt home and there’s no second option for me,” said Donaire, who has been a champion longer than Santiago has been a pro. The number of championship matches he has been in nearly matches the total number of fights that Santiago has been in.
While Donaire was facing off against legends like Naoya Inoue and Carl Frampton, Santiago was fighting in Tijuana bars on cards that featured no ten rounders. But he’s not taking Santiago lightly.
“I’ve brought in some really fast fighters who have helped me prepare, and my team has really focused on giving me some defensive pointers,” said Donaire. “I can’t wait to get in there.”
Santiago, an aggressive fighter who can slip and counter with the best, shares Donaire’s enthusiasm. The last time he fought for a title, against Jerwin Ancajas for the IBF Super Flyweight title in 2018, the judges could not decide on a winner. Since that split-decision draw, his hunger has grown.
“He’s about to be a father,” one of his trainers, Romulo “Bobby” Quirarte Jr. told the Mexican press last month. “He’s been patient,” he added. “He’s worked a long time.”
Donaire has worked a long time too.
He turned pro on February 22, 2001, in the Hollywood Park Casino when it was part of the Hollywood racetrack complex. Two of the judges from that night are no longer with us and of the sixteen fighters who boxed on that show, only Donaire is still active today.
“I remember,” says Adriano Dos Santos. A lightweight from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dos Santos won a four round decision that night.
“I met Nonito, his brother Glen, and his father. I remember we were eating all together at the same table, my manager Luis Tapia knew his father. Layla McCarter was with us because she was going to help me in the corner.”
“ I’m coming to take that belt home and there’s no second option for me. ” Four-Division World Champion - NONITO DONAIRE
Donaire is widely considered to be one of the good guys in the sport, something that Dos Santos was a witness to from day one.
“At the casino was a karaoke (machine) and we all were singing. And they were laughing because I didn’t know English, but I tried to sing anyway. Nonito was a nice kid.”
Dos Santos, who has managed boxers and currently works for the MGM Sportsbook in Las Vegas, has seen Donaire a few times over the years. His opinion of that “nice kid” has never changed, even after all the success that Donaire went on to achieve.
Donaire, at 40, is attempting to become the oldest boxer to ever win the bantamweight championship. The current record – age 38 – is held by him. He’s also the first three-time champion at bantamweight and is only one of six boxers who have held titles in three separate decades.
A lot has changed since Donaire, and Dos Santos, fought on that day back in 2001. While Donaire’s legend grew, those of us watching grew up and grew old. There was no Twitter or YouTube and BoxRec was only a few months into its existence.
Despite being arguably the second best Filipino boxer since the bolo-punching days of Ceferino Garcia, one thing hasn’t changed. Donaire is still a nice guy. And he remains one of the best boxers of his generation.
“I sure will be rooting for him. I’m a big fan of Nonito,” said Dos Santos. “I became a fan after watching him and meeting him and seeing him perform just sealed that admiration I have for him. Very nice guy. It was a pleasure to meet Nonito and even more seeing him become the champion he is.”
Dos Santos didn’t get to realize his dream of becoming a champ. But he was a part of history. A history that started with a fun round of karaoke and is still going strong today.
For a closer look at Nonito Donaire, check out his fighter page.