My somewhat belated trip to San Leandro to see Glenn Donaire and his father/trainer a couple of days ago turned out to be a mood elevator.
Glenn, the older brother of bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, is coming back from a three-year boxing hiatus that coincided with a rift between Glenn’s father and brother that ended last March .
Throughout the 29-month estrangement of Nonito Donaire Sr. and Jr., I was keenly aware of my obligation to convey both sides of the story. I always assumed Senior was reading at least some of my version of the saga and that I might be called to account someday.
Well, Nonito Sr. indeed confronted it, man to man. But he did so only after we had established congeniality. Although he certainly didn’t see my coverage as favorable, and he felt that needed to be said, he made his point without being a buzzkill.
I was grateful to be able to look him in the eye and state my case. I’ve always maintained that love would prevail in their personal relationship but that their professional split was not likely to be repaired. I stood by that again.
Keep in mind, though, that Jun’s move to Top Rank just before the split was predicated on a tripling of the fighter’s purses into six figures – the payoff for 15 years of preparation. The father suddenly wasn’t part of that. Worse, he felt he was being falsely accused of glomming onto $80,000, a misunderstanding that tormented him throughout the rift until Jun apologized for that misunderstanding.
I finally met Senior in Las Vegas in February 2010 at what probably was the nadir for him. Jun was there to be showcased, along with Fernando Montiel, in a tune-up bout building up to Donaire-Montiel a year later. Senior was training Montiel’s opponent, unbeaten Filipino Ciso Morales. Montiel scored a first-round knockout. An even more promising Donaire Sr. client, Marvin Sonsona, was in the midst of an unexpected decline.
Couple that with the family rift, and it’s no wonder the father seemed worn and forlorn, especially when father and son, thrown together at a press conference, barely acknowledged each other.
I did introduce myself to Donaire Senior that day and hand him a business card, but we didn’t click then, and he wound up confiding a couple of weeks later in my Filipino-American colleague Dennis Guillermo, whose interview elicited some negativity that did cause me to criticize the father more acerbically than previously.
I acknowledged that in Thursday’s confrontation but didn’t cop to any other hostility, and I think we both came away feeling better. We finally have a relationship.
Whether the father-son misgivings are water under the bridge is more doubtful. Jun is probably compelled to work at it, which isn’t easy when he’s spending most of his time away from the Bay Area and is feeling pulled in several directions.
But the father is definitely back in the support group. Compared to his Vegas countenance, he now seems about 10 times happier.