Nonito Donaire Jr.'s most recent fight with Fernando Montiel earned for him a double victory.
First, he won the WBC and WBO Bantamweight World Champion title. Second, he became his father's son again.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) had the chance to talk to the boxing champ and his wife Rachel at the house of the latter's parents in Alabang last March 14. During the one-hour exclusive interview, the couple talked about the events that led to the end of Nonito Jr.'s almost three-year-old feud with Nonito Sr. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)
"We [finally] got to communicate, to talk," was how the 28-year-old boxer described the fateful dinner with his father on March 3.
Initially, we sensed Junjun's (Nonito's nickname) hesitation to talk about the feud. He had this "a-family-matter-remains-within-the-family" stance at the start of the interview. Slowly, he began to relax and open up about the controversy and its aftermath.
BEFORE THE FIGHT. "I knew a little bit... that something was going on. When I saw the article, I didn't [realize] how big it got," he said.
The Filipino-American fighter was referring to his interview with Tris Dixon that was published on the website of Boxing News magazine last January 6. It was one of the few times he discussed his sentiments about his family. Following is an excerpt:
"All my life, I have done everything for my family," he says, leaning forward and with an expression that shows the opulent surroundings actually count for very little.
"Even my subjects in school, it was them who picked my subjects, it wasn't me. Everything that I did was for them. Anything and everything they've wanted me to do I have done. I was one of those kids who wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted my parents to be happy. I didn't want to be a burden to them.
"I have never been in trouble at all. And when I finally became my own man; they were not ready to accept that. When I chose my wife, they were not ready to accept that. They did not want me to get married, they just wanted me to keep doing things that I've done for them and they wouldn't accept my wife."
Almost a week later, his mom—Imelda Donaire—issued a statement through Anthony Andales of philboxing.com. (CLICK HERE to read story)
Up until a few days before Junjun's February 20 bout, the family feud was fodder for the media.
While his mom and dad gave interviews left and right, the boxer was oblivious to what was being said and written against him and Rachel.
Junjun said, "She [Rachel] pretty much sheltered me. But the thing is, it's something that was already there, you know... There's something mga ganun-ganun... But I really just focused on my fight and tried not to be distracted."
Rachel made sure he had no access to TV and the Internet.
Junjun elaborated, "Kasi ako, pag nagte-training ako, I'm so pagod every time, e. So, I usually don't go online. I was kinda studying PhotoShop. I was really trying to occupy myself with... kung paano mag-edit, ganito, ganyan...
"So I haven't really had time to watch or listen to the news. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyari sa opponents ko, ganito-ganyan... I just mainly focused on boxing and then, pagkatapos, pag may free time ako, I usually watch videos and read books."
After the fight, he learned that the family's dirty linen had been aired in public. But the "hurt" became immaterial after the reconciliation.
He told PEP, "I was thankful [to] Rachel, you know... for everything. But after everything was settled, for me lang talaga, whatever... I only care about the people who are important to me."
THE RIFT. There was so much pain on both sides. Even Rachel, Junjun said, "was really fuming mad at that time."
But on March 2, his wife did what she had to do.
"Without even letting me know, she dropped everything to make things better. She called my dad. She called my brother. I did not expect that," related the third pound-for-pound best boxer of Ring Magazine.
For her part, Rachel admitted it was not an easy move: "It was hard... I was trying to get his dad's phone number. I kept texting everyone, no one would give it to me. Parang they thought I was going [to make] a prank call or something..."
And when, finally, she heard "Papang's" voice on the other line, "I didn't know how that phone call was gonna end up because I talked to him for an hour-and-a-half, it went back and forth like he said this and he said that. Parang, like, he had so much hurt, you know, as well."
Among the issues they talked about was Junjun's plan to change his surname because someone had allegedly used his Social Security number for a credit card application.
Resuming her story, the former Taekwondo champion said: "It had nothing to do with [my father-in-law]."
Rachel related, "I had to show him the next day that somebody told us that they have his bank account numbers and stuff like that."
And then for some strange reason, she swallowed her pride and decided to stop fighting.
Rachel confessed, "My first reaction when—PEP asked me for a statement, and Showbiz Central asked me for a statement—was to fight back. Because that was my parents taught me. I'm naturally a person who fights back. I'm not one who cries in the corner..."
Nonito added, "Ako yung naturally in the corner, umiiyak."
Rachel continued, "It's something that has been ingrained in me. You know... I went to an all-girls Catholic school where they teach you to be strong. They don't teach you to back away."
But a couple of minutes before 11:30 p.m., she had a change of heart.
"One road, I can clear his name, and the Marcial name —my parents' name. And then, it's only gonna be this small circle of family...
"There's another [road] but it was gonna be harder. You know, swallowing your pride, trying to focus on the long-term goal. But in the end, there's gonna be the Donaire and the Marcial family."
She didn't tell her husband about the phone call to Nonito Sr., "because I didn't know if I could reconcile [them]."
Switching to his playful side, Junjun interjected, "I feel like there should be music in the background," and started humming a tune.
After Rachel made the call, the boxer had a feeling that something was up. He asked his wife, "What happened? You disappeared on me. Where d'ya go?'"
Rachel replied: "We gotta go see your dad tomorrow."
THE FEUD IS OVER. The thought of coming face to face with his dad made Junjun "very, very, very, very nervous."
First, he wasn't sure about how the meeting would start and end.
He said, "Usually, if it's my dad, I would just drop my head 'coz yun lang talaga ako with my dad... Parang Pilipino. [Siya yung] 'Don't don't talk back to me. Huwag kang sasagot.'"
But the strong bond between father and son helped them overcome their hurts and differences.
Junjun related, "I was telling myself, 'Stare at him. Don't look away. Be a man. Respect but look. Give him an eye. And then after... when I got to look at him in the eye, and he looked at me back. And like, parang... he wants to just... Hinto na tayo, let's stop this."
And then, the almost three-year-old rift was gone.
"I felt that... I felt really good. I didn't have to be a poker face... For me, I felt like, 'This is actually an amazing moment,' and I felt relaxed and I felt like really good to just say whatever I [needed to say]... to be without the feeling na. I [was] calm."
Of course, there were a lot of awkward comments at the beginning. Rachel said, "Most of the time, I felt like I had to give them each a microphone so they wouldn't interrupt each other."
Smiling, Junjun cut in, "She was the referee."
Turning serious, he said, "Both had pain and anger... Let's not recall what happened..."
One more thing the couple wanted to stress: "There was no media."
Rachel explained, "Everyone was very [cautious] about the meeting. They wanted to bring witnesses... [I said] 'Okay, bring witnesses.' Witnesses, but no media. Family lang. And the family —they brought cameras and stuff like that to document [the event]."
Another of Rachel's request: Turn off the video camera during the dialogue.
"And then after they discussed, what went through all the hurt, and [they] decided to let it drop, then they were able to take pictures. Anyway, it was a happy moment, and everybody wanted to capture it. It looked like a presscon because they kept on snapping photos... but there was no press there at all," she said, smiling.
Junjun's smile was for a different reason.
"I was really happy that I was able to [air] my feelings, and he let me talk... I was very, very thankful. And I was very happy to be able to give my dad a hug, a real hug, and with an acceptance na okay na tayo."
Nonito Donaire Jr. is proud of his boxing victory. But it is his triumph outside the ring that completed his happiness.
"I kinda like the feeling—like, every weight... on my shoulders just dropped and parang, 'Okay na, ready to fight na,'" he said.