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By Rich Mazon

Tue, 18 Oct 2011

Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire Jr. is here in the East Coast not to be an inspirational speaker but a ring fighter defending his pair of bantamweight belts this Saturday at the Madison Square garden. But yesterday, he was a simple athlete talking about his Filipino roots in front of mostly Filipino American kids in a Jersey City public library. Donaire Jr. took a break from fight week to be a guest speaker of The Filipino School of New York and New Jersey in Jersey City. He shared his experiences growing up in southern Philippines, in the city of General Santos as a child.

"Growing up in the Philippines is really hard. In the Philippines, life is really difficult. I've had my shares of difficulties," Donaire Jr. shared.

Difficulties that followed Donaire Jr. and his family when they migrated to Los Angeles, California in the early 90's. He narrated how he and his brother got into the sport by the way of their father who wanted to get them off the streets of L.A.

"My father is kind of afraid of us going out after school, hanging out with friends and getting into all kinds of trouble, so we started boxing," he said. A sport he did not liked at first because he was as he described himself "weak and just a waste of food."

"Boxing was just the last thing that a little kid like me who is afraid of everyone, would do," he disclosed. "Heck no!" was his immediate response when his dad brought him the idea of boxing. "I am not going to get hit. I get picked on all the time. I cried going home from school and you want me to box?" he told his dad. "Just for self - defense," Donaire Sr. would tell his son. It was Donaire Sr.'s way of not only getting his sons out of trouble but also for them to be involved in the sport that he loves.

A sport that Nonito Jr. will excel at, some 18 years later. Donaire is now a three division world champion and is ranked in the top four boxers worldwide. His knockout of then 7-1 favorite Vic Darchinyan in 2007 was awarded the "Knockout of the Year" and the "Upset of the Year" by Ring Magazine. He is considered to be boxing's future by many. He believes his experiences as a youth growing up helped him achieve what he has and is now.

"People make fun of me at school -- when I was in elementary school. But (because of it) you build heart," he declared. "One thing you can go from an experience like that is that you create a bigger heart and you create a bigger pride," Donaire added. It's pride that can be traced on his color and nationality. "That was one thing that I had in my heart. I was a true Filipino," Donaire Jr. affirmed.

"I've always felt that. And I've always fought (with that) inside the ring. Even in the amateur level, even though we are fighting here in the United States, we have the (Philippine) flag. We are always proud of we are," he stated. "And that is something that we should all be proud of," he told the kids gathered for the event aimed to commemorate Filipino American History Month.

Donaire Jr. has grown from that weak kid in the streets of L.A. to a strong, accomplished champion through and smart choices, the desire to be the best and the importance of being with the right crowd.. It is something that he wishes that the kids of today would consider doing.

"One thing I've learned growing up is, from a kid who never really believed in himself to somebody who is a top pound for pound fighter. There must be something that I'm doing right. I am strong because of the people around me. If you surround yourself with good people, if you surround yourself with positivity, there is really nothing that can't be possible if you put your mind and heart into it,"

Donaire told them. He encouraged them to go for their dreams, to believe in themselves and in God and that possibilities come to those who dreamed and believed that they can do it.

"Hopefully I can inspire you to be the best that you can do. Manny (Pacquiao) has proved it. I've proved some part of it. I came from nothing to something. As long as you put your mind, your heart, your soul, your everything into something you believed in," he declared.

Donaire is a rare breed of prize fighter. He is unusually eloquent for a boxer. He is smart, confident and oddly comfortable of the attention given to him as a celebrity in a different way. Where others would be considered as pompous and arrogant, Donaire is a celebrity, a pugilist that speaks with passion minus the carelessness that you see from athletes of today.

Yesterday's event might be a promotional stunt aimed to enthrall young Filipinos and their parents. It might be something used to drum interest for his upcoming fight this Saturday. But, it is a better way to promote one, than say; burning a hundred dollar bill in a night club or openly flaunting your fleet of expensive cars in view of a country in the midst of depression. All athletes have an unwritten task to inspire those that look up to them, mostly the youth that emulates them. They can do it in two ways, be a good role model or a bad one. Donaire can never be faulted by choosing the latter.

Nonito Donaire Jr speaks in front of Filipino-American kids at the Jersey City Public library and poses with the kids (top photo). Photo by Rich Mazon.

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