The way Nonito Donaire sees things, he needed to be knocked down a peg and he is thankful to Nicholas Walters for doing it.
Donaire had won world titles in four weight classes -- five if you count interim titles -- from flyweight to featherweight. He was the consensus 2012 fighter of the year and HBO regular, making big money. He also had a devoted wife by his side and they had started a family.
Where: Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto RicoWhen: FridayTV: truTV, 10 p.m. ET/PT
Life was good for "The Filipino Flash" but he said he was taking it all for granted and that when Walters chopped him down by nasty sixth-round knockout to take his featherweight world title in October 2014 he did him a big favor. Walters gave him a big-time wake-up call.
"When I was down on the canvas in the Walters fight I thought to myself, 'This is a blessing.' It was a blessing because I had lost my way, not giving boxing the respect it deserves," Donaire said. "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 of bed early in the mornings and did my running."
Donaire returned from the loss to Walters by dropping back to the junior featherweight division, the weight class he boxed in when he unified world titles and won fighter of the year honors. Back at 122 pounds, Donaire won two straight fights this year by second-round knockout in Asia, albeit against lesser opposition.
"When I was down on the canvas in the Walters fight, I thought to myself, 'This is a blessing.' 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 rededicated myself to the sport."
Unified junior featherweight world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, who got knocked down but handed Donaire a decision loss in their April 2013 title unification, was stripped of his belts for inactivity. But it put Donaire in a great position because his fight with Mexico's Cesar Juarez was upgraded this week from being for a regional title bout to being for one of the vacant world titles.
Donaire (35-3, 23 KOs), 33, and the 24-year-old brick-strong Juarez (17-3, 13 KOs) meet for that 122-pound world title at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday night (truTV, 10 p.m. ET/PT).
In the main event, 22-year-old lightweight sensation and rising Puerto Rican star Felix Verdejo (18-0, 13 KOs), the 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year and a 2012 Olympian, will come off a six-month layoff and surgery to remove bone spurs from his left hand to face Brazil's 30-year-old Josenilson Dos Santos (27-3, 17 KOs) in a 10-round bout.
Donaire said that while the knockout loss to Walters served as his wake-up call, he began to slack off after he was hailed the 2012 fighter of the year. He began to believe his own hype and maybe spent a bit too long reading his press clippings.
It cost him dearly against Rigondeaux, who beat him just a few days after he picked up his Fighter of the Year award from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
"After the fight with Rigondeaux I searched for what was wrong with me, why I wasn't motivated because I knew I could be way better," Donaire said. "I searched for who I was. I asked myself if I was done with boxing, but my pride wouldn't let me go. But I asked myself that. I wasn't motivated. I didn't train as hard as I usually would."
Donaire came off the loss to Rigondeaux by moving up to featherweight, where he struggled in a ninth-round knockout win against Vic Darchinyan, whom he had dusted in 2007 to win a flyweight world title. In his next fight, Donaire won a fifth-round technical decision against Simpiwe Vetyeka to win a featherweight world title but, again, it was not a strong performance.
And then came the day of reckoning with Walters.
"Walters came into the picture and that reset me in a sense," Donaire said. "I lost that fight and I realized I wasn't grateful in life. I had everything but I wasn't fulfilled. I was searching for something. I didn't see how my wife supported me, how my (two) kids were beautiful. And I had accomplished so much in boxing, but I couldn't see that. Every day was another day and I wasn't excited about just another day.
"I acquired a lot in life, more than a lot of people and I wasn't thankful for that. I needed to realize that and I needed to change who I am. I said, 'Let me make myself a better person.'"
Around the same time Donaire was doing his serious soul-searching, he tagged along with a friend to a business seminar given by famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins in October.
Donaire said there was a crowd of about 10,000 at the Los Angeles Convention Center to hear Robbins talk about "unleashing the power within." He came away from the seminar realizing that "to be successful in business and in life I had to figure it out things within me." Donaire said his outlook on life and his career changed that day.
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"I learned the most amazing things," he said. "I learned what was empowering me and what was disempowering me. What was my habit that led me to where I was and what made me stagnant? There were a lot of things. What I realized was I grew up believing I wasn't good enough. I learned to sabotage myself even though I had all of this success because I didn't think I was deserving of all of my accolades. It was like I was soul-searching."
Now Donaire said he wakes up every day grateful for the life and things that he has and it has helped him focus better on his family and his career.
"I was so ungrateful for everything I had. Now I am grateful for everything," he said. "I was knocking guys out with left hooks and not training as hard. I was at the top of my career and asking what's next? Is this it? I was ungrateful. I was always complaining about little things. Not anymore. That's the beauty of it. I learned.
"I tell myself I am deserving of all I have and I love myself and my family and that this is another chapter of my life. In my career I would like another world championship beyond what I have already gotten. But I've learned the most important thing is my family. Now the one thing that I always remind myself about is to be a good father and to be a good husband to Rachel in everything I do."
Donaire said he is reading the book "Power of Habit" and learning more about himself. He said he is, for the first time in a long time, eating healthy every day and thinking good thoughts.
"I appreciate living here on this earth. I feel like I am 21 again," he said. "I am in great physical shape. I am going to trust who I am. For my fight, you are going to see intelligence, speed and I am going to be stronger. I'm grateful for the opportunity to keep rising and for not robbing myself of the opportunity.
"It's not my style or skills that needed to be changed, it was my mentality. I have learned to be thankful for every little thing. Whatever it may be I will always be thankful and I am thankful for this fight. I've trained my ass off for this fight. I'm ready for anything that comes my way."