Nonito Donaire isn’t the first fighter to experience the damaging effect money can have on relationships, even with those supposedly closest to you. Successful people in general often discover friends and family members they never knew they had.
The impact of the almighty dollar on Donaire’s relationship with his parents and brother has played out publicly in the Filipino media, though. Things have gotten so bad that Donaire’s mother actually told a reporter that she doesn’t care whether her son beats Fernando Montiel on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Cameron Dunkin, Donaire’s longtime manager, is concerned that the acrimony among those involved will affect his performance against Montiel.
Rachel Donaire, the fighter’s wife, isn’t as concerned because – as sad as it sounds – he is used to it. Besides, she is doing everything in her power to shield her husband from any non-boxing-related news as he prepares for the biggest fight of his life.
The only certain thing is that the situation has evolved into an enormous mess, one that will be very difficult to resolve.
“Money is the root of all evil,” Rachel Donaire said when asked to summarize the drama that has engulfed the Donaire family.
The facts surrounding the situation are convoluted but the following should give you an idea.
The trouble started in earnest when Donaire's father, Nonito Sr., ceased to be his trainer after a victory over Moruti Mthalane in 2008. The presumption has always been that son fired father but that wasn't the case, according to Rachel, who said the elder Donaire simply walked away when he was accused of pocketing camp money.
The fighter has been criticized by some in the Philippines ever since for what they perceive as disloyalty to his father, a former soldier.
Nonito Sr. told a reporter that he took only $240 of camp money, which he said he used to feed his staff.
Rachel called that a “half truth,” saying that in fact the amount was $1,240. And clearly that issue was only the last straw in a deteriorating professional relationship, as the fighter couldn’t find peace under a strong-willed father who he says treated him like a child.
Complicating the situation was the arrival of Rachel, who, as the fighter’s wife, suddenly had more influence over him than his family.
“I finally became my own man,” Donaire said in a story on Boxingnews’ Web site. “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. … I love my wife. She’s done so much for me and when my dad … you see, the thing is, he was an old-school kind of guy, you know. So we got into it because he just commands and commands and commands. That’s the type of military mentality he has. You are always going to be wrong. There’s nothing you can say. Regardless if the whole world thinks you’re right, in my dad’s eyes I know it’s going to be wrong.
“And I’ve always been wrong in his eyes. That’s why I stuck to boxing, because I didn’t want to disappoint my dad. And it’s fine because I got to where I’m at now.”
That article exacerbated the situation.
Donaire’s mother, Imelda, responded in a subsequent interview with Filipino writer Anthony Andales, dimissing as “lies” her son’s comments about his father, the fact he said he was raised in poverty in the Philippines before the family moved to the U.S. and his contention that his siblings were favored over him .
“Enough is enough,” she was quoted as saying. “I have to air our side now, and wants (sic) to make my world champion son be aware that, we his family are listening to all lies, he thrown (sic) to us. He will certainly get a spanking from me if he won’t stop."
Donaire said his father was overbearing. His father said he was strict because he wanted his sons, Nonito and Glenn, to find success in the ring.
Donaire said his family was so poor that food had to be rationed. His mother said there was always enough for the family.
Donaire said his relatives saw the older Glenn as the one who would succeed and treated him better than Nonito. Nonsense, says his parents.
Yes, the gulf between them is wide on many issues.
However, money seems to be the overriding wedge between the family members. Nonito Donaire Sr., his ex-wife and Glenn, who say their sacrifices helped the younger Nonito find success, believe he owes them. And the fighter has obliged, although apparently not to their satisfaction
Rachel said she recently was approached by someone outside the family who said, “Your husband makes millions of dollars and you can’t give your family money?” Her response: “Who told you we have millions of dollars?”
The fact is Donaire is far from a millionaire. The most he has ever made in one fight is $250,000 and he probably hasn’t earned $500,000 total, of which he has kept a fraction after paying his handlers and taxes. Still, Rachel estimated that she and her husband have given the family around $200,000 over the past few years.
“Nonito can’t support his brother, his (brother’s) wife and kids, and his mother and father,” said Dunkin, who insists that Donaire and his wife live modestly. “I said to him, ‘Nonito, you don’t make that kind of money. You’ll be broke.’ I said, ‘What’s gonna happen when your career is over?’ I told him to bust his ass and make as much as he can, don’t spend any money, be smart, and when this is all over, you’ll have something.
“His family doesn’t see it that way.”
Donaire hasn’t said much publicly about the family rift, other than the aforementioned story.
That apparently will change, though. After the Montiel fight, he and Rachel plan to make a public statement, which will include cashed checks – endorsed by family members – that quantify the amount of money they received from Donaire.
That would set the record straight, which Donaire obviously feels is necessary because of the damage done to his reputation, but it might also exacerbate the situation further. And no one wants that.
“There’s a letter Nonito wrote to his mom about a year ago,” Rachel said. “He said he wished he never became a world champion because then no one would be fighting. He said, ‘If I didn’t have money, what would there be to fight about?’”