Now that his personal life is back in order, Nonito Donaire is ready to take charge again in the boxing ring.
The 31-year-old from San Leandro, coming off the most difficult year of his career, goes after a world title in a fourth weight class Saturday night when he takes on WBA featherweight champion Simpiwe Vetyeka at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Macau.
"It's my biggest fight to date," Donaire said this week in a phone interview. "I have to make a statement that I'm still in the game."
That was open for debate 13 months ago, when Donaire had his 12-year, 30-bout win streak snapped by Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, who scored a unanimous 12-round decision in their super-bantamweight bout.
Donaire rebounded with a ninth-round knockout of Vic Darchinyan in November, but not before the Armenian featherweight dominated much of the fight and left Donaire with a fractured orbital bone below his right eye.
Donaire (32-2, 21 knockouts) said fans will see a different fighter in the ring against the South African Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs), thanks to family peace and renewed motivation.
Back in Donaire's corner for this fight is his father, Nonito Sr., who sculpted his son's career from the start and had served as his head trainer. The two had a falling out several years ago because Nonito felt his father still treated him like a child.
The effects of the estrangement spilled over into the ring. Robert Garcia took over as primary coach, and Donaire's style gradually shifted from boxer to slugger.
Last summer, after the birth of their son, Jarel, Rachel Donaire arranged for her father-in-law to pay a visit. Nonito Sr., held his grandson and embraced his son once more. The thaw in their relationship was quick and natural.
"My son has been a very powerful key to forgiveness and realizing we are family and that's what's important," Nonito said. "The relationship with my dad has been incredible. He's been very open with things and very respectful. He looks at me as a man now instead of as a 12-year-old boy."
The two also returned to work together. Nonito Sr. was ringside for the Darchinyan bout, then took over as head trainer during a just-completed, two-month camp in the Philippines, the family homeland.
Donaire said he feels 10 years younger.
"I'm starting to think again," he said. "Before I just would think of throwing a left hook. Now I'm trying to think of everything. My brain is starting to work all over again, which is good.
"My speed and power and the velocity of each punch is much greater. I feel good, I feel confident."
Longtime Bay Area trainer Virgil Hunter said the father-son reunion is crucial to Donaire's future success.
"With his dad back in the corner, he's secure," said Hunter, who trains unbeaten super-middleweight Andre Ward. "'Nito is a pure boxer -- in and out, side to side. He lost that over a period of time. He was standing in front of people trying to knock them out with one punch."
ESPN.com boxing expert Dan Rafael said Vetyeka, coming off a December upset of 10-year featherweight champion Chris John, will test Donaire's motivation.
"I'm not going to say he didn't work hard. I'm sure he did, but maybe not with the same level of passion," Rafael said of Donaire's preparation for Rigondeaux last year. "Marvin Hagler once said it's hard to get out of bed and train when you're sleeping in silk pajamas.
"Nonito has been extremely successful and sometimes some of your priorities change a little bit."
Ring Magazine's 2012 Boxer of the Year, Donaire doesn't argue that he wasn't the same fighter in 2013. Donaire said his goals now include winning titles in three or more divisions, starting Saturday at 126 pounds.
The loss to Rigondeaux was a splash of cold water.
"It made me realize I still have a lot in this game and I want to utilize all the time that I still have," Donaire said. "Now that I realize that, I'm going to reach for the highest star I can and go from there."
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PULLING HIS WEIGHT
San Leandro's Nonito Donaire, who fights Saturday for the WBA featherweight title, previously has held belts in three weight divisions:
Flyweight (112 pounds): 2007-09
Bantamweight (118 pounds): 2011
Super bantamweight (122 pounds): 2012-13.
Note: Donaire was WBA interim super flyweight (115 pounds) champion, 2009-10.
Nonito Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs), San Leandro, vs. Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16 KOs), South Africa, 4 p.m. Saturday HBO (delayed)