When the middleweight bracket of the 2014 Boxcino Tournament begins on February 28, there will be one fight in particular that screams “crossroads”; Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1, 6 KOs) versus Willie Monroe Jr. (15-1, 6 KOs).
Bondas (his boxing name) is coming off of an eventful 2013, where he had two victories and a loss to Brian Vera on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights”. The fight with Vera was competitive, until a cut on the bridge of his nose forced the referee to stop it after round seven. He rebounded with a unanimous decision victory over Skylar Thompson in September.
The experience of fighting a boxer the caliber of Vera could give Bondas an edge going into Boxcino. He’s also familiar with the host venue, having fought at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana four times.
“Yes there is some advantage to that and I think it will help me,” said Bondas.
Growing up in Lithuania, Bondas played basketball and soccer. It wasn’t until his father took him to a live boxing event that he fell in love with the sweet science. The arena’s exciting atmosphere had a huge impact on him and from then on he begged his parents to let him box.
“I remember one time during my childhood, my dad took me to watch boxing fights,” said Bondas. “It was so amazing to me that from that moment on my dream was to become a boxer. I would always ask my parents to let me box and they would refuse; but eventually they gave up and I started boxing.”
In the years that followed, Bondas became a decorated amateur, winning the bronze medal at the Senior European Union championships, as well as two Military Olympics and becoming a four time national champ. He amassed 190 wins in 220 fights. After Bondas failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, he came to the U.S. and turned professional.
“I didn’t qualify for the Olympics because of sports politics,” said Bondas. “I was capable, but corruption prevented my dream from coming true. I then decided to leave the national team and emigrate to the U.S. to turn pro.”
Although the Lithuanian now resides in Chicago, he sees the benefits of living in both the U.S. and his homeland.
“We have more beautiful girls [in Lithuania] and our medicine is cheaper,” said Bondas. “But overall, life is better here and people’s salaries are bigger.”
In order for him to advance to the semi-finals of Boxcino, he must first get past Monroe Jr.; who’s a proven pro and former amateur stand-out himself. Bondas respects all of his opponents, but once the bout begins, he has no friends.
“I know what it takes to be a fighter, so I respect all fighters,” said Bondas. “But in the fight they are my enemies and I have to destroy them. Nothing personal, it’s just business.”
Boxing is a sport where the line that separates a gatekeeper from a contender is thin; with there being much more of the former than the latter. At the age of 34, this could be Bondas’s last chance to put himself in a position to contend for a world title.
“Maybe, maybe not,” said Bondas, when asked if he thought this was his last shot. “But I will do my best. Believe in me and maybe you will see a new face on top.”