NONITO DONAIRE DANGEROUS!
Bantams beware: Here comes Donaire
Story by Robert Hough
Photos by Laura de la Torre
Nonito Donaire knows next year’s shaping up to be a big one for him — and those fighting at, or near, 118 pounds. He’s penciled in to fight Fernando Montiel on HBO Feb. 19 and, on Dec. 11, Showtime kicks off a four-man bantam tourney that might spell out future showdowns for '11.
Things look good for 2011, but Donaire (24-0-1, 16 KOs), has business to tend to before 2010 ends. On Dec. 4, Donaire will move up to 118 to face former WBA Interim Bantamweight Champion Wladimir Sidorenko (23-0-2, 7 KOs) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
"There is a lot to look forward to, but I have to focus on my next fight,” Donaire said recently at a later-than-usual public workout with a party atmosphere. “It would be easy to get excited about the future and it’s great that us lighter guys are getting more attention, but my future right now depends on beating Sidorenko.”
Starting the event at 5 p.m. made it possible for people to come by after work or bring their kids after school, the personable, quick-to-smile 28-year-old said.
“Why not?,” he said after three rounds of sparring, three rounds of mitt work, tuning his defense and exercises at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos, Calif. “I want people to come out and have a good time and be happy.”
About 150 fans came out to see him at the gym, but Donaire has seen little of his opponent, who was the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist at flyweight.
"I’ve seen some video of him, but I’m not one to study my opponents too much,” he said. “You know me; I go out there to make things happen.”
Guests were forbidden from taking pictures and videos of Donaire sparring, the better to keep Sidorenko from knowing what he’ll face.
“When they’re looking at me, they won’t know what to expect,” Donaire said.
Trainer Robert Garcia said his fighter’s getting dialed in.
“On Saturday we had 12 rounds of sparring and he was looking really good,” Garcia said. “He’s ready for this fight.”
There are 10 to 12 pounds to lose to make 118, Donaire said, which won’t be a problem.
“Training’s been great, especially with Robert, and we’re on schedule,” he said. “I’ll lose the weight easily.”
It’s business as usual in preparing for his next fight — and the new year, he said.
“Every year I want to get better and we look at everything in the ring and out of the ring to see what we can improve,” he said. “All I can work on are the things I can control, but of course I’ll be real happy if things are going well for me and for the divisions I’m fighting in.”
Bob Arum, Donaire’s promoter, believes his fighter will keep getting more exposure as interest grows in the lighter weight classes.
“There are obstacles, but I don’t think anymore that they’re from the premium networks not wanting to use him because he is a lighter weight,” he said in a recent teleconference. “That is behind us.”
Ken Hershman, Showtime’s vice president of Sports Program, has echoed those sentiments and said his network will show more matches with smaller fighters
Arum said he’s ready to crank up the promotional efforts to boost Donaire’s popularity, just as he’s done with Manny Pacquiao.
“Now we are looking to, in a general way, as with the other General Santos City fighter, to really move Nonito,” he said in a recent conference call.
Sounds good to Donaire, who grew up in General Santos City, the Philippines and went to the same school as Pacquiao.
As outgoing as Donaire is with his fans, it’s taken some effort to open up and have fun.
“People don’t believe me, but I’m pretty quiet,” he said. “I’m having more fun around people and feeling more relaxed, but I’m a homebody. I like music and I like art, taking pictures and sketching. I’m always asking Chris Farina, the Top Rank photographer, questions and asking if I can shadow him.”
Donaire, who’s been married for more than two years, said it probably won’t be too long before he has all the more reason to stay home: a family.
“My wife and I, we definitely want to start a family, when we’re ready,” he said. “We want to make sure everything’s set financially and with everything else, but we’re planning to do it and if I can do well and keep getting bigger fights, that’s going to help with that.”
Donaire has admitted that his enthusiasm suffered in years past when he couldn’t get good fights, but he likes what he sees when he looks around and looks ahead.
“I’m more motivated than ever and 100-percent committed to boxing, but wanting to start a family, that gives me extra incentive, he said.