Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire is too nice a guy to be in this line of work. He should be a minister or a camp counselor or someone who stands in front of a soup line and hands out hot food to homeless people. He shouldn’t be knocking people silly. He should be helping them to their feet.
Donaire is both Jekyll and Hyde, a gentleman outside the ring and an evil genius inside it. He goes from Boy Scout to Doctor Destructo in the time it takes to ring a bell. The nice kid next door becomes the worst nightmare on the block. He doesn’t win fights, he ends them.
He takes his record (26-1, 18 KOs), his bantamweight title and his top-five pound-for-pound ranking into the ring with him Saturday night at Madison Square Garden against undefeated WBO super-flyweight champion Omar “El Huracan” Narvaez (35-0-2, 23 KOs) of Argentina (HBO). It’s Donaire’s first fight in the Garden and he realizes the history behind the place.
“It’s a big part of me, looking at the old-school fights,” said Donaire, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in California. “Just the fights they put together. Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio. Those guys were incredible. They fought with no fear and they fought guys over and over. They showed incredible heart, something I would like to bring out there.”
A former flyweight and super flyweight world champion, Donaire, 28, said this will be his last fight at 118 pounds. Too tough losing those last few pounds. He’s putting on muscle and muscle has a tendency to stick around for a while once you build it up.
“Making 118 pounds has been difficult the last two fights,” he said. “We want to be healthy and be at our best, so we’re looking forward to 122 pounds. There are a lot of incredible fighters at 122.”
Narvaez, 36, doesn’t seem to have a weight problem. A former flyweight champ and the reigning 115-pound WBO champ, he’s moving up in weight for this fight, smiling and eating his way into a new division.
“(Narvaez) is a helluva fighter,” said Donaire’s trainer, Robert Garcia. “He knows how to take a fighter into the latter rounds, and I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s going to try to do. He’s a veteran at this.”
If Narvaez does take the fight into the latter rounds, he might regret it later. It’s like being caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella. You’re just going to get wetter and colder the longer it rains.
Narvaez is just going to get beat up that much more.
That’s because Donaire has that rare ability to knock people out with one punch. While Narvaez has gone the distance against his last five opponents, Donaire has stopped his last four opponents and won nine of his last 10 by knockout. He’s on a nine-year, 25-fight winning streak. That includes a spectacular win in his last fight in February when he stopped the highly- touted Fernando Montiel in their fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Donaire did most of the damage with a left hook that dropped Montiel in the second round. Though he gamely staggered back to his feet, he was done, the referee stopping the fight a couple punches later.
A student of the game, Donaire says he sets his opponents up and is usually three or four steps ahead of them. That’s what happened to Montiel.
“I didn’t expect Montiel to throw a looping right with the body position he had at that time,” Donaire said. “I was expecting a right hook.”
Knowing what punch was coming gave Donaire an extra second and he was in perfect position to throw a hook of his own.
“I’ve been around a long time and that was one of the most devastating punches I have seen,” said promoter Bob Arum. “He caved in Montiel’s face. It was scary and it demonstrates to me that not only is Nonito a good boxer, but he has lethal power in his hands. It’s going to be tough for anyone to beat him.”