Nonito, Oscar and Jesse Ready for Gunfight at Thomas and Mack


By David A. Avila

Standing on the stage Nonito Donaire, Oscar Valdez and Jesse Magdaleno all mugged for a photo looking like a trio of gunslingers for a wanted poster.

Minus Japan’s Hiroshige Osawa, another notorious puncher, that’s serious firepower.

All four will be exchanging shells when they meet for two world titles on Nov. 5, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Top Rank fight card will be shown on pay-per-view. Manny Pacquiao challenges WBO world welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in the main event.

Most won’t know or won’t remember the salad days of television of the 1950s and early 60s when Old West themed television shows ruled the airwaves. Every channel had about a dozen. To be frank, this fight card reminds me of the Wild West.

Take the flashy Donaire for instance. He arrives threaded like a robber baron from the 19th century. If you ever saw “Have Gun Will Travel” the Filipino dandy has that Paladin look to him. Outside of the boxing ring he can mingle with the millionaires. But inside, he’s as deadly as they come.

The TV character Paladin carried a business card that said “Have Gun Will Travel” and lived in San Francisco in the horse and carriage days. You call Donaire’s number and he’s on his way. But at home or in a press conference he’s dressed like a rich thespian.

“I take pride when I dress up. When I dress up I dress as a gentleman,” said Donaire. “I take pride in who I am and what I am as a professional fighter and I dress up. You got to dress up with style.”

But when the gloves come on Donaire has taken no prisoners.

Despite entering the prize ring for 15 years for a total of 40 professional bouts, Donaire has only tasted defeat three times. Yes, only three times. The gunslingers who managed to beat him in the last 10 years were Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters. In other words, you better come strapped well.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 and zero, I’m ready,” said Donaire at the Conga Room in downtown Los Angeles. “If you step inside that ring, I’m ready.”

Magdaleno, 24, is the left-handed young gun from the wild streets of Las Vegas. He’s a 21st century Billy the Kid who has blasted out 17 foes inside the ropes including back-to-back featherweights. This match will be in the 122-pound super bantamweight division for Donaire’s WBO belt and he says he’s ready.

“I’m going up against a great fighter,” said Magdaleno. “We’re more than ready for Nov. 5.”

Magdaleno recently switched training camps and now works with Manny Robles Jr. at the Rock Boxing gym in Carson. The training facility is filled with dozens of championship caliber prizefighters like WBO featherweight world titlist Oscar Sanchez.

“Training alongside Oscar Sanchez only gets me more motivated,” said the quick, trigger fingered Magdaleno.

Sanchez, 25, just recently blasted out another young gun in Argentina’s Matias Rueda who had knocked out 23 out of 26. But the Sonoran desert fighter was too quick for the Argentine knockout artist and kayoed the South American in less than two rounds.

Now, the fighter from Nogales, which is ironically located about 57 miles from the gun slinging town of Tombstone, Arizona, is set to face Japan’s Osawa who has stretched nine consecutive opponents. There’s no room for hesitation or squeamishness.

But Valdez looks to be the king of the west and though the Japanese thumper has that look of danger, the former Mexican Olympian seems to thrive on menacing situations.

“I’ve got a lot of friends that tell me it’s not hard to get there but to maintain a world championship it is,” said Valdez who realizes there’s a target on his back.

All four fighters will be gunning for a win in November. It’s definitely the Wild West. Get ready for the gunfight at the Thomas and Mack.