Nonito Donaire is a thinker.
Whenever the “Filipino Flash” prepares to enter a boxing ring he thinks about the weather, the atmosphere, the opponent, the prize and where it places him in the pantheon of current and future prizefighters.
Fighting is just one of many particles whirling about the mind of Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs), the WBO and IBF junior featherweight titleholder. On Saturday, Oct. 13, he’ll also contemplate how to beat WBC junior featherweight titlist Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) at the Home Depot Center. HBO will televise.
“He’s a tough challenge, not only the speed, but power too. He’s a veteran been fighting a long time,” said Donaire. “They don’t call him ‘Speed King’ for nothing.”
That’s subject number one in Donaire’s itemized calculation of the upcoming fight. But other considerations are also twirling about in his head such as weather conditions.
“There’s definitely a difference fighting inside or outside. I’m worrying about the weather, worrying about the temperature, it plays a lot when you fight in the Home Depot,” said Donaire, whose last fight on July 7 against South Africa’s Jeffrey Mathebula ended by decision. “I think I warmed up too much in my last fight. I didn’t want to go in there cold.”
That was during the summer. Saturday’s fight takes place in the cool of autumn. Donaire has considered that too.
“You definitely have to time the right amount of sweat,” he says.
Next on his agenda is the magnitude of the match up with Nishioka in the boxing world.
“This fight is the biggest fight in the lower division,” says Donaire, who turns 30 next month. “It’s the best and the fight I’m the most excited about.”
Donaire has steadily invaded division by division like some modern day Genghis Khan, mowing down and overwhelming the opposition with speed and agility. First, it was the flyweights, then the junior bantamweights, followed by the bantamweights and now the junior featherweights.
So far, the 122-pound junior featherweight division has proven to be the toughest with all of his wins coming by decision, not by knockout. And the man he faces is considered the toughest of all junior featherweights. Plus, he’s from Japan. There’s a boxing rivalry among Filipino prizefighters and Japanese.
“There is that rivalry like a Mexican versus Puerto Rican rivalry,” admits Donaire, who describes the competition as equal to the Latino firefights. And how he’s ready to face someone he considers very dangerous.
“To me it’s someone I’ve been aiming for in this division to prove who I am,” Donaire says.
The Tokyo-based southpaw prizefighter has not endured a defeat since 2004 when he lost by decision to Thailand’s Veeraphol Sahaprom after 12 rounds. That defeat took the WBC bantamweight belt away from the Japanese boxer who moved up in weight and never returned to the 118-pound division.
As a junior featherweight Nishioka has been flawless. His run of victories seems like a Who’s Who of champions and contenders with names like Jhonny Gonzalez, Ivan “Choko” Hernandez and Rafael Marquez among his victim’s list.
Now he faces his second title fight on American shores. Few Japanese prizefighters with world titles ever fight in the United States.
“I’ve always wanted to be a real world champion and not a Japanese champion,” said Nishioka. “If I win those two belts I will be recognized as a great fighter.”
The prim and cool Japanese prizefighter has that air about him that comes with experience of not tasting defeat after six years of fighting the best. Now comes the stiffest test and Nishioka welcomes the challenge.
“He has both speed and power,” said Nishioka when asked about an assessment of Donaire. “He’s good on the inside and the outside. I’ll determine the style to use once he comes out to fight.”
Nishioka and Donaire have been thinking about this moment for quite a while and understand the importance of the outcome.
“Without a doubt this is the biggest fight of my career,” admits Nishioka.
Donaire doesn’t need more than a second to think about where this fight places among his many others. It has danger written all over it.
“He’s like a mirror image of myself, except he throws straight punches and I throw a hook,” says Donaire. “I like these kinds of fights where I have to fight for my life.”
Think about that.
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?